Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Review - Noodle Nation, Olives

The problem with having started this blog at the end of my second year is that many a place hasn't been discussed at all despite my fondness for it. I'm working on a comprehensive 'Oxford Restaurant Guide' but that'll take some time since it really is a lot of effort and I really should find a house and some jobs first. Oh no why did I choose to remind myself of that now? Oh no. Anyway, since I've thus far neglected to discuss many Oxford classics, I thought I should rectify that. I didn't feel the need to discuss either Olives or Noodle Nation before because most people in Oxford are aware of their presence and goodness. They are the staples that most students stick to. I've eaten at both several times since starting bloggy but never thought to discuss. I will change that now. On the way back from the Cotswolds, my companion and I were discussing whether to go to Olives or to Noodle Nation. Olives was my companion's preferred choice since we had to go into there to buy some tinned confit duck to put in the cassoulet we were making for our hosts in London that evening. But we had Noodle Nation vouchers! And Noodle Nation is excellent value with vouchers! Unfortunately, a detailed review of the pros and cons of each eatery was overshadowed by an argument. An argument which I wholeheartedly take the blame for. I think unfortunately that my previous boyfriend was so much more unreasonable than me, it completely made me out of kilter with my perception of the reasonability of my behaviour. I realise now that the in this particular argument, I was being completely irrational, unreasonable and refusing to express what the real (very minor) cause for my irritation was. So I dressed it up in something bigger to make me seem more reasonable. Which is unreasonable in itself. And also exactly what my mother does. Must stop this. What made it worse was that after lunch, I realised that the only reason I was annoyed at all was because I was hungry. Like Papa Haque, when I'm at all tired or hungry, I am the most irritable person alive and let everyone know that that's the case. As soon as I ate, I felt instantly calmed and also shamed and sorry. We ate at Noodle Nation because Mr. Reasonable, even in the middle of being character assassinated, still wanted me to have what I wanted to have for lunch. So we ordered a thai green curry and sweet and sour chicken with rice.
Then I ran off to Olives to get the confit duck. And as soon as I saw the baguette of the week (chicken club), I regretted my decision to go for Noodle Nation. Until I tucked in. Then I felt assured that I'd made the right decision after all. That's the great thing about both of these places, it's the consistency. Everything is always at least quite good. It's very difficult to go wrong and everything tends to satisfy. Olives always puts together classic combinations but the care and devotion put into the ingredient sourcing and preparation means everything is guaranteed to taste good. And the sandwiches aren't all that much more expensive than any other sandwich shop. In fact, the range of salads and generous stuffing of the baguettes make them better value, in my opinion. Cristophe makes thoughtful baguettes and it really shows! Noodle Nation is good in something of the opposite way. The food doesn't receive much adoration: it's a speedy process and it's not the most inspiring oriental food to be found in Oxford. Nevertheless, the meat is soft, the vegetables tender and the sauces, while not necessarily bursting with flavour, have a lightness about them. At full price, a sit down meal isn't so bad (around £7), especially with the student discount. But at half price, it's really well worth it. Cheaper than a ready meal but infinitely more delicious. It would have been as disgraceful as the above photo not to mention them

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