France - - Food & Wine - Peter Ste­wart

Nes­tled in the sub­urb of Jeri­cho on the north­ern edge of Ox­ford city cen­tre, the Old Bookbinders is tes­ta­ment to the age-old adage that ap­pear­ances can be de­cep­tive. From the out­side, it looks like a tra­di­tional English pub, and the in­te­rior, with its wooden bar, wicker seats and car­peted floors, re­in­forces this im­age. But that is the ef­fect that French­born Michel Sadones and his fam­ily, own­ers since 2011, set out to cre­ate: a charm­ing pub (com­plete with real ales) that of­fered French bistro-style cui­sine in­spired by their trips to France.

Ar­riv­ing for lunch one Satur­day, I im­me­di­ately had my ap­petite whet­ted by the menu du jour, which in­cluded cod mornay and coq au vin, but de­cided to be in­dul­gent and go for the à la carte menu in­stead.

To start, I plumped for the soupe de pois­sons, a tasty blend of bream, had­dock and mul­let chunks, which cer­tainly warmed me up on a chilly day. My com­pan­ion chose the es­car­gots de Bour­gogne, a plate of 12 snails cooked in gar­lic and but­ter, which she said were beau­ti­fully ten­der and went down a treat with a large glass of red bordeaux.

For the main course, I opted for the seared sea bass cooked in white wine and topped with fresh herbs. My friend, who is much more of a meat eater, sur­prised me by choos­ing the same dish, and we agreed that the fish was cooked to per­fec­tion. De­spite feel­ing quite full, we man­aged to make room for a dessert. The restau­rant is well known lo­cally for its crêpes, but we opted in­stead for a zingy tarte au cit­ron. The food was au­then­tic, rea­son­ably priced and served with a smile. The menu changes monthly, so com­ing to the Old Bookbinders could turn into a reg­u­lar French treat.

Open for lunch Tues-sat, noon to 2.30pm and din­ner Tues-sat, 5.30pm to 9.15pm; Sun, noon to 7.15pm. Mains from €9.50, menu du jour from £10.50. 17-18 Vic­tor Street, Jeri­cho, Ox­ford, OX2 6BT Tel: 01865 553 549, old­book­

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