Turl Street Kitchen (16-17 Turl Street, OX1 3DH) is one of those places I’ve wanted to visit for a while; every time I’ve passed it I’ve peered through the window enviously at the diners and promised myself I’d try it the next time I was downtown. Today my husband and I went there for lunch with the Baberoo to sample the restaurant’s locally-sourced delights.
Since I was in an autumnal mood (despite the day having warmed up already; I’m just loving these cooler mornings and can’t wait until fall is here again!) I ordered the braised free-range chicken with smoked bacon, carrots, onions, celery, white wine, and split peas (£10.50). My husband had the Provençal fish soup with aïoli and croutons (£6.50). The Baberoo ate some of the banana oat biscuits I made for her – the first time she’s eaten at a restaurant, even though it was food from home. (I’m pleased to say spillage was minimal.)
My chicken was delicious; I am a huge fan of anything smoky-tasting and the bacon added just the right flavour. The meat was so tender it was falling off the bone. My carrots were slightly overdone and some of the split peas were slightly underdone, but as a taste combination it was a winner. My husband thought his soup was fine although more tomatoey than fishy, and he had expected chunks of fish rather than a purée.
The food at Turl Street Kitchen is locally sourced and seasonal, and it’s also a social enterprise whose profits go to their sister charity, the Oxford Hub – all big plus points for me. It’s priced very reasonably too. But how did it rate against my criteria for baby-friendliness? There are five points: menu, ambiance, space, facilities, and feeding; for a fuller explanation of each, see my About page.
Menu: The menu changes every day according to what’s in season and locally available. Usually there are six to eight savoury dishes and two desserts. Several of the dishes revolve around meat and require both knife and fork, so may be difficult to eat one-handed if you’re holding a baby in one arm. However, my chicken was so tender that I could eat it with just my fork while holding the baby. There are also cakes, pastries, and breakfast items that might be easier to eat one-handed.
Ambiance: Equal parts rustic wooden tables and tessellated tiles, with very welcoming and friendly staff (who admired the Baberoo) and huge windows that let in a lot of light. They have high chairs for little ones and the staff were happy to help with the baby carriage.
Space: The space, as in many old Oxford buildings, is a bit of a rabbit warren in layout; there’s a room at the very front (with a closed door; you might not even notice it), then a half-flight up some stairs to the counter, then a half-flight down to the main restaurant area. Since there are two flights of stairs, you’re better off sitting in the front room, which is at street level, but it was full today and I imagine it’s full all the time since it has the most comfy-looking seats and tables. On the Turl Street Kitchen website, it says that the restaurant has a ramp available for wheelchair access that they can bring out on request, so in a pinch I’m sure they could bring it out for a baby carriage too. Although they probably wouldn’t have to: the staff were more than willing to help me up and down the stairs with the carriage before my husband joined us, and a few patrons offered help as well. There’s plenty of space between the tables and it’s easy enough to get through once you’re in the restaurant area. Still, I wouldn’t recommend coming with a whole group of mothers and babies in buggies.
Facilities: Unfortunately, during my visit I failed to spot the accessible baby-changing facilities; I went down to the basement to use the ladies’ loo myself (which is beautiful and clean), and mistakenly thought that there were no baby-changing facilities since the rest of the toilets were downstairs – so when I first posted this review I said there were no baby-changing facilities. However, the good folks at @turlstkitchen sent me a Tweet telling me I’d missed the baby-changing room! (From now on I will make sure to ask at every place I review so I can avoid making the same mistake again.) I went back the day after I posted this review to check it out and to add the picture below. The facility is indeed on the ground floor, although you do still have to go up and down the half-flights of stairs that I mention above. There’s a sign on the door, but the door is invisible to most of the dining area because of the direction it faces, which is why I didn’t spot it. The baby-changing table is the very small pull-down kind; the bathroom is also small (and may not fit all prams), but clean and tidy. There is a very narrow hallway leading to the room and if there’s anything stored in the hallway it may block your way.
Feeding: I didn’t feed the Baberoo on this occasion but I’d have felt just fine doing so; the ambiance is so welcoming that I wouldn’t have even minded doing it at the table we were sharing with two university students at the other end. Some tables have bench seating and some have chairs; take your pick of whichever is more comfortable for you.
Before I corrected my mistake about the baby-changing facilities (which do indeed exist, even though I thought they didn’t!), I only gave Turl Street Kitchen a 6.0 out of 10 on my baby-friendliness ratings scale – but now their updated score is 7.25 out of 10. While it’s still somewhat difficult to get around the restaurant without help and the baby-changing facility is small and not well signposted, the new score is a fairer assessment. Since I think very highly of both the food and the restaurant’s very commendable social values, I’ll definitely be going back again.