Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
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All food photos are of REAL food with NO photoshop
The intrepid and resourceful Travelling Gourmet TM visits Oxford’s newest restaurant to discover a slice of the Big Apple in…
MARCO’S of Oxford in the United Kingdom. I went in to find Chef Marco Pierre-White’s interpretation of a New York style Italian Ristorante replete with an opulent titanic armchair fit for Il Padrino (The Godfather) himself. On the wall behind, a framed black and white print of Chef Marco. Shades of black and white give a slightly sinister yet elegant ambience to the dining room. Three sparkling chandeliers light the ristorante. It reminds you of Ray O’s ristorante in New York’s Spanish Harlem…reputed to be a favourite haunt of the Mafiosi and other members of La Cosa Nostra. Rumour has it, that you have to be a “Wise Guy” to get a reservation and a table with your back to the wall in case of suprise attacks by murderous hit-men…Marco’s does not have that reputation as yet…but the menu impressed me with its choices and Italian specialities. Marco’s New York Italian is Chef Marco’s tribute to his Italian mother. The back of the Ristorante connects to the Oxford Eastgate Mercure Hotel that is part of the Accor Hotel group.
Before telling you about the cuisine, some information about Chef Marco is in order… Known by some as the ‘Rebel with a cause’ and the ‘Wild Man of the Kitchen’, Chef Marco first trained at the Hotel St George in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and later at the Box Tree in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. Arriving in London as a 16-year-old with “$7.36, a box of books and a bag of clothes”, he started his classical training in French cuisine as a commis cook under famed Chefs Albert Roux and Michel Roux at Le Gavroche…
Later, Marco became Head Chef and joint owner of Harveys with a kitchen staff that included the young Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. He was just 24!
Marco was the first British and youngest chef ever to achieve a third Michelin Star at 33. During these years foul mouthed Gordon Ramsay, Eric Chavot (The Capital), Heston Blumenthal (The Fat Duck), Bryn Williams (Odette’s), Robert Reid, Thierry Busset, Jason Atherton worked for him. In the 1980s and 1990s, young Chefs idolized him and what he had: Money, Power, Success and an image as a true eccentric rebel of the food world…His terrible temper tantrums were legendary and reduced “Mad Gordon” (Ramsay) to tears on many occasions. No wonder crazy Ramsay now behaves like that. Marco once had an attack of intermittent explosive disorder over how the cheeses were arranged on a board, and proceeded to hurl each gooey slice of cheese at the wall! Marco even cut open one of his chef’s uniforms after the chef complained about the heat in the kitchen…then there was the time he tipped a big tureen of hot soup down another chef’s trousers. Followed by the crispy croutons. Painful n’est pas…Well, I do say on occasion that: pain is a good teacher and extreme pain is an extremely good teacher…
During his early career in the kitchen, White regularly threw guests out of his restaurants if their comments offended him. When a customer asked if he could have a side order of chips with his lunch, Marco hand-cut and personally cooked the chips, but charged the customer $25 for his time! Hilarious!
And now let the feasting begin…A spritely aromatic Coffee Martini cocktail made for a good start..
Gorgeous Garlic and Lemon Prawns on toasted Garlic Ciabatta was light yet tasty. The crispy texture and bite of bread flavoured with macho garlic is always very pleasing. I recommend the Antipasti Misto which offers a selection of different starters like Tomato Bruschetta, Proscuitto con Melone, Olives, Caprese of Buffalo Mozzarella Cheese and Tomato slices and Baked Funghi (mushrooms) stuffed with Spinach and Gorgonzola Blue Cheese, Salami Milano. Excellent for sharing…and perfetta with effervescent Bollinger Champagne. No wonder James Bond likes it.
I love MEAT!
Try nifty New York Chicken..it is a very tasty half Chicken topped with a hefty slice of ueber-crispy Prosciutto di Parma & Monterey Jack Cheese, Lazy French Fries & crunchy sour-sweet Coleslaw. I always like a great big juicy steak which is what I relished…an 8oz Filet Steak done medium with Mushroom Sauce and a big grilled Tomato…absolutely heavenly! Chicken Saltimbocca with Lemon Butter is another mouthwatering option. In typical New York fahsion, there is also an array of Pizzas, Pastas, Risottos, the Classic Sidewalk Hot Dog and big Burgers to delight your palate. The portions are generous!
Vivacious Vanilla Panna Cotta, topped with raspberry coulis is a creamy dessert the Italians love. Chocolate Sundae, served with warm brownies, Swiss dark chocolate, white chocolate & honeycomb ice creams in chocolate sauce, Espresso Affogato, vanilla ice cream caresse’ in macho Caffe Musetti Espresso coffee with a shot of Amaretto Liquer. You can also choose from a sweet selection of Ice Creams & Sorbets…Vanilla, Swiss Dark Chocolate, White Chocolate & Honeycomb Ice creams, Passion fruit & Mango sorbets. Marco’s Tiramisu or how about an ice cream float that packs an alcoholic punch? Limoncello Float boasts Amalfi Lemon Liquor poured over Vanilla ice cream! Leben ohne Suessigkeit ist langweilig or translated from the German: Life without sweetness is boring! It was a weekday when I dined in Marco’s Oxford but it was full despite being open for only a short while. A very good sign for the future…Dorota, the blond and beautiful well dressed GM is very nice and helpful.
After 0ver 17 years of hard work, Marco wrote: I was being judged by people who had less knowledge than me, so what was it truly worth? I gave Michelin inspectors too much respect, and I belittled myself. I had three options: I could be a prisoner of my world and continue to work six days a week, I could live a lie and charge high prices and not be behind the stove, spend time with my children and re-invent myself.
I wonder how many Chefs actually think like him but are too afraid to admit it….Marco is very different from my friend Masterchef Paul Bocuse…
Bon appetit et a votre sante! From Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM…also known as Il Padrino della Gastronomia (The Godfather of Gastronomy)
Chef Marco likes to hunt and fish. In the video he is seen “Spotlighting” for rabbits. Usually the rabbits freeze in the strong light beam but in the video they are still hopping about. He is using what looks like a .22 calibre varmint rifle with a telescopic sight. What I learned from hunting rabbits is that you must ensure you hit them in the brain if you want to eat them…
Here is “Ol’ Blue Eyes” singing New York, New York!
Marco’s of Oxford
New York Italian Ristorante
73, High Street
Oxford OX1 4BE
Tel: 01865 248 695
A big thank you to Georgia from Greece in Keble College of Oxford University for her helpful feedback on this article. Georgia used to work in the Mercure Eastgate Hotel. 🙂
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