Illustration by Dowon Jung
Al-Andalus Tapas Bar, 10 Little Clarendon Street, OX1 2HP
During the Telephone Campaign – if you know you know – we went to Al-Andalus. It was my friend’s idea: the temperature had risen above 10 degrees, and we’d broken out the white jeans and ventured outside to eat lunch. Our Mediterranean fantasy needed a conclusion before reality – in the form of “light rain” – kicked in.
The solution to our problems? Tapas. Naturally.
My friend was scrolling through Google Maps’ restaurant recommendations and found this gem. She was reading the menu aloud to me whilst we recovered from another exhausting day of hearing every alumnus’ opinion about the Rhodes statue, and she almost shouted when she came across the dish in question. We were quite delirious at this point.
The source of her excitement? Al-Andalus’ fritos de queso de cabra a la miel (deep fried medallions of goats’ cheese with honey to those of us who aren’t language students). I wasn’t totally convinced, but I am literally incapable of saying no to food. Literally.
We made the trek to Little Clarendon Street, dragging our slightly less traumatised friend along to experience the promised epicurean enlightenment, and were seated by a slightly bemused waiter at these pretentious students choosing tapas over Maccies. We ordered the eagerly-awaited medallions, as well as some patatas bravas, tortilla, and the cheapest white wine on the menu (can you tell we’re classy?). The wine was not unlike Oriel’s finest, surmise from that what you will…
It was a casual night, around 9pm, and we were channelling our main-character European selves. We had, of course, already eaten dinner in order to fully appreciate the deep fried goats’ cheese, free from hunger. This was pure, delightful greed.
All the guilt and stress from asking alumni for money melted away in one bite. Tangy, salty, molten cheese encased in airy, golden, crispy batter, soaked in honey. Positively ambrosial. There were two huge discs of goats’ cheese, enough for the three of us to suitably indulge. The patatas bravas were delicious, a dependable tapas dish that fulfilled our insatiable need for chips without requiring us to queue at Hassan’s.
Unfortunately, the omelette didn’t really deliver the same gastronomic euphoria. It was nice but a little too stodgy and a flavour profile veering towards bland. Also, it was kind of cold. We spent the evening giggling, drinking and savouring each morsel of that delicious cheese dish.
Allow me to reiterate: you are going there for the goats’ cheese medallions and the vibes. Aside from the medallions, Al-Andalus was a perfectly nice, mid-priced tapas place that would be perfect for the type of evening we went in for, but isn’t necessarily a trailblazer for small plates – case in point being the tortilla.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to fully express just how delicious their deep fried medallions of goats’ cheese with honey were. And how unexpected – perhaps I am really ignorant, but that kind of offering on tapas menus is quite novel. Certainly, all the elements sound pretty standard: goats cheese and honey. But deep fried. Wow. Having been wary of something akin to the rubbery halloumi fries that lots of places are guilty of dishing out, I was speechless. The batter was so delicate, the cheese so warm and soft, and the combination of tangy goats’ cheese and sweet honey incredible.
Cue the Ratatouille cheese and grape sequence in my head. Basically, you have to eat this dish.
P.S. I am so so sorry if you are vegan/really lactose intolerant. Maybe they will add a revised version of the medallions to the menu that you can enjoy too!