“Welcome! Welcome to the new year at Hogwarts! Before we begin our banquet, I would like to say a few words. And here they are: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak! Thank you!” Headmaster Dumbledore said as he welcomed Harry and friends to their academy of magic.

Truth is often stranger than fiction. There are many peculiar traditions that can be found at the ‘Oxford School of Witchcraft and Wizardry’ that makes it the perfect set for the HP films. Funny robes and hats are worn by professors and students alike, and words of Latin are read before a formal dinner every night that sound a bit like ”Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!’. Just throw in some flying broomsticks, magic wands, toads and owls (there are already cats and rats here), and the Hogwarts experience is complete.

And it just happens that I’m living in this bubble of fantasia right now.

Taking a break from the day-to-day grind of an office job in the ‘real world’, I enrolled into the Oxford School of Witchcraft and Wizardry last year for a postgraduate degree. I was assigned to membership of Christ Church, one of the larger colleges in Oxford and apparently the only college in the world that is also a cathedral. If you are a HP fan, Christ Church is the place to be.

Among all of its majestic castle-like buildings, cloisters and quadrangles, the Great Hall is perhaps the most spectacular piece of architecture in Christ Church. The 16th century staircase (where Professor McGonagall first greeted Harry & friends) leading up to ‘Hogwarts Hall’ is simply breathtaking. Once you step inside the Hall, one is visually struck by its astounding grandeur, with a beautiful cathedral-style ceiling and stained glass windows, hanging  portraits of famous ‘wizards’ (former students and deans of Christ Church) and long wooden tables with little vintage lamps that light up the plates and cutlery.

And of course, what about the food? Breakfast, lunch, dinner are served here daily for members and guests. There are actually two dinners every night: an informal and formal dinner which takes place at different times. The food is exactly the same for both (three-courses) except you must wear an academic gown with formal dinner, adding to the whole Hogwarts experience. The ‘fellows’ of the college (the Dean & professors) and their guests sit at the ‘High Table’ which is slightly elevated above our student tables and the food is much better (and they get served wine as well!)

As to the quality of the everyday meals, sadly they do not match their impressive surrounds. The honest verdict is that it’s only slightly above average compared to meals of other colleges at Oxford. For a foodie, there is nothing to really rave about.

But once in a while, there are those special ‘black tie’ occasions where one is treated to a real banquet of haute cuisine. The most recent one I attended for the annual dinner for graduates at the college. The four-course meal, with matching wines, could fit into the loosely defined category of ‘contemporary British fine cuisine’. Moving away from the traditional notoriety of ’British food’, the Brits have generally shown a lot more enthusiasm for gourmet local cuisine over the past decade, as seen in the rise and rise of ‘gastropubs’ & Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK today.

So our entrée was a pressed baby leek with rabbit terrine with beetroot, hazelnut and mango salad, beautifully plated and matched with a southern Burgundy chardonnay, St Veran Cave de Prisse 2006. The dish was visually pleasing, with bright colours and an almost geometrically-perfect triangular terrine. The terrine made the most of fresh local leek and rabbit meat, but was a little bland for my taste buds. The salad added a sweet & tangy flavour and crunchy texture which complemented the terrine. The wine was crisp and lively, quite earthy and minerally as well, with dashes of roasted lemon, pear and grapefruit scents and flavours, and a touch of smokiness. It was a good accompaniment to the dish and would also pair better with fish and seafood.

The main course stole the show, especially given my soft spot for game meats. The venison loin was tender, juicy and succulent. Its flavours were intensified by the slightly sweet peppercorn sauce. The Devils on Horseback (bacon-wrapped prunes with mango chutney) simply melted my taste buds when eaten with the venison. The venison was beautifully paired with an Argentinian Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon, Finca Flichman Expresiones 2006: a medium-bodied, well-balanced wine with strong notes of chocolate, plum and dark berries, and a touch of spice, smoke and sweet oak on the long finish.

And finally, dessert. It was a slight let-down compared to the delectable main course. It was a pink grapefruit and blood orange terrine with a beautiful, colourful swirl of fruit sauces (strawberry, mango, kiwi and blackcurrant). The grapefruit and blood orange combined well to give the terrine an alchemy of sweet, sour and bitter flavours. The fruit sauces were too sweet for my liking. However the dish was paired well with the House port that was mildly sweet, rounded, soft and lightly creamy.

After this indulgent dinner, it was almost impossible to go back to the usual menu of ‘British food’ the following night. I guess I will have to wait for the next time Harry and friends visit again…

23 Comments

Gayatri Kumar April 23, 2021 at 5:40 pm

Wow! This looks amazing! 🙂 looking forward to Monday Night at ChCh!! xx

mimi April 24, 2021 at 4:22 am

If you come over to Oxford for a visit, let me know and you can be my guest at a ChCh formal dinner!

Pudding Pie Lane April 24, 2021 at 7:35 am

Oh my gosh, I didn’t know you were at Oxford, and Christ Church especially! I’m at Trinity College Cambridge – your sister college! I also did a post on formal hall at Trinity aswell, except food there isn’t as good as some other colleges 🙂

I totally agree with the Hogwartsness – I think Cambridge gowns are a bit longer than Oxford ones (or maybe just the undergrad ones?), and when we go outside and its windy we look like bats roaming the cobbled streets of Oxbridge…

I wish I could go to Christ Church formal, your hall looks similar but your food looks much better!

mimi April 24, 2021 at 8:23 am

thanks very much!!! 🙂

mimi April 24, 2021 at 4:18 pm

Shall we throw in the flying broomsticks, toads and owls as well? 🙂

Forager April 25, 2021 at 4:32 pm

Wow – the meal looks amazing and a far cry from the drab British school meals I’ve read about in books! I love that fog shrouded photo of the grounds too – appropriately Harry Potter-esque!

mimi April 25, 2021 at 4:33 pm

Indeed! Next time… hopefully!

Delia April 25, 2021 at 7:23 pm

oooh… so jealous you get to dine here every night!!! Very impressive dining hall!

Shirlstev April 25, 2021 at 8:23 pm

Loved this post.

mimi April 25, 2021 at 10:37 pm

I could eat this all the time – but only if it was served all the time!!! Unfortunately it’s back to bangers & mash these days…

Pudding Pie Lane April 26, 2021 at 1:20 am

Oh wow, I will do! I guess you’ll go to BA formal, the food at that one is alot better than the undergrad formals 🙂

Lucy @ Lucyeats April 26, 2021 at 5:36 am

Oh my gosh, that looks amazing! I’m very VERY jealous!

Wendy April 26, 2021 at 7:42 am

Wow! Wish my dining room looked like that!

mimi April 26, 2021 at 10:41 am

Hope you enjoyed the experience!!

mimi April 26, 2021 at 1:32 pm

Thanks Lucy! Drop me a line if you ever visit the Oxford bubble – you can be my guest at Hogwarts!

mimi April 26, 2021 at 8:09 pm

I think we’re organising a formal dinner swap with Trinity next term!!! Watch this space 🙂

the ninja April 26, 2021 at 10:45 pm

Wingarrrrrrdium terrinosa!
Now that’s college food I wouldn’t mind living off. For at least a few days…

Three-Cookies April 27, 2021 at 7:58 am

It sounds like the intention was there, pity the execution fell short. Generally if all else fails dessert should be super… well

mimi April 27, 2021 at 12:04 pm

Thanks Arwen! The devils on horseback is a classic British canapé that’s pretty easy to prepare! I love the name as well!

Arwen from Hoglet K April 29, 2021 at 6:18 pm

That’s a wonderful misty photo, and the devils on horseback sound lovely.

mimi April 29, 2021 at 6:38 pm

luckily the dining atmosphere makes up for the food 🙂

mimi April 30, 2021 at 12:03 am

Honestly, our college meals are normally pretty drab, but we get spoiled once in a while (when Harry and friends visit). The chef is apparently the best in Oxford but I guess feeding 500 people every single night can be a bit of a gourmet challenge!

in the kitchen April 30, 2021 at 4:35 pm

A fabulous review of the atmosphere, and more importantly the food & wine!

Leave a Reply to Three-Cookies Cancel reply