Here's another new word for the lexicon of local restaurant categories: gastropub. The term originated in England, where it has been in use for nearly two decades to describe a pub whose kitchen aspires to greater heights than traditional British pub fare. In recent years, gastropubs have been cropping up with increasing frequency on this side of the pond.
The Oxford (319 Fayetteville St.; 832-6622; www.oxfordraleigh.com), which opened early this month in the former Yancy's space in downtown Raleigh, is the first Triangle establishment to bill itself as a gastropub. The restaurant makes no bones about its roots, from its not-so-subtle English pub decor (including a wall-spanning Union Jack) to the dozen draft beers (from both sides of the Atlantic) dispensed at its marble-topped bar to the British pound note symbols next to the prices on the menu.
Not to worry, though. Those prices are in dollars, and they're reasonable for an offering that includes herb-marinated grilled halibut with roasted vegetable risotto ($17), smoked Cornish hen with an herb stuffing ($14), and a twist on the bangers and mash classic starring boar and cranberry sausages ($12). Additional options, ranging from shepherd's pie to cheese plate to fish and chips, show that Executive Chef John Anderson hasn't overlooked those who crave the comforts of a traditional British pub.
Nor, for that matter, has owner G. Patel, who also owns Japanese restaurants Sono and Mura and whose reputation for dramatic decor remains intact with his latest venture. As soon as Patel can find a spot among all the brass chargers and other ornaments hanging on the red and black walls, he plans to hang a dartboard.
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A makeover and a move
Owner/chef John Toler and his wife, Ashley, have completed renovations of Bloomsbury Bistro (509-101 Whitaker Mill Road; 834-9011; www.bloomsburybistro.com), giving the dining room new upholstery, softer lighting and a fresh coat of paint. The most significant improvement is the expansion of the bar area, which is accompanied by Toler's introduction of a modestly priced bar menu. Offerings include 10-ounce Angus burger ($7.95), crispy fries with fire-roasted red pepper ketchup and lemon aioli ($2.95), and a bistro bar plate of cheeses, sausages and duck liver paté ($9.95).
In Chapel Hill, 3 Cups (227 S. Elliott Road; 968-8993; www.3cups.net) has reopened in its new location, a few doors down from the Whole Foods Market on Elliott Road. Thanks to the much larger space, the wine offering has expanded from a few bottles to a full-blown shop. The shop's famously excellent selection of locally roasted coffee and loose leaf teas is offered as before.