The Pink Giraffe offers a delicious blend of Chinese and Thai food in a warm and welcoming setting. It's a firm favourite, especially with vegetarians.
St Clements has a number of good quality eateries, and this is no exception. Just before Magdalen Bridge, and near Cowley, it is an up and coming area with many good shops and restaurants.
Emblazoned on a pink background in handwritten style, the name The Pink Giraffe stands out from the crowd, drawing you in. Small, yet not too cramped, the lights are low, with the bar at the front and round tables stretching back through the room. Each has a charming little lantern on it, which helps ease the vision problems caused by the low lights.
Intimate is the right word, making it ideal for dates and small family gatherings. The limited number of tables indicates that takeaways are their main business. Takeaway orders are made at the front bar, and there is often someone ordering.
Decorations are simple and thoughtful, the focus being on the food. Chopsticks are provided on little stands, and knives and forks can be easily obtained should you desire them.
Clientele include mostly the lovely inhabitants of east Oxford and Headington, who are either out for a meal or stopping by to pick up a takeaway. Staff make you feel at ease swiftly and are very helpful and considerate, although less accommodating to young children.
An atmosphere of relaxation pervades, with most people there taking a break from the daily toil. Food is served on medium-sized platters, ideal for sharing, and placed on candle heated warmers.
Tiny eating bowls rather than Western-style dinner plates add to the authentic Chinese meal experience, and it creates lots of passing around and trying out different dishes. Relaxing with friends and loved ones is a truly excellent pastime, and this is a fine place to do it.
Their signature dish, dubbed Pink Giraffe style, consists of a mouthwatering sauce of Thai basil and Thai chillies that is the pride and joy of their dining experience, and with good reason. Spicy tang is combined expertly with sweetness in this Thai Chinese fusion sauce. Vegetarians won't miss out on this treat as the sauce is not only available with meats like duck and beef, but also on the vast range of soya meat substitutes.
Soya beef and duck are excellent choices that are much better prepared and cooked than other meat substitutes, not to mention much better tasting, capturing the unique consistency and texture of meat far more ably than other vegetarian options.
Prices are reasonable, with £7.20 for chicken, beef or pork ‘soya meat’ in Pink Giraffe sauce, and £7.50 for the real meat duck equivalent. Appetisers include sweet and crispy duck pancakes at £17 for a half duck and 12 pancakes, or £8.75 for a modest six pancakes and a quarter duck. Wontons, seaweed, stir-fried mussels and chicken satay skewers in peanut sauce are all available at great prices.
The main drawback of all this delicious food, with everything available in vegetarian and meat forms, is that the menu resembles a novel in size and stature, and consequently you have no idea where to begin.
A range of good red and white wines accompany the food, along with beers, cognac, whisky, tea, coffee and liqueurs. The sheer range of drinks available is the main strength of the bar, and whatever type of drink you prefer they should be able to provide it.
Cocktails are available some of the time, but don’t count on it. Singapore Tiger beer, at £3 is a superb light accompaniment to appetizers. A bottle of the Tierra Chilean red or white (£13.75), goes very well with the majority of the menu, having a fresh character to match the food.
To accompany dessert, you could try the Kivelchow Mautal Chinese liqueur (£3.50), although it is not to everyone’s taste.
The Last Word
The Pink Giraffe is a good Asian restaurant, perfect for sharing a meal with friends either out or as a takeaway, particularly if either of you are vegetarian.