Darren Blanks @ City of Oxford College

Christmas is clearly a major focus of the hospitality and catering calendar.

For our students it offers the chance to develop skills that they will take into industry and use for years to come, as well as provide useful techniques to use with family at home.

When it comes to devising the menu, the challenge is always how to balance the traditional with the modern.

People want a sense of tradition more than ever at Christmas, but we also like to surprise them and offer them something a little bit different.

It’s particularly important because we have so many longstanding customers, and we want to give them a different culinary experience year on year. It is also important for our students to think creatively about using well known ingredients.

Planning for the Christmas menus starts in September.

We want to ensure that we have sufficient time to order our ingredients, as well as build the experience into students’ learning programmes.

This year we have moved away from the traditional prawn cocktail starter that many venues go for, to offer crab cakes with rocket and a lemon crème fraiche.

We are of course offering turkey with all the trimmings, but also offering alternative meat, fish and vegetarian options.

For dessert we have our traditional Christmas pudding, made from a recipe which is at least 20 years old. We sell them to staff and students in the run-up to Christmas too, so our students have been busy.

For those who want an alternative we are offering pear tart tatin with homemade ice cream and a tiramisu.

We see increased visitor numbers during the run-up to Christmas, and many of our students are also busy working at other venues outside of their studies. It’s a challenge but it is part of what the industry is all about and it creates a buzz that becomes synonymous with this time of year.

And with our £21 Thursday night Waterside Christmas dining menu including mulled wine on arrival, garlic mushrooms in a brioche bap, whisky and oat crust salmon with samphire and beurre blanc, turkey en croûte with chateau potatoes, carrot and cumin puree, honey roast parsnip and sautéed Brussels sprouts with almonds, a mini Christmas pudding with brandy sauce ice cream, a chocolate pave with orange chutney, orange sorbet, mascarpone and chocolate tulie plus tea and coffee with a homemade mince pie, and a daily Christmas lunch of three courses with tea and coffee at £15.95 per person, we know it’s great value for money.

We look forward to greeting customers old and new over the coming weeks.

The Waterside 
Restaurant is open for Christmas lunch 12-1.30pm Monday to Friday and for dinner Thursday evenings from 6pm until December 18. To book call 01865 551950 or see cityofoxford.ac.uk