Alas, the Lemon Tree is no more but you have to admit, when it was open – there was simply no competition that could match the quality or the experience it had to offer. In a review from the Oxford Times, it was described as a sophisticated eatery that boasted of exquisite luxury from the onset, but one that left you guffawing on the economical pricing at the end of a lavish and gastronomically pleasing evening.
Clinton Pugh had purchased built the Lemon Tree originally but then sold it over for a brief period, under which it operated as La Gousse d’Ail. Largely unsuccessfully, the venture suffered heavily and in 2004 Mr. Pugh reacquired the restaurant re-establishing the Lemon Tree. Knowing the local market, the Oxford visitors, he set about recreating the perfect ambience and menu to appease local clientele.
Set up in a North Oxford Villa, the courtyard was fashioned in a Mediterranean style and passing through it got you to the bar right at the building front. This area was lavish and rather relaxing. It doubled as a waiting area too just in case the restaurant was already at capacity. But to those waiting or simply there to avail the bar facilities, it boasted of leather sofas and coffee tables, a soft track billowing in the background and a well maintained cocktail menu with prices starting from just £5.
As you moved into the main dining area, a lemon yellow hue greeted you almost immediately, staying true to the name of the restaurant. The feel was rather Moroccan and closer to other Pugh creations like the Bar and Kazbar.
Food was obviously excellent and the wine menu copious just like the dessert’s menu. In particular, it was the service that always stood out. Efficient and friendly, the Lemon Tree always had excellent service. Overall, the ambience and experience always prompted one to return even if there was no cause for celebration. The average price of a 3 course meal was around £25 and a bottle of wine began from £10.