(Please note that Marianne Bruel retired from the business in 2014, after 13 years of producing wonderful meals. The Rose no longer bears her stamp- in fact the very opposite of all she aspired to).
One day, while researching a book in the Bodleian, I found I was starving. Such is the effect on the stomach of prolonged periods at a library desk. I abandoned the Punjab Gazeteer of 1909 to traipse down the 4th floor eyrie of the Indian Institute to terra firma on Broad Street and wandering past the Radcliffe Camera to the High I eventually located The Rose. I remember the lunchtime soup, as though it were yesterday: a lightly curried squash, the colour of an Autumn sunset, relieved with a few curls of basil and swirl of pumpkin oil. With the first spoonful I knew I was eating something rare and special. It made me feel happy and light-hearted, benign and sunny. Outside it was drizzling, but my heart had been warmed by this homely dish. The accompanying roll was light yet substantial and fresh from the oven. Who was the genius behind this perfect combination?
I met Marianne Bruel for the first time in her spotless, ergonomic basement kitchen almost 13 years ago and her restaurant is still my first choice of the most consistently delicious, wholesome and inexpensive cooking for miles. Why she hasn’t become nationally famous is a complete mystery, and now she is on the verge of shutting up shop.
For the past 10 years Marianne and her husband Holge have supplied the delectable lunches and brunches at the Oxford Chamber Music Festival (this year’s theme “Fairytales and Fantasy”) and given the musicians something to think about (and drool over) other than their electrifying performances. Trays of roasted vegetables and chicken, along with coffee and walnut cake arrive during rehearsals when they down tools and sit down to a convivial meal.
Everything is cooked from scratch, all the bread is made in the basement kitchen and most of the ingredients are locally sourced (although Marianne does have a predilection for driving over to France to buy jam for her scones and teacakes). We Oxonians have made friends with her staff and mourned with her when they inevitably leave to pursue grander careers.
Spicy tomato and spinach soup (£4.95) with roll and butter
Salad of roast beetroot, baby spinach, young goat’s cheese and maple syrup dressing (£7.55)
Tart with cherry tomatos, roast red pepper and red onion, mozarella and green leaf salad (7.55)
Fishcakes made with organic salmon with tomato and chili jam (£8.25)
Hamburger with our own chips and crunchy cucumber relish (£9.65)
Warm chicken salad green beans and cashews with soy honey and chili dressing (£8.65)
Proper cream tea with cake and scones (£7.50)
Coffee and mascarpone cake, lemon drizzle cake, flourless chocolate cake, Danish apple pie and homemade icecreams.
Every day is a surprise and everything is made with love and care for detail, which is why The Rose is so special. I don’t know where I will eat when Marianne hangs up her apron for the last time.