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Gee's jazz concert dinner
I can’t pretend to be the world’s greatest enthusiast for jazz. Indeed, I once managed, to some readers’ disgust, to write 2,000 words on a visit to New Orleans without mentioning the subject once — a deliberate tease, I don’t deny. But jazz, like food, comes in many forms, and for some of these it is not hard to develop an appetite. Anything with a decent tune usually appeals to me. It so happens this includes New Orleans jazz: the tune, which occurs in every number, is When the Saints Go Marching In.
Last month, in the first of a series of jazz concerts with dinner at Gee’s restaurant, I heard more of my kind of jazz from Polly Gibbons, a regular performer at Ronnie Scott’s. Her speciality is music in the style of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Randy Crawford, Nina Simone and Aretha Franklin. I should, of course, have said ‘styles’, since the sound of these divas is very different, Well done Polly — and band Tim Dawes (bass), Nathan Allen (drums) and Tim Lapthorn (keyboards) — for getting them all so well. High spot for me was Simone’s My Baby Just Cares For Me. It appeals doubly as being a huge hit in the year I met Rosemarie (1987) when it was used to advertise her favourite scent (Chanel No 5).
After Polly’s delightful performance, she deserves better than to appear on this page as she does today (even after serious Photoshopping by the office experts) enveloped in a weird pink haze. I am afraid this is because I am useless with a camera.
Each of the jazz concerts — and there are two more to come — is offered with a special three-course meal (with three choices at each stage) at an all-in price. Next Wednesday, when Natalie Williams takes to the microphone for a blend of R&B, jazz and soul, offerings include celeriac soup with a poached quail egg, roast salmon with sprouting broccoli and chocolate and caramel tart (for £42.50). On April 25, vocalist and songwriter Nina Ferro takes us From Count Basie to George Benson (£37.50) with menu highlights of tuna nicoise, ham hock and cabbage, and blackcurrant jelly with honey madeleine.
Our dinner was enjoyed by a five-strong group. Between us we had almost all of what was available from head chef Simon Cottrell’s kitchen. For me, this meant a starter of curried parsnip soup — simple perfection — followed by a whole grilled Bibury trout so large I called it Jaws, with buttered baby gem lettuce and a side order of buttered spinach (£4.75), and to finish a pudding (a rare treat for me) of pear tart with vanilla ice cream.
Rosemarie went for the chicken liver parfait, always so excellent here, followed by sticky, slow-roasted beef from Gee’s owner Jeremy Mogford’s Rofford farm, and a gooey chocolate brownie with clotted cream.
Other members of the group helped provide a complete survey of this uniformly excellent menu with the spiced pepper stuffed with aubergines, courgettes and spices, artichoke gnocchi and whisky marmalade steamed pudding.
We drank my favourite Picpoul de Pinet ‘Preambule’, Coteaux du Languedoc, and Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Domaine de la Vidaliere 2009 (both £26.95).
Jazz fans should note the regular performances at the Mogford restaurants: on Sunday at Quod in High Street (5-7pm) and Gee’s (8-9.45pm) and on Wednesday (6.30-8.30pm) at the Old Parsonage, Banbury Road.