Finally, the date which was heavily penciled in my calendar, and then ringed in red, had arrived.

Circus Sauce, Giffords pop up travelling restaurant, was back in town – pitching up in the grounds of Blenheim Palace – and it proved the hottest ticket in town.

So hot in fact, that I wasn’t leaving anything to chance and was booked in for lunch (new this year), dinner the same evening and had my eye on the pizza van for any further scoffing opportunities.

To set the scene, Circus Sauce is more immersive experience than restaurant, channelling the joyous revelry emanating from the circus tent.

Excited punters troop in after the evening show at 9pm for a set menu chalked up on the blackboards, all locally sourced by head chef Ollie Halas from wherever Giffords has set up on any given week.

Beautifully decorated, its 70 places are set in a suitably pastoral and nostalgic manner, where long trestle tables frame the kitchens above, laid with Emma Bridgewater crockery (the famous potter being part of the Giffords clan), wild flowers and candles, and old Hungarian tapestries lining the canvas walls.

READ MORE: Giffords Circus is breathtaking and fun - watch video

The kitchens are housed in two showman’s wagons, and as everything is made from scratch, has a full chef contingent hard at work.

The difference between lunch and dinner is that the midday offering (only available on Saturdays and Sundays) is a shorter affair, two courses (£20 for adults, £12.50 for children), to bridge the weekend shows, so is much more family-friendly.

READ MORE: Oxford Festival of the Arts brings celebs to city 

The menu changes daily and Saturday’s offering was roast shoulder of lamb with black cabbage, salsa verde and aioli followed by chocolate knickerbocker glory, and deep-fried aubergine with Imam Bayal (like the Sicilian eggplant dish caponata).

The Oxford Times:

Huge jugs of water dot the tables, and as Circus Sauce has a BYO policy on drinks, it only adds to the convivial atmosphere.

First up, freshly baked garlic and herb ciabatta bread, its salty crust still warm from the oven.

Then the huge sharing plates of lamb, drizzled with the salsa verde and aioli, accompanied by bowls of roast potatoes, freshly picked cabbage and beans and steaming jugs of gravy.

Everyone tucks in, passing plates of food around, in the convivial, friendly Circus Sauce atmosphere, now embraced by pop-ups and festivals all over the country.

As the knickerbocker glories approached, those attending the 2.30pm show started speeding up, to get there before the show began, but we took our time.

The rest of our afternoon was taken up exercising as much as possible, to make room for dinner.

At least it was late, so our gluttony had somewhat abated by the time we processed back for our second innings.

The restaurant staff looked somewhat bemused as we settled in, this time with a big contingent of friends rather than children, laden down with wine, beer and bubbles. This sitting cost £30 for adults and £20 for children.

The Oxford Times:

The starter was a smoked haddock kedgeree, whose bright yellow yolks contrasted with the fresh herbs, curried rice and fish, beautifully framed in Emma Bridgewater’s large bowls, if rather cold.

To ensure I didn’t eat the same meal twice they made me some asparagus tempura to start with, then the kedgeree – a banquet indeed.

Mr Greedy living up to his reputation went for lamb again and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Dessert was a creamy trifle made with an elderflower jelly.

We didn’t get to visit the actual circus until Sunday, such was its popularity but we did manage (very cleverly I thought) to pre-order the pizzas for the interval (£8 for a Margherita with other offerings including pork belly or asparagus and artichoke), all made and baked in an artisanal pizza wagon.

The Oxford Times:

It made for a full hand in gastronomic terms, or just plain greed. But I remain unapologetic and wait in avid anticipation for the magic email announcing Gifford’s Circus Sauce dates for next year. I’ll be there.

  • Giffords Circus and and Circus Sauce is at Oxford University Parks until Monday, June 24 with new psychedelic-themed show Xanadu.
  • Tickets start from £10 children and £15 adults. Book at giffordscircus.com or call 01242 691181.
  • The Oxford Times:

THRILLS, SPILLS AND LAUGHS: REVIEW OF THE SHOW...

Smile while you’ve still got teeth,” lead singer Michael Fletcher shouted as Giffords Circus’ 2019 show Xanadu drew to a magical close.

Nell Gifford and her famous bohemian circus has triumphed again with Xanadu -the perfect antidote to our troubling times, pulling something really cheering out of the bag.

We escape to the late 60s and early 70s era of ‘peace and love’, accompanied by a wonderfully evocative soundtrack reminiscent of my parents record collection.

But then Giffords is so emotive I was quite choked up by the end. The attention to detail is second to none, from the flares and sequins to the set, music and theme, nothing has been left to chance.

Even Tweedy, Giffords infamous resident clown, was dressed up as Art Garfunkel complete with blonde afro at one point.

Otherwise he paraded around in a resplendent array of outfits, or just his pants. From chef’s whites (he is constantly escaping from the kitchen) to biker gear, his charm is a make-up of inventiveness and a gift for the absurd. No one cracks me up like Tweedy.

Otherwise the spectrum of acts are absolutely superb, an impressive accumulation of worldwide talent.

Much of it aerial and acrobatic, they kept on coming; first up Lil Rice, niece to Nell, who bounced on stage as a singing supremo and cyr wheel guru. Next up The Beautiful People, comprised of the Cuban Havana Circus Company complete with an infectious San Franciscan vibe, and some awe-inspiring trapeze, acrobatics, rhythm and skipping that had us all on our feet.

Horses are always a firm feature at Giffords, thanks to Nell’s impressive equestrian skills, but this year she took a back seat and didn’t appear.

Instead Hungarian troupe The Donnert Family backflipped from horse to horse as they cantered around the ring, closely followed by the Curatola brothers from Italy, whose comic acrobatics had us enthralled.

Aerial delights came courtesy of Mad Annie Rastova and Russian duo Tanya and Dennis, their trapeze artistry hypnotic.

The only dud note was the juggler who didn’t seem able to catch a ball, let alone several, but perhaps he was having an off day.

The Oxford Times:

Tweedy and his new sidekick Mr Fips were hilarious, their cooking spectacular involving gloop, water and pantomime theatricals which brought the house down.

My favourite unscripted moment arose when Tweedy’s moustache came unstuck while on his unicycle, juggling fire sticks, as he frantically tried to glue it back on with his tongue.

Yes, Xanadu was my favourite Giffords show so far: the acts were superb, the music spot on, the comedy hilarious, but more than that, the performers’ passion and belief in their craft shone through.

Peace and love brothers. Peace and love.