There was so much hype surrounding the opening of Bia, mainly down to the new, young chef on the block George Nolan, who has just opened on South Parade site, where the excellent El Rincon used to be. READ ABOUT IT HERE

So could it live up expectations? After all George is only 27 and has never run his own restaurant, only London pop-ups before. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a young man’s shoulders…..

‘Bia offers as much or as little as you want, from the full blown feast we experienced, to a glass of wine and a quick aperitif on your way home’

And yet George is executing his new role with great aplomb. Not only is he and his team killing it in the kitchen, but the front-of-house staff are coping admirably well with the endless succession of stunning plates emerging from the open plan galley.

The Bia decor is rather minimalist, although there are plans for more art on the walls, but judging by the appreciative crowd we dined with on Saturday night, Bia is already a big hit.

We hit the high end cocktails while perusing the menu – the Picante (£10) clear, crisp with a real kick and the Dublin York sours (£11), both skilled and spot on – GM Stanley Righton is a skilled mixologist!

The Picante

The menu is divided up into small bites, small plates and desserts which come out as and when, but frequently enough to keep you occupied.

Prices on the ‘small bites’ range from £3.50 to £5.50 so we got well and truly stuck in. First up a section of the croqueta which stunned us into submission from the first bite.

croqueta at Bia

There were four to chose from and we tried the French onion, yes really – oozy with soft, dark treacly onions – then the celeriac and ham hock – the ham shards shining through – the seasonal pumpkin and sage and finally the porcetta – boneless pork roast seasoned with garlic, sage, rosemary, herbs and spices, all of which were enclosed in their crispy cases.

Pomme Anna at Bia

The croquetas change seasonally, so you’ll probably enjoy something entirely different, but we’d already moved on – the call of the crispy Pomme Anna chips with curry ketchup too enticing to ignore, and oh that salty slivered column of sliced and then reformed and fried potato was divine, the curry sauce spot on.

The corn ribs with black garlic mayo and wakame seasoning were quite delicious, the dark Asian sauce and charred sweetcorn only increasing our appetite.

As for the fried Nduja stuffed olives, they were tiny crispy balls from heaven.

This alone would have been enough, washed down by some mighty fine wine, but undaunted we loosened our belts and continued onto the enticing ‘small plate’ offerings. There were eight choices and we tried them all, so I’ll mention the highlights.

The ‘crying tiger’ hangar steak with salt and pepper shoestring fries and Nam Jim butter £13.50) was literally as good as it looked – the Thai style grilled beef steak succulent, perfectly cooked and infused with just the right amount of Asian influences, those chips defying belief. (See main pic)

The pork belly with Bradley Apple gremolata and celeriac mustard (£10.50) was another sure fire hit – elegant, the pork moist, accentuated by the apple and mustard, it was another stunning dish.

The vegetarians piled into the burrata with red pepper jam, pickled courgette and crispy capers – the cheese a match for its accruements and not left to struggle on alone, the textures and myriad of pickle, sharp capers, sweet bouncy hot jam, soft bouncy cheese and clean courgette, absolutely killing it.

A sweet pan fried hake and chips with curry ketchup £12.50, was a mere morsel for anyone expecting something more substantial, yet still managed to pack in all the flavour you’d expect, the curry ketchup George’s genius take on that take-away fish and chip staple.

Romesco sauce has to be sweet and smoky, but served here with charred baby leek, smoked almonds and red basil (£8.50), it was taken to a whole new level.

The only false note was the King Oyster mushroom mariniere, samphire, mushroom crisp and sourdough crostini (£11) which was too sweet, too fishy for our liking.

King Oyster mushroom mariniere, samphire, mushroom crisp and sourdough crostini

Luckily there were only three desserts to choose from, although portion wise we were still able, And oh that hazelnut tart with banana cream, which was nearly engulfed whole, was divine, followed closely by the piquant rhubarb and custard ice cream with a lemon crumble (£6.50).

Our Bia experience then was a huge success – exciting, interesting, novel, beautifully prepared, frequent (worth a tick as sharing plate menus are often rather sporadic), our curiousity was continually piqued, and above all it was fun.

ice cream

So go! If you fancy something a bit different, Bia offers as much or as little as you want, from the full blown feast we experienced, to a glass of wine and a quick aperitif on your way home.

It even has a morning pop up cafe run by the excellent Pannekoek Cafe is you fancy a string boost of caffeine and some lovely pastries

Bia chef patron George Nolan and FOH Stanley Righton

We loved every second, and speaking to an older couple on our way out they entirely agreed, and said that having not known what to expect they would be returning very soon. We couldn’t agree more!

Bia is at 38 South Parade, Summertown, Oxford. Go to