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Food
Oxford Wine Cafe

Oxford’s Cosy Nooks

Shaunna Latchman on the snug establishments that are the Handle Bar, Gail’s Artisan Bakery, Barefoot Kitchen, and Oxford Wine Cafe
Gail’s Artisan Bakery

"Chances are you have tasted the fruits of Emily’s labour without even realising it"

The Handle Bar

In some ways, yes, coffee and cycles do go together like...greasy cafes and motorbikes.

And if you really think about it, it's a no-brainier.

But certainly in Oxford city centre I can only think of one such caffeine'n'saddle nook, the Handle Bar, situated upstairs at the Bike Zone cycle shop in St Michael's Street.

Now maybe it's because it dates back to the early 1400s (thus lending the premises a certain gastronomic gravitas) or because its owners simply care, but for whatever reason, this is proving a bit of a gem lettuce among the city's otherwise limp and listless spread of coffee houses.

For a start it serves much more than just coffee and its range of dishes is both impressive and inventive.

And hell, once in a while, it's a treat to let curiosity guide you, especially since in this instance, you know you won't be disappointed.

Barefoot Kitchen

 

Upstairs is a room of floating bicycles, colourful fayre and animated conversation.

Using all local produce, they have truly mastered the art of conjuring up meals that are both healthy and delightfully delicious.

Try the Shredded Coconut Pancakes for only £6.50 at breakfast and return for the £15 Bavette Steak at dinner or the Roast Beetroot, Quinoa, Spring Onion Burger for £11. Or if you prefer something sweet and simple don’t miss out on the toasted banana bread.

But if that weren't enough to convince you, they also have 'games'. Yes, good old-fashioned board games, cheesy but intriguing enough to allow you, at least for 30 minutes, to forget your mobile, tablet and laptops.

In short, a haven for easy chat, relaxed gossip and a sense of wellbeing reminiscent of an Amsterdam cafe.

Gail’s Artisan Bakery

Sunday mornings are made for delicious breakfasts in bed with a good book, but Gail’s in Summertown lures you away from the sheets with its delicious aromas and quaint atmosphere.

Built on the dream of the perfect loaf of bread Gail’s Artisan Bakery is the brainchild of friends Tom Molnar and Ran Avidan. Their quest led them to professional baker Gail Mejia who was baking and supplying “world-class loaves”.

In 2005 they set up their first bakery in Hampstead, London, naming it after the very person who quenched their dough-filled desires.

With its strong sense of community, Summertown couldn’t be a more ideal place for the first branch to be opened outside of London. Though it is a small location and seating can be limited it somehow seems to work.

Sticking with a minimalist theme the décor is fresh and places emphasis on the food speaking for itself, which it most certainly does.

Cakes and breads are delivered from the bakeries in London early every morning while pastries, sandwiches, salads and hot dishes are prepared in the new kitchen.

Families with small children gather to devour any of the sumptuous, yet healthy, breakfast options (at £7 the freshly made blueberry buttermilk pancakes are a favourite among the regulars). And on the days when you just want to enjoy the quiet of your own home you can pick up a luscious loaf from the wall of bread.

From gym clad couples to lone bookworms there is almost always a queue outside the door, but being enveloped in the myriad of heavenly flavours if even for a few minutes is most definitely worth it.

Any seat is the best seat in the house, but you know what they say about the early bird.

Barefoot Kitchen

Tucked away in Jericho the Barefoot Kitchen is a beacon for all things Oxford. With the rich coffee provided by Jericho Coffee Traders, delectable pastry treats made in Summertown at Gatineau and light loafs of sourdough bread supplied by Abingdon’s Artisan Baker DeGustibus, owners Emily and Fraser Jones are keeping it in the Oxfordshire family.

The front window is adorned in stunning works of bakery art, and the counter is covered in banana, coconut and mango flavoured loafs made with love, and an absolute steal at £2.50 for a chunky slice. This is the place to go to soothe your sweet-tooth.

Reminiscent of a quirky kitchen, the charming interior is welcoming and the walls are adorned with hand-made decorations and floral motifs. The only thing not Made In Oxfordshire are the tins of beautifully packaged, flavoured tea from the Bluebird Tea Co. in Brighton.

Chances are you have tasted the fruits of Emily’s labour without even realising it, as the Barefoot Kitchen supplies around 25 local businesses including the Quarter House Cafe, Turl Street Kitchen and Branca, to name only a few.

One thing that makes this a nook worth knowing is the team, able to spot and recognise a regular from across the street.

Another establishment that speaks to the sense of community, Barefoot Kitchen has been welcomed by Jericho locals with open arms.

Conscious of the fact that everyone loves cake, Emily’s creations come in all shapes, sizes and flavours, including gluten free treats. Sample a single layer for £3 or double up on the taste for only £3.50; never the same day-to-day there is always some new collaboration of flavours.

The best part? Whether you want just a slice of heaven or the whole pie, you can order your favourite to be made and taken home at later date!

Oxford Wine Cafe

Sure there are plenty of places in Oxford where one can partake in a bottle of Pinot, but the Oxford Wine Cafe in Jericho is where true wine lovers congregate.
Owned by the Oxford Wine Company, the Jericho branch is one of two Oxford Wine Cafes, the original can be found in Summertown on the corner of South Parade. While they both offer a choice of over 150 wines the setting is what differentiates the experience.

Oozing with character the space that occupies the corner of Little Clarendon Street makes a statement. Jericho is well known for its bars and restaurants, and while some may feel this is another addition to the long list they couldn’t be more wrong.

Welcomed by a clean cut, bright bar space brought to life with arty furnishings, you can’t help but feel you have walked into a stylishly modern living room.

Quality over quantity is the premise and they offer it in shed loads and also by the glass (prices vary based on the year but a glass can cost as little as £3.25). And for those who 'have the nose' the bar staff are incredibly knowledgeable and eager to help.

If you’re not looking to unwind with a large glass at the end of a long day, hot drinks are also available as well as nibbles, sharing boards and salads.
Better yet, why not stop by the Summertime branch to take in the live Jazz on a Sunday or an evening of wine tasting?

Having two cafe’s here in Oxford means we are spoilt for choice and at events like Theo’s Tasty Tuesday, £10 per person, (a wine tasting where you actually drink it!) it is evident the overriding theme is a genuine love and enthusiasm for the fruit of the vine.

- Shaunna Latchman

 

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