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Food
Cote Brasserie

The OX Breakfast Challenge

Never a lover of New Age, holistic, balanced breakfasts, Jeremy Smith gallantly eats his way through five of Oxford's best traditional English breakfasts. But which is the best?
Browns

"Order a Bloody Mary (assuming you're not driving), some water, and tuck in to a traditional plate of just what's made Britain great."

Cote Brasserie

When? 8am-12 noon

What? Two free range eggs, bacon, pork sausage, tomato, mushrooms and toast

How much? £8.50 (or £9.95 with juice and and a hot drink of your choice)

For many years this has been a personal favourite. Snug, classy and intimate, it also manages to deliver a full English breakfast for a very reasonable price, and unlike many breakfast eateries, will actually cook it as per your instructions. 

Brown's Café

 

Eating here at 8am while watching everyone else hurry along George Street to work is shamelessly decadent and hopelessly heartening. Fabulous quality, fabulous service and with just that necessary injection of Continental savoir faire.

Browns

When? 9am-12 noon

What? Smoked bacon, Cherry Orchard sausages, two free range eggs, baked beans, flat mushrooms, black pudding, grilled confit tomato, freshly toasted white or multiseed bread, British Farmhouse butter

How much? £7.50

Well, for starters, Browns is an institution, and deservedly so. After all, there are few restaurants –anywhere for that matter – where you can just walk in and feel your spirits lift. Exquisite decor and classy service ensures that your cooked breakfast tastes just that little more refined. True, a five minute walk from the centre of town but worth every step (and you can always add a glass of Prosecco to proceedings to soften this blow). Bacon is sublime and the black pudding silky.

Quod

When? 7-11am

What? Bacon, sausage, black pudding, eggs, mushroom, tomato, toast with butter and jam, tea or coffee, orange or grapefruit juice.

How much? £15.00, or fried eggs and bacon for £6.50.

The obvious benefit here is that this eaterie opens at 7am, allowing you plenty of time to spoil yourself before work or the Christmas shop. The atmosphere is smart and sophisticated but reassuringly relaxed, while the quality of the food itself is impeccable (as is its presentation and delivery). However, I especially like the fact that should you worry about trivial things such as cholesterol or waistbands, you can always strip away the flimflam and narrow it down to the basics – some bacon and some eggs. Done.

Portabello

When? 9.30am-12 noon

What? Eggs any style, free range pork sausages, smoked streaky bacon, Stornoway black pudding, mushrooms, Portabello baked beans, tomatoes and toast

How much? £10.95

Occasionally – and it happens – you find yourself outside of central Oxford, and when you do and the sun is still rising, be reassured that there is somewhere you can binge beautiful brekkie for the day ahead, and do it in style too. Portabello is swank. Just off the main ladies-who-lunch thoroughfare, it is a genuine nook of tranquility and polish and thankfully reflects this in the quality of its food. Order a Bloody Mary (assuming you're not driving), some water, and tuck in to a traditional plate of just what's made Britain great. And while personally I've never liked beans, these are advertised as Portabello baked beans which, as a sucker for aspirational dining, always convinces me they're the icing on my cake. Fabulous atmosphere – I often feel I could stay all day (and sometimes do).

Brown's Café, The Covered Market

When? 8.30am-4.30pm

What? Bacon, fried eggs, a side order of toast, and a 'Builder's' tea

How much? Around £6.00 (it can fluctuate a few pence either side)

Absolutely bloody legendary. Used and enjoyed by everyone – literally – from builders to students to Oxford dons. And me. A genuine jewel stripped of any fancy packaging but rich in atmosphere, characters and terrific food (and thank god none are served on slate). Completely unpretentious but 'real' with an almost 100 year old history, breakfast time I think is the finest time to appreciate this cafe's charms. Heads buried in morning papers, mugs not cups of steaming tea, regulars, and retro without even knowing it. It's basic, beautiful and one of Oxford’s lesser known landmarks. Try it, it's addictive.

And the winner is…

Cote Brasserie for quality of produce, admirable attention to diners individual cooking preferences (crispy bacon, eggs sunny-side up, etc), value for money, elegant (almost theatrical) service and the toughest nut of all to crack...style.

(And if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous...click here).

- Jeremy Smith

 

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