Several weeks into my second term, Oxford is now a blending of the familiar with the ongoing possibility of the new. Favourite spaces to frequent have been established; others await discovery. There are plenty of enticing locations and activities I could write about, including cinemas, theatres, parks (mostly flooded right now) and the best cobbled streets to wander along on starlit nights. However, right now my attention is drawn towards a purely liquid theme as I’m busy planning where to take a visiting friend this weekend. Thus, The following lovely places form stops on an imagined tour in search of my two preferred beverages – coffee and cocktails.
I am a haunter of cafes, though the number of loyalty cards in my purse illustrates my flighty movements between establishments. The combination of caffeine and background chatter somehow works to ease into the ideal essay-writing state, while hours spent with hands warmed by mugs, and minds warmed by conversation are always relished.
Quarter Horse Coffee on Cowley Road works well for lazy mornings skipping through books or for late-afternoon frantic typing as deadlines approach. Their strong, smooth flat whites aid both reading and writing, but it’s hard to limit oneself to just the one. Their tables attract plenty of laptop-bearing students, as well as newspaper-wielding workers and friends catching up over brownies and coffee.
Truck Store (also in Cowley) is a record shop with a row of chairs and tables squeezed down one side. With good coffee, great music and mismatched crockery, it has a delightfully ramshackle feel. It works equally well as a retreat from spattering rain or a prime destination on sunny Sundays. The only downside is trying not to get distracted by the proximity to all that vinyl. Nick Drake’s albums are proving particularly tricky to resist. The cafe part of the store is technically called the Keen Bean coffee club.
(For a similar feel, also see Brew on the North Parade - a wonderfully compact space complete with its own record player.)
The Missing Bean has a much-justified reputation for killer coffee. I first visited during interviews, and have returned many times since in a much more relaxed state. Being central, small and very popular, it fills up quickly – the steamed up windows indicating the number of people within. They also do great bagels and sandwiches for those too peckish for cake.
Turl Street Kitchen is like a glorified (and glorious) living room. With a fireplace downstairs and an array of sink-in-and-never-escape sofas upstairs, it’s a place where whole afternoons pass by without realising. Their lunch and dinner menus change daily, and - continuing the theme of a home-from-home - are full of soup, salads and hearty meals from slow-cooked pork and red cabbage to a rolling selection of (rather divine) fish dishes. Oh, and did I mention the cocktails? They’re also a not-for-profit business, with all proceeds supporting the hub upstairs – which houses a huge variety of charities, organisations and social justice groups.
Oxford is well-known for its pubs, but although I know and enjoy a few, so far my explorations have been more cocktail-oriented. Plenty of Mojitos, Brambles, Espresso Martinis, and the occasional Raspberry Collins have been sampled, with many others left to try.
Freud in Jericho is a beautiful space with dangerously enticing drinks. This deconsecrated Church, with its high ceilings and stained glass windows adds a pleasing dose of grandeur to an evening. They also host a number of entertaining events from electro-swing nights to panel talks. The Moscow Mules come highly recommended, particularly when experienced at 1am with a good friend in tow.
The Mad Hatter, with its velvet sofas, menus pasted inside old books and bartenders decked out in a fine array of millinery, makes for a playful hour or two. Cocktails are a little pricey, but taste all the better when drunk during their weekly jazz nights.
The House Bar is hidden down a little side alley off the high street. A delicious array of choices, it’s considerably cheaper during the happy hour – or in the company of an Oxford Union member. Stay downstairs for a typical leather seats and barstools experience, or seek out the games room on the floor above. Still planning a cocktail-fueled (probably intensely competitive) Monopoly game there at some point.
The Grand Café has a fun and fabulous art deco style interior, complete with huge mirrors and metallic ornaments. A great place to people-watch, but a quick warning – there seems to be no rhyme or reason to when it’s open or closed. Twice now we’ve arrived after checking opening times on the website, only to find dark windows and a locked door.
It was very satisfying to realise that this post actually brings together all three components of my blog title – Clothes, Cameras and Coffee. The clothes here are comprised of a second hand cardigan and vintage Jaeger jumper, a leather skirt from the Oxford vintage fair, boots appropriated from my mum and family-owned accessories. The camera part was provided in photos taken by the lovely Dina from She Loves Mixtapes. And the coffee? Was very much enjoyed.