Recently, The Bicycle Shed invited us along as guests to check out their boozy afternoon tea offering. As someone who often suffers from food envy, afternoon tea appeals in the same way buffets do – the opportunity to try everything. Add to that a bowl of gin punch and you’ve got me.
The Bicycle Shed opened last October and seems to be settling in well. I haven’t been for a normal lunch or dinner yet, but it looks fairly busy when I do see it, and the frontage always looks lovely, packed full of flowers and greenery.
A traditional menu of sandwiches, scones and cakes had been prepared and served on a tiered cake stand, served alongside a tea of our choice (we all opted for Earl Grey, but numerous options were available), cream and jam. Plus that big bowl of gin punch.
The sandwiches were – as they should be – served in neat little crustless fingers, with staple fillings of salmon and cucumber present in a mixture of white and granary bread. They weren’t amazing, but they were good. I’ve had worse in more expensive venues, and The Bicycle Shed isn’t trying to be Claridge’s.
Cakes were more homemade than elegant, with big slices of Victoria sponge, but entirely pleasant and without major complaint. Scones were of the fruit variety, which I personally prefer, and served with proper clotted cream and homemade jam.
See further down to answer to the ‘cream or jam first’ question.
Once we’d worked our way through the sandwiches and cakes, we had some lovely little fudges, truffles, and craquelin-topped choux buns for those who could manage more. Obviously, we all had a taste – we’re committed to the cause! Nice flavours, with a good kick of sugar to finish us off. Our gin punch was delicious; fruity, refreshing and not so strong we were on the floor by the end of the session. More than enough for the group of six of us, plus beer writer James was drinking… beer!
Overall – a pleasant and very much fun experience in a nicely decorated setting, with friendly staff and a beautifully laid table. Very photogenic and a nice airy space for a group get together. I’ll hand over to a couple of others from the group for their thoughts.
I am feeling pretty smug about living in Summertown right now. We can already boast a Michelin starred restaurant, a fFrench restaurant getting national media attention, a new independent Oxford coffee shop as well as independent fashion boutiques, wine merchants and even a small ice-cream vendor. And now, The Bicycle Shed has joined this thriving part of town.
Our afternoon tea delivered in three key ways. 1. The scones were warm and freshly baked. 2. The handmade Victoria sponge cake was moist and served in huge slices. 3. There was a little bit of originality. Our afternoon tea was served with a summery gin punch cocktail. But the fully stocked bar would allow you to go for any other cocktail or a glass of fizz if you wanted something more classic or different,
There is nowhere else in the area taking this multi-faceted approach (Local chain Dodo Pub’s Rusty Bicycle and Rickety Press are the closest to this style of all-day diner, cafe, work station and pub). There really is a gap in the market for an offering like this – I hope it becomes the thriving local it has the potential to become. – Katy
The Bicycle Shed is an undeniably lovely spot. Bright and welcoming, thoughtfully decorated, a great outdoor space – it’s the kind of place I could see myself becoming a regular visitor to if I lived in the area. I am always keen to try new venues for afternoon tea in Oxford (a meal comprised largely of carbs and cream that breaks up the interminable wait between lunch and dinner – what’s not to love?) so I was delighted to venture along to the restaurant with the Bitten crew.
We had a really lovely afternoon. The staff couldn’t have been more friendly and welcoming, and the punch was flowing alongside the Earl Grey. The food was, I would say, solid. Not remarkable in afternoon tea terms, but perfectly pleasant. The sandwiches were a tiny bit dry (often the curse of afternoon tea) as were the scones, and I would have preferred a couple of smaller cakes rather than a big slab of Victoria sponge, particularly given jam and cream are already an important feature of scones. However, I ate everything perfectly happily, and don’t have any serious complaints. It’s not priced or designed to be haute cuisine; this is a tasty, happy carb-fest, and I’d perfectly willingly return. – Hannah
The costs are £17pp for standard afternoon tea without alcohol, £22pp for afternoon tea with bubbly, and £34pp (groups of 4+) for afternoon tea with a large punch bowl to share.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
We dined as guests of The Bicycle Shed, all views remain our own.