Jacqui – May 2013
St Giles Cafe Oxford was first recommended to me by a colleague, back when it was still a greasy spoon; I was pregnant then too, with MiniF1. We’d tried it out and found it to be OK – your standard ‘fry up’ but lacking in customer service; I recall the waitress at the time being particularly unfriendly and ‘bothered’. Having learnt from the wonderful world of Twitter that the cafe had fallen into the hands of new management, who were transforming it into something a little less ‘greasy’, I was eager to check it out.
On this occasion, we were actually intending to go to the Red Lion for breakfast, but, with it being a bank holiday, they weren’t open as early as usual… *ding* went the light bulb in my head, perfect time to see the newly revamped St Giles Cafe in action.
The exterior style of the small cafe is mirrored once inside, with dark wooden floors, panelling, tables and chairs, all coordinated beautifully with soft blue on the walls, placemats and menus – it’s simple but effective. Consideration has gone into the new decor, the cafe now feeling not just renovated, but lovingly so; the previously dark and dated interior thankfully replaced by a light and airy space you feel welcome to enjoy.
Taking our seats next to the counter, we pondered the menu briefly – for we already knew what we were ordering. Popping out for a spot of weekend brunch is a bit of a tradition in the Foodie household, and we ALWAYS order the full cooked breakfast – it’s something of an unspoken agreement. MrF would pass out from shock if I ordered a granola, and I too if he ever ordered mushrooms on toast. Along with our meaty dishes we each order a juice – orange for me, orange or apple for MrF. MiniF tucks into a side of toast plus some food from our plates… quite the routine.
The full cooked breakfast here (The Oxford English) consists of “Dry-cured Bacon, Fried Egg, Home Made Pure Pork Oxford Sausage, Grilled Tomato or Chestnut Mushrooms with Toast”, which you can have large (£9) or small (£5). The tea and coffee sounded extraordinary – with a special mix blend ‘St Giles Tea’ and ‘St Giles Coffee’ available. So, ‘usual’ ordered, we settled in with a newspaper and a natter.
After a little while of relaxation, drinks in hand and classical music drifting through the cafe, our food arrived. I have to stop here briefly to say the tea was stunning; strong and full bodied, without being at all overwhelming… a beautiful cuppa and just how I like it. MrF enjoyed his coffee, but likes his a little stronger. OK – so the food… The mushrooms were delicious, sautéed just long enough to retain plumpness and flavour; the eggs just as fried eggs should be (although I did have to go for hard yolks with mine, while bun is still in oven – I was very attentively asked if I would prefer them to be cooked on both sides). The sausages were a bit of a sticking point between MrF and myself, I found mine to be too dry and savoury, giving me strong déjà vu of a mince-stuffed courgette dish that my Mum used to cook when I was a teenager. MrF disagreed, and when he stole a bit of my sausage from MiniF, he noted that it tasted quite different from his – courser and indeed lacking in a sweetness he had found in his. The inconsistency, for me, isn’t a big issue; I seriously applaud them for the fact they are rustic, home made sausages – they just weren’t to my taste. The bacon, well, the bacon was the centrepiece for me; truly fabulous – salty, crisp in places, just thick enough and really very flavoursome.
One other thing to note is the accompanying toast – the bread, plus the cakes they sell, are all home made. This, along with the home made sausages and bespoke blended tea give you an insight into just how much the new owners care. This same care extends to the cooking of the food and to the service – all of the staff were, simply put, lovely.
I would happily make a return visit to the new St Giles Cafe Oxford; I’m keen to try their lunch dishes as well as their home made cakes – any excuse to delve into another pot of that glorious ‘St Giles Tea’!
Becca – May 2013
I finally got round to visiting St Giles Cafe this week. Not the old, dark and dingy venue with nicotine stained walls, sticky floor and a layer of greasy smog at head height but it’s new and improved incarnation. Gone are the Formica tables with copies of that days Daily Star or The Sun. Gone are the customers of old, builders having their daily fry-up away from which ever college property they’re working on, the taciturn old man in the flat cap and the Players cigarettes close by, and gone are the stressed students at the end of an all-nighter. Actually, given that finals are on the students might still be there!
Instead there is now a gorgeous pale blue cafe with striped furnishings, big mirrors that reflect light back in to what is a relatively small space (the cafe seats about 25) and black and white photos of Oxford landmarks.
Menus are on the table along with paper place mats with foodie quotes and a place to leave your own comments so take a pen.
We visited mid-morning deliberately so we could try the Oxford Breakfast. The menu confusingly prices it a 5/9 so we queried this with our extremely helpful waitress and she explained that the two prices relate to two different sizes – the regular breakfast consists of two rashers of seriously good bacon (and I am a bacon aficionado!), one Oxford sausage which is pure pork, no rusk/filler/cereal with a hint of sage, lemon and winter savory, a fried egg and a choice of thick sliced chestnut mushrooms or grilled tomato. A large breakfast for £9 has two sausages, three rashers of bacon and two eggs, I was happy with the regular size but could probably manage a large! You also get toast which to my immense happiness was proper bread with a good crust, a light crumb and a slight sweetness with unsalted butter. I could eat that bread all day. In fact the whole plate is a very definite contender for best breakfast in Oxford.
We also had a pot of the granola which came in a Kilner jar of fruit compote topped with honeyed Greek yoghurt and their homemade granola on top and this was deemed to be exceptionally good.
Also on the breakfast menu is kedgeree (next time) and blueberry pancakes with crispy bacon. The cafe also does a range of lunchtime meals, pie of the day, sandwiches and a very intriguing selection of cakes which will definitely entice me to walk over again.