Jacqui – May 2013
After visiting East Oxford Market one Saturday, I wandered further into town with a sleepy MiniF, for a spot of lunch at Vaults and Garden Cafe Oxford. I’d heard plenty of positive things about this place and had been keen to check it out for a while, so was really looking forward to my visit. Thankfully, MiniF fell fast asleep en route – this is the perfect scenario for lunch out… no need for distractions or entertainment, I may actually have chance to enjoy a rare moment of eating in tranquillity! If you have kids, you will understand; if you don’t have kids, enjoy your peaceful eating; if you’re about to have kids, well, enjoy eating in peace it while it lasts.
On arrival at the Cafe, I was pleased to see there was seating available in their newly opened garden, so headed inside to check out the rest of the place. On first impression, the Cafe was lots smaller than I had pictured, about a quarter of the size in fact. There was a small counter on the right hand side, with the rest of the room being taken up with large wooden tables and simple wooden chairs. Taking it all in, it became clear that the queue in front of me was for ordering food, which is served up there and then, canteen style. This, I had not accounted for. With sleeping toddler in buggy, I had no hands available for carrying a tray of food, let alone outside to the garden whilst also arranging a high chair for when MiniF (predictably) woke up mid-way through my eating.
Anyway, on I pressed, adamant I was going to find a solution. The queue was fast moving, so there was little time to peruse the menu, which was chalked up on blackboards on the wall (sorry, no picture). There were three meat dishes and three vegetarian dishes, along with a soup option. Settling on the Chicken Cassoulet, I grabbed a tray and worked my way along the queue.
On ordering my main I was offered a choice of salad or red cabbage and rice or potatoes – with the potatoes a little delayed, I was happy to opt for the rice (feeling the need for healthy, after all those earlier cakes!), plus red cabbage. Feeling under pressure to move as fast as the lady serving me, I quickly chose a cold drink and asked for direction to the high chairs. It turns out, the high chairs seem to live at the top of a tiny flight of stairs – feeling I would be somewhat unable to push the buggy and carry a tray of food, whilst also popping off to grab said high chair, I asked if someone could help me. Thankfully, a knight in shining armour came to my rescue, in the form of a kind gentleman in the queue behind me. With the waitress offering to bring the high chair and the kind knight carrying my tray, off I went, avec buggy, to grab a seat al fresco.
Away from the hustle bustle of the counter, the garden was lovely – small but well formed, calm and directly overlooking The Radcliffe Camera – a fantastic place to enjoy a spot of food on a sunny day.
Tucking into my lunch, I was really very impressed – the food was delicious. The cassoulet was light and tasty, with plenty of lovely melt in the mouth vegetables; the rice was perfectly cooked and still moist; and red cabbage, well, I’ve always been a big fan! All in all, a really good spot of lunch.
Vaults and Garden Cafe Oxford clearly has plenty of appeal to the local community – good, fresh, home-cooked food; enough choice for both meat eater and vegetarian alike; a pleasant garden AND a fantastic central, drop-in location.