Way back in what feels like the depths of time, I opened a café in East Oxford. My cohorts and I (then all fancy-free, well oiled and in our late 20’s/early 30’s) were keen to attract our peers and have a trendy breakfast place that doubled as a cool coffee shop.
The space was not exactly buggy friendly, the toilets were tiny and frankly, we viewed kids as being a bit of a nuisance with their noise, mess and low-profit margins. We decided our one concession to babes-in-arms would be a couple of Ikea high chairs and a cursory food offering (sorry to all the folks who put up with that… and still came).
Today, conversely, if I were going again at that game (with two small urchins in tow) The FLO is exactly the sort of place I’d be opening.
Open for six months, The FLO (long form: Food Love Operation) is based at Flo’s in Florence Park, in what used to be the area’s much-missed children’s centre. It also hosts East Oxford’s midwives, there’s also an on-site nursery and craft shop as well as lots of interesting events, workshops and rooms for private hire.
What The FLO offers is a great space for families to come and hang out (so laptoppers this may not be your bag…). Parenthood and childcare can make for lonely, long days and this place offers somewhere to go where I have met folks who are kind, without judgement and friendly, they’ve helped my day along and sometimes that’s very valuable.
In the enclosed area outside there’s a play ship (incorporating outdoor instruments), a climbing tree and a blackboard as well as plenty of seating. It’s a great suntrap on a fine day too. This space has a reasonable vantage of one of Florence Park’s playgrounds so older children can play too. Inside there’s a play area and plenty of books and toys and large communal tables.
The FLO is the brainchild of the folks from the Vaults and Garden and Alpha Bar. If you’re familiar with their offering the food is and is in a similar vein. They also produce all the nursery food, so it can get quite frenetic around midday.
In terms of choice, there’s a hot plate of three items (usually two meat and one vegan) often using organic produce. Chicken fricassee, tofu curry, lamb stew, beef bourguignon, veggie lasagne can often be found in the rotation all around the £7 mark. Plus a choice of sides (normally rice and roast potatoes) and salads included, as well as a soup (£4).
Kids are always welcome to a half portion of the above food, there’s also a simple, inexpensive (£3-£5) child-friendly offering of beans on toast, Welsh rarebit, macaroni cheese or free-range scrambled eggs on toast.
The cakes are delicious and there’s always a couple of vegan options and something gluten-free. Think chocolate and beetroot cake, banana and chocolate cake, orange polenta pistachio, millionaires and brownies. Blueberry cardamon Chelsea buns are a firm favourite with my crew and there are often fresh scones too. There’s also lovely coffee from the Missing Bean, a wide selection of teas and soft drinks plus an array of snacks, from lentil chips to pieces of fruit.
My only small rub amongst this oasis of family-friendly fodder and that is that it can be fairly chaotic. I, my gaggle of friends and their children often come in on a Tuesday (after the excellent Humpty Dumpty music club) and around the time the food goes through to the nursery when it can be a (literal) bun fight to get served. Staff are friendly but often juggling quite a few tasks at once and they often run out of things, there’s usually an alternative but it’s worth bearing in mind when you come, especially if someone in your party has limited tastes. To me, this is part of the café’s charm, but I’ve noted that for others it’s an inconvenience as there are no other options nearby.
In conclusion, great cakes, good coffee, nice food and decent options for kids. It’s not perfect but it is a great addition to East Oxford and one that I hope continues to thrive.
Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm