Oxford is great at many things, coffee shops being one of them. As well as all the high street regulars you would expect to find there are also a whole host of fantastic independent coffee shops spread across the length and breadth of the city. One of the finest examples is without a doubt Combibos Coffee, a family run coffee shop situated on Gloucester Green in the city centre.
The simple fact that Combibos are now into their 8th year says a lot; to have survived a savage recession, the ever increasing rent and fierce competition from an ever growing number of rivals is evidence enough that they have found a formula that works. Now, I’m no mathematician but here is my stab at what I think that formula has been:
Good Food + Great Coffee + Atmosphere + Hard Work + Family = Combibos Coffee
A recent visit to the coffee shop for a well earned brunch after an energetic early morning dog walk gives the perfect way to explore my theorem….
If you visit Combibos before 11:30am each day you can pick from the breakfast menu which covers all the bases; fry-ups, sarnies and bagels, eggs and pancakes, granola and porridge or french toast and waffles if you feel a little more indulgent. A free filter coffee or tea with each breakfast makes the already reasonable prices (£6.99 for a Full English, £3.59 for a Bacon Sarnie and £4.99 for Pancakes – just a taster) even more attractive.
I opted for something I hadn’t tried before and went with the Veggie Special (£5.99) from the Fry Up section; scrambled eggs, potato rosti, mushrooms and toast. It wasn’t long before I was presented with my breakfast and was happy to see a rosti sat on the plate, piled high with mushrooms and scrambled eggs, accompanied by a generous stack of buttered toast – the simple description in the menu certainly not doing the plate of food justice!
The rosti was well cooked, crispy on the outside with the inside soft and delicious. The mushrooms (which can all too easily ruin a breakfast) were just right, not overcooked or watery and with good flavour. Oh but the scrambled eggs…. perfect! Not whisked too much and not cooked until they end up being hard lumps, these eggs were slightly gooey in places and with really good flavour. Seasoned nicely and topped off with a few chopped chives those eggs really were some of the best I have ever tasted.
I was told through a series of affirmative noises, big smiles and enthusiastic head nods from my breakfast companion that the Veggie Full English (£6.99) was also delicious. I can’t back this up with any views of my own, I didn’t dare try and get between a hungry woman and her breakfast! Certainly looked good from where I was sat though….
Combibos isn’t just about the breakfast though, they also do a mean range of cakes and offer a rather tasty looking lunch menu – all of which are homemade. So if you arrive after 11:30am don’t be dismayed, there is still plenty on offer for lunch such as a 3-Bean Chilli for £4.99, a Steak Baguette for £5.99 or the Combibos Burger with bacon and cheese for £6.99 I am particularly interested in the Beetroot and Blackbean Veggie Burger for £5.99 which I shall be heading back to sample very soon.
The cake selection is always varied but I will draw your attention to the Peanut Butter Stack, it is a masterpiece and only for those with a large appetite or a chum to share with. Just don’t ask how many calories are in it….
Now…. I don’t drink coffee any more as unfortunately caffeine does strange and disturbing things to me but when I did drink coffee I was never disappointed by Combibos. Beans come from Union Hand-Roasted Coffee based in London who focus on providing ethically sourced, artisan roasted, exquisite coffee. So along with the staple espresso roasts you can expect to find some very good microlot guest beans on offer from time-to-time. There is a wide selection of tea on offer from Tea People who are based in Reading and were setup as a social enterprise with at least 50% of their profits going towards educational development in the Darjeeling region. So you can feel good that you are doing your bit while enjoying a brew!
Since giving up coffee I have become a big fan of a Chai Tea Latte and I can say with authority that having tried it in many different places that I am yet to find anywhere that can better the Chai Tea that Combibos serve up – give it a try next time, you won’t be disappointed.
Combibos Coffee is located in a key spot in Oxford that brings in a wide variety of clientele that helps keep an exciting buzz about the place. It is close enough to the colleges nearby to be a popular spot for students to come and work over a coffee as well as being adjacent to the bus terminal, bringing in a steady flow of travellers and making it a great place for people watching. The comfy leather seating defies you to leave once you have settled in, the song lyrics and images on the walls along with a TV showing the news (with the sound down I am pleased to say) keep the eye interested and how can I not mention the killer playlists – all things that combine to make it a lovely place to visit.
The staff in Combibos always go the extra mile to help, it is the little things like them always bringing your order over to your table that make the difference and put them above their rivals. Everything is nice and clean, dirty cups and plates never linger long on a table and you are always greeted with a friendly face and a smile.
Linking all these elements together is the fact this is a family run business and one that is run hands-on by everyone in the family. There is a tendency for restaurants, cafes and bars to start out with driving figures that are visible and become the ‘face’ of the venue but then once things start doing well and get busy those characters disappear as they are forced to manage the growing business. However, Combibos have kept that face (or faces in this case) on the business throughout the years… you almost feel a small part of that family when you visit and that is something really special.
Opening Hours (Summer)
7:00am to 8pm – Monday to Friday
8:30pm to 8pm – Saturday
8:30pm to 6pm – Sunday