Monday, 19 November 2012

EGGcellent! The Oxford Breakfast Experiment. Part deux!

In case you missed it, part one of this series can be found here.

My friend Jonny and I continue to meet for breakfast on Tuesday mornings. Our chat is mostly about life and our personal walks with Jesus Christ, but we also get round to rating our food and coffee. We like to think of ourselves as a bit like this guy:

 Breakfast 4… Tuesday 16th October, Café Coco (17 Park End Street, Oxford)

The décor at Café Coco, attached to the Royal Oxford Hotel, is surprising. From the hustle and bustle of a busy city-centre street, we’d apparently walked into a spacious and comfortable Venetian bar – though with ever so slightly gaudy features.

The menu had a range of continental options, most of which appealed. Chorizo and egg on toast, for example, was especially tempting. But, looking at the menu, we were only ever going to order one thing…

The Order
Jake: Waffles with maple syrup, and a Latte
Jonny: Waffles with maple syrup, extra bacon, and an Americano

The waiters were especially friendly, and the chef asked if we were American because Jonny asked for extra bacon to go with the waffles. Is that rude? I don’t know. The waffles were satisfying, and the maple syrup generous. But I wasn’t quite convinced they were the real deal (they tasted suspiciously sweet and similar to the kind only found in cellophane wrappers). Certainly enjoyable though!

Price: Our most expensive breakfast yet. £5.75 for the waffles, £2.25-2.40 for the coffee, and a whopping £1.70 for extra bacon.

Rating: 3* (just) - Happy staff, fun place, moderately pleasing breakfast, poor on price.

Breakfast 5… Tuesday 23rd October, Zappi’s Bike Café (St. Michaels Street, Oxford)

Zappi’s Café is one of Oxford’s best kept little secrets. You can find it in the upstairs of a bicycle shop, and you wouldn’t look at all out of place in there wearing lycra at 8am. Whilst the café would easily be described as ‘trendy’, it wasn’t at all try-hard, and I enjoyed the Bon Iver-like background sounds and the cycling memorabilia hanging from the walls as I sipped my coffee waiting for Jonny.

The casual, chatty staff pride themselves on specializing in hand-crafted, artisan coffee. And it did not disappoint. The coffee was exceptional, and by far the best I’d had in Oxford.

The Order
Jake: The Breakfast Bap, and a large vanilla latte
Jonny: A bacon bap, a pain au chocolat, and a flat white

Despite the very limited choice for breakfast, and the relatively small portions, the breakfast baps were tasty and well cooked.
Price: Very reasonable. You’re looking at £5-£6 each including coffee. 

Most importantly, breakfast at Zappi’s Café was an event I wanted to repeat – and soon. I can’t recommend it highly enough, especially for the coffee. But, ssshhh… don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

Rating: 4.5* - We gave it a 4* at first, but it’s the one place I’ve been desperate to go back to.

Breakfast 6… Tuesday 6th November, Art Café (14 Bonn Square, Oxford)

Art Café sits conveniently in the centre of Oxford, just across from the Westgate Shopping Centre. From our seats upstairs, we were able to enjoy exquisite views of both Primark and The Carphone Warehouse. Currently, the café is exhibiting portraits by Giles Oldershaw, a local Oxford artist. A cool feature. (Note: the invitation written on the mirror to leave comments doesn’t mean to leave comments also on the mirror, but in the comment book…)

My reservation about the café is that it doesn’t know what it is. For instance, the background music sounded like someone had accidently left their iPod on “shuffle all songs”, which made it distracting and tedious. It went from some French sounding jazz to Norah Jones to Green Day (which, unless you’re a 14 year old teenage girl growing up in the 90s, should just never be allowed).

The Order
Jake: Pancake Breakfast, and a latte
Jonny: Pancake Breakfast, and a flat white

The best feature of this café was the plate of pancakes, which was really quite good. The pancakes are freshly made, and come with a generous splurge of maple syrup and berries. But take note… it was our slowest breakfast yet: over 20 minutes after placing our order when we received the food.

Price: £4.85 for Pancakes (£3.80 on the website), and £2.80 for coffee. Not the cheapest.

Rating: 3* - Despite the quality of pancakes, it’s hard to bestow a higher grade. The potential is there, but I won’t be rushing to go back to Art Café.

Breakfast 7… Tuesday 13th November, The Missing Bean (14 Turl Street, Oxford)

It’s slightly unfair on The Missing Bean to include it on the hit list of Oxford’s breakfast haunts. It describes itself as an “espresso bar, set up to bring the artisan Antipodean style coffee and laid back atmosphere to the heart of vibrant Oxford.” It clearly doesn’t specialise in doing breakfast. That much was obvious when Jonny asked for toast (on the menu) only to receive the reply:

“Everyone asks for stuff I don’t know how to do.”

So, upon much consideration, I’ve decided not to grade The Missing Bean on this list. It does provide excellent coffee, and a mean lemon and poppy-seed muffin, but it’s probably a better late-morning hangout.

However, it must be said that I was marginally disappointed by the whole thing. The café was slow and busily crowded for 8:30am. The staff appeared frantic and stressed by the numbers piling in (forgetting half of Jonny’s order) until they were bolstered by an additional waitress. It was commended to me as ‘the’ place to go for coffee, but I think I’d still rather go to Zappi’s…

Rating: Ungraded – I’d go in again if I walked by. 

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