The clocks have gone forward, the sun has finally shown its face and I’m now officially in sandals until October (podiatrists of Bucks & Oxon, form an orderly queue).
So this means there will be lots of summery stuff starting to pop up on the blog, and I can start by telling you about the new yurt at Nicholsons nursery in North Oxfordshire, which soft-opened a few weeks ago.
It’s tough in the food business these days, isn’t it? So much choice for punters like us, and squeeeeezed margins for the owners of pubs, restaurants and cafés. What I’m seeing more and more of, in all kinds of businesses, is diversification – so a café like The Cape in Beaconsfield is able to offer coffee and pastries to mums and prams in the morning; casual diners and business catch-ups over lunch, and then, with considerable success, a Friday and Saturday night dining experience.
Like Aylesbury, Didcot is a town that raises eyebrows when you mention the word ‘cool’ (yeah I saw you do it). But I’m not kidding, if you’re yet to venture to Didcot, head straight to the theatre with its funky architecture and promise of urban culture. I’m almost growing a beard and a bun just thinking about it.
Aylesbury Waterside is my most local theatre so I’ve been there a-plenty, but last week was the first time I’d ventured to the Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot.
How many times have you gone into Oxford, tried and failed to find a cool cafe, and then settled down on pine farmhouse furniture for a carrot cake for the nth time? Not next time, because you’ll be able to put The Missing Bean in your walky sat nav and drink your coffee like the local dons, student and hipsters.
The thing about The Missing Bean is it’s all about the coffee.
Whoo-hoo! Very super-duper-pooper excited to write about my new find because you’re going to love it. I went up to old Larn-din town last week to meet my lovely regional Muddy editors for lunch, but it’s pretty tough finding a venue to suit when one editor is coming from Norfolk, another from Sussex, and another again from Cornwall!
In the end I used my noddle and remembered that The Quince Tree (RIP Stonor, hello Henley!) also has a London cafe/restaurant in the beautiful Clifton Nurseries, in the lovely leafiness of Maida Vale.
Is this not a object of beauty and lust?
An avocado, feta, coriander and chilli combination lying akimbo on a bed of sour dough, ready to be devoured by your… oh alright, I’ve taken this analogy as far as I can without a gastronomic X-rating, but I’m guessing you’re licking your lips in moist slo-mo, so you’re getting the idea.
My mid-morning food porn came courtesy of LASSCO Three Pigeons near Milton Common (J7 of the M40, driving experts), the architectural salvage specialists beloved of celebs like Will Young, Kate Bush and Sophie Dahl, that also happen to house a groovy little cafe amongst the curios, quirky one-offs and antiquities.
Last year while I was on my way to review the Chef’s Dozen restaurant in Chipping Camden (such a fab place – here’s my review if you missed it first time around) I spotted a lovely old Cotswold stone building down a long path off the road, and promised myself I’d detour to it the next time I was in the area.
That time was last week, when I was over in Stow-on-the-Wold, and I’m mighty pleased I made the effort because the 18th century converted building I spied happens to be Lapstone, a lovely lifestyle store that offers one of the most relaxing shopping experiences I’ve had in a long while.
Addicted to your morning coffee? Unable to forgo a mozzarella and sundried tomato ciabatta brunch with a brownie chaser? Yeah, *sniff*, me too. So with your pleasure in mind, I’ve pulled together a list of some of the grooviest and unusual cafes I know in the area. Any utterly unmissably brilliant ones you think I’ve missed off, feel free to harangue me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
LASSCO Three Pigeons, Milton Common, Oxfordshire
This architectural salvage treasure trove just off the M40 has a little powerhouse of a coffee shop within.
I’ve enjoyed watching the quiet evolution of the Green Dragon Eco Centre & Rare Breeds Farm near Quainton since it launched early this year. As the business grows, they add bits here, try different things there, come up with big ideas and work out how to bring them to life.
Originally the cafe by the Reception started life as the one and only Eco Centre cafe, but as a family-friendly eaterie popped up in the soft play area, this original cafe has evolved into a more grown-up space that that they’ve renamed the Restaurant (though it still is very much a cafe feel), and one that doesn’t require entry into the Eco Centre at all.
Probably the quickest post I’ve ever written (sorry, I’m on the ballet run this morning!). A last-ditch reminder that this is the last weekend for Jane’s Teas in Kirtlington (near Bicester) until next year.
I went two weekends ago en famille, and it’s just the loveliest thing to do on an afternoon, weather permitting. Outdoor cream teas on the river next to the narrrow boats, with a lovely walk through the woods through a quarry to get there.