Cool local cafés
Looking for a decent flat white off the beaten track? From rural barns to funky industrial spaces, follow me...
The Yurt at Nicholson’s, North Aston (nr Bicester)
I’m loving the rise of the yurt café – so much more interesting than bricks and mortar, plus you kind of feel like you’re glamping every time you step through the door. The new kid on the block is Nicholsons yurt café, a tenty triumph in North Aston (North Oxon) which, like everything else this upmarket nursery produces, is beautifully presented. It offers more of a ‘dining’ experience than panini style dining so don’t visit expecting your usual garden centre fare! If you’re close enough to the village of North Aston you can test it out for yourself for coffee, cake or lunch, but if you’re further afield and thinking it’s too far for you to trek, I should let you know another excellent reason to make the journey and that is Rosara, the outdoor style arm of the business.
Nicholsons Nurseries, The Park, North Aston, Bicester, OX25 6HL. Tel: 01869 340342.
You’d never find Coopers from a casual amble around Marlow. It’s on an industrial estate five minutes drive from the centre of the town, but you’ll be glad you made the effort. Very ‘urban’, from the guys who also own the lovely Riverlight restaurant in Bourne End, you could easily be in London with this cafe with its long communal tables, retro furnishings, artfully rough edges and brilliant coffee. A dead cert. For an extra reason to check it out, get your gastro-glow sticks at the ready – pop-up maestros Native Feasts are having their New Year’s Eve party here.
Ground Floor, Unit A, Meter House, Fieldhouse Lane, Marlow, cooperstradingcompany.com
The Batch Café, Bletchingdon, North Oxon
Quirky interiors, pretty location, great coffee – what’s not to like?! A chance trip down a country lane to try out a beauty salon in Bletchingdon, North Oxfordshire, led me to The Batch, sitting across the way with some gorgeous quirky interiors and some of the best coffee you’re likely to find in North Oxfordshire. The Batch is in fact a ‘British-isation’ (yes it’s a word *tut*) of a New Zealand ‘bach’ a basic beach or country retreat that evokes relaxed times, good friends and almost inevitably in NZ, excellent coffee. I ended up having my own coffee and cake (OMG, so good) and talking to owners Lucy and Carl Forman – Lucy’s in the kitchen, Carl’s a charming front-of-house. They’re big on brunch and lunch, serving local Ue coffee, and Jeeves and Jericho teas, and they also have a wine and beer list if you fancy a tipple. Opposite is Visage beauty (the loveliest big treatment rooms in this Guinot specialist) and there’s also a gallery next door if you want to make a morning of it.
The Batch, Greenhill Farm, Bletchingdon OX5 3BQ, thebatchcafe.uk
The Barn Café, Turville Heath, mid Bucks
A lovely pit stop for walkers and cyclists in the Chilterns, close to the lovely village of Turville Heath. The barn feels rural, with its exposed beams and dark corners (you can eat here in the evening in the summer amid the twinkly fairy lights).There are picnic benches amongst the hay bales outside, and a lovely 30 minute circular walk if you’re so inclined around the village and surrounding fields.
Turville Heath Farm, Turville Heath, nr Henley, Oxon, thebarnatturvilleheath.com
The Milk Shed, Weston on the Green (mid Oxon)
The Milk Shed, in Weston on the Green (close to Bicester) is a very cool, very unexpected little café/ice cream parlour/deli/gourmet shop based at Manor Farm and owned and run by Lucie Greenwood, who previously ran her own event catering company. Don’t come here expecting a jacket potato (unless it’s the most dip-dang-tastic jacket you’ve ever tasted) because Lucie and her team cook what they love, and what they love is exciting, delicious food that will slap your taste buds around and make you desperate to tell a friend immediately what a find this place is. Breakfast is served all day and children are very welcome – it’s a relaxed open space with plenty of room for buggies and magazines dotted around for you to pick up and flick through, mid-coffee. Don’t panic when you see the uninspiring exterior, that’s what makes it the communal tables, Sixties chairs and bright blue metal stools so much fun.
The Milk Shed, Manor Farm, Weston on the Green, themilkshedstore.co.uk