Sometimes I want to eat somewhere a little simpler, where prices are cheaper and the atmosphere more informal. Perhaps all I want is a drink, or a light snack, or maybe a teeny treat to brighten a rainy weekend.
Oxford is overflowing with cafés, many relying heavily upon paninis, baguettes and wraps to draw in the tourists. Outside the city they are scattered a little more thinly, often nestling within the embrace of another larger business in order to ensure enough customers.
Burford Garden Company, Burford
We tend to descend here at Christmas time, bypassing the plants and garden furniture to fill our baskets with exotic bath foams and luxury biscuits. They have a great organic food section within the store, handily adjacent to the main café.
We always used to have the “buffet”, which meant cramming lots of different cold cuts, salads, bits of quiche etc onto a plate and making the most of it. However it seemed to get slightly less exciting as time went by, and it also left no room for sweet things, so now I tend to content myself with a bowl of soup, a bottle of juice and a big piece of cake.
There is also a small range of hot meals available, such as Sunday roasts and pasta dishes.
Daylesford Organic, Daylesford
I’m two Labradors and a 4×4 short for this place. It is simultaneously oddly out-of-place and completely fitting. Now I know where all the rich landowners stop off to buy heritage tomatoes.
The farm shop is deliciously sophisticated with prices to match, and the café is tucked in and around it, so you can find yourselves pretending to choose between chocolate bars while secretly eying up someone’s lunch. As far as I can tell there are no reservations, you turn up and get added to a list with an advised wait time.
The food is a mixture of heartily satisfying quiches and pies, platters of tasty treats and some more refined creations. The eavesdropping is particularly gratifying too.
Jane’s Teas, Kirtlington
A friend of a friend tipped us off to this unique place, only open on Sundays and only for part of the year. Resting alongside the Oxford Canal, it feels like you’ve wandered into someone’s fantasy garden, where in amongst dishevelled classic cars and clucking chickens, tea and scones are served on delicate china resting on silver trays.
There was a range of teas and some soft drinks, but the food on offer was limited to plain or fruit scones with cream and jam. However they were delicious, and the setting is whimsical enough to fascinate the most jaded cream-tea eater.
We came cross-country but there were some cars tightly parked along the narrow lane outside, so it should be easy enough to get there via the road.
Waterperry Gardens Teashop, Near Wheatley
My visit here was fleeting – a brisk dash round the shop followed by a brief visit to the barely-opened teashop before continuing on with my journey.
I only ate a cheese scone and drank some of their own apple juice, but both were scrumptious. I’m considering a return trip when a garden-oriented relative next visits.