The London Review of Breakfasts

"Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper." (Francis Bacon)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Special Dispatch: The Breakfasts of Oxford (Part 1: Quod, Old Parsonage, Malmaison)

Old Bank Hotel
92-94 High Street
01865 202 505

Old Parsonage
1 Banbury Road
01865 310 210

3 Oxford Castle
01865 268 400

by H.P. Seuss

Dusk blackened into night as we crossed the turnpike on the Oxford Road, My Lady and I, and lurched into that sweet city with her dreaming spires for the first stage of our breakfast tour. A thin mist whispered down High-street, the stillness of the scene rent only by the gay cries of romping scholars. We alighted at the Old Bank. I presented Malcolm Eggs' letter of introduction and nimble footmen sprang to relieve us of our luggage and usher us to our lodgings.

We slept soundly.

Upon waking next morning about daylight, I flung open our window to be greeted by the bracing sight of Radcliffe's Camera, Bodelian's Library and All Souls college thrusting their erect turrets into the blue of the blushing sky. That first speech of old Prof. Neuss returned to me. "Seuss", said he, pink of cheek, wide of eye, "I should like to prise apart the buttocks of your ignorance and roger you with my knob of knowledge". I was a shy milquetoast then! I attempted to convey my exuberance to My Lady with a similar metaphor; she kneed me in the balls.

Breakfast was, nonetheless, a happy affair. In the cavernous, contemporary space of the Quod Brasserie (venue of choice for hungry under-grads cadging a steak-frites off visiting parents), we enjoyed an upmarket English assembly. The blood pudding was nicely pungent; the mushrooms had thrived on the chargrill; so endearing were the bacon and sausage that I fancied Mr Gloucester Old Spot (whence they came) was a dear old friend. My Lady, who like the Hindoo forgoes meat, was in raptures over her tomatoes. The coffee was rich and the orange juice fresh. Breakfast here is dear, but like My Lady, worth it.

After an agreeable day of gentle study and bracing walks, we repaired to the Old Parsonage. I know, reader, that you tire of these "sub-literary" linking bits, so I shall cut to the quick. The breakfast menu is the same as at Quod, though the country hotel décor presents a mellow contrast: wood fire, oils, a stuffed pike &c, &c. The company, too differs: we shared the room with an antique mystery lady, who read the Financial Times with a magnifying glass. We enjoyed fresh berries and muesli from the Continental table before My Lady delved into creamy scrambled eggs and tomatoes, and I busied myself with robust poached eggs and Mr Old Spot's hind quarters.

I was most impressed, incidentally, with the "can do" spirit of the head waiter when I alarmed him with a request for Soya milk. On such application are Empires founded.

We took our breakfast no. 3 at Malmaison, a converted gaol in the grounds of the ancient Oxford Castle. All is shiny and sensual, comfortable and contemporary. The eggs benedict was a decadent treat, while service was professional and personable. However, more consistency in the Continental spread would have been appreciated. Rye bread: good. Preponderance of pineapple among the fresh fruit: bad. Tropical fruit is very discombobulating first thing, as I found out to my peril later in the day.

To be continued...


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