The London Review of Breakfasts

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

Special Dispatch: The Breakfasts of Oxford (Part 2: The Rose Tea Rooms, Jericho Café, Queen's Lane Coffee House)

The Rose Tea Rooms
51 High Street
01865 244429

Jericho Café
112 Walton Street
01865 310840

Queen's Lane Coffee House
40 High Street
01865 240082

by H.P. Seuss

"Lawks a Mercy!" I cried about waking. For it was late! "Hasten yourself, My Lady," I said, "it is nearly noon."

But whether through her natural langour or a mischievous desire to fluster me, My Lady did not hasten herself. She toiled over her toilet; she dithered over dressing; she would not be abduced from her ablutions. I was champing to go! And was suffering forty seven minutes later when we left for the Grand Café and My Lady impertinently and seriously suggested that I ought to congratulate her on the speed of her dressing.

Ah, the Grand Café! It has the aspect of a Viennese coffee-house: brassy, elegant and expensive enough to keep out the rubbish. We like their cakes, we like their teas, and I have had my eye on their breakfast menu for a long time. We burst in on the golden scene, whereupon the doorman regretted to inform us that breakfast was no longer being served. The door-chime tinkled mockingly in the hollow of my headache as we moped out.

I was upset. However, My Lady, observing my fallen crest, suggested we sally to the Rose, where, with any luck they would still be serving breakfast at a quarter past twelve, and if not, they do a very servicable omelette on the luncheon menu. We had no such luck (I even brandished Mr Eggs' letter of introduction - nothing doing). We plumped for the omelette.

My Lady is as good as her word and her word is good; my "brunch" was suitably eggy and, at my behest, bacony and mushroomy. Service was not strong; three Slav flapped ineffectually around seven tables. The coffee was good. But so-so, in all. "My Lady", I said, as she wiped a chive from my chin, "tomorrow we are up with the lark".

But blow me if the same precidament didn't befall us the very next morning. The Grand Café again tinkled a "no". But it's only one minute past noon! "Even so". A little death.

But I had a brainwave. I led My Lady past the noon cut-off joints to Jericho, where the doughty owner of the eponymous café responded to my query emphatically: "Why wouldn't we be serving breakfast?" Quite so! A full plate (vigorous sausage, fascinating beans) was downed in a happy hubbub. Jericho Café is, I remembered from my student days, a marvel: always festively busy, yet always obliging with a cosy cranny.

No time for fry the following morning - My Lady and I had to dash for the London stagecoach. Queen's Lane Coffee House, however, obliged me with two slices of Marmite on toast which were so delicious that I was inspired to purchase the same in London, and was disappointed. Will I commend QLCH on the basis of their Marmite? Emphatically yes. It was only My Lady's peculiar prejudice against the admittedly rather studenty place that kept us thence the day before, actually.

In sum, breakfast (like education) in Oxford is high-quality, though inaccessible. It is a city of frustrations and rewards. It is also, as I remarked to My Lady on the Hackney turnpike, pondering the Grand Café, a city of unfinished business.

To be continued...?


Blogger Julian said...

When you next reach for the source... of the Thames, you might go back against the flow menu-wise too: what of kippers and marmalade nowadays among the dreaming &c.?

12:10 PM, November 11, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I shall, Julian. There is much Oxford yolk to be mopped up with the bloomer of my prose... St Giles, News Cafe, The Randolph, &c, &c. We have established the Oxford's b & e is generally a cut above; I shall see to it that Part 3 involves kippers, as well as Oxford Marmalade and Oxford Sauce (there is such a thing!).

1:42 PM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do like the question mark at the end of this one. Hopefully the answer is, "No." I'd like to order fewer reviews about the suffering pretentiousness of the author and more clever, witty, intelligent and interesting reviews of breakfast, please.

3:51 PM, November 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was very excited to see The Guardian's breakfast special at the weekend but excitement turned to exasperation that the dedicated Oxford section (courtesy of LRB) of the supplement made no mention of The St. Giles Cafe. I have heard that it suffered the indignity of a refurbishment 2 or 3 years ago but that the complete disregard for portion control came out of the other end unscathed.

Quod and other upmarket establishments are all well and good but there are times when only an enormous off-white plate with a dreaming spire of chips on it will satisfy.

12:51 PM, April 14, 2008  
Anonymous Giles said...

I'd just like to take this opportunity to commend to you all the unsurpassed marvel that is Baron Pouget’s Original Oxford Sauce, a brown sauce yes but a revelation to one used to HP.

It is available from the covered market of the same city. Perhaps after a trip to Browns cafe, that surely also deserved a mention here (nothing at all to do with the chain restaurant, I hasten to add).

1:58 PM, June 13, 2008  
Anonymous Blake Pudding said...

At the Rose for £2.85 you can upgrade your scrambled eggs with bacon. For this you get one rasher.

2:47 PM, April 12, 2011  

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