Special Dispatch: The Breakfasts of Oxford (Part 2: The Rose Tea Rooms, Jericho Café, Queen's Lane Coffee House)
51 High Street
112 Walton Street
Queen's Lane Coffee House
40 High Street
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...?