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All Day Thanksgiving Dining, Thursday November 27th

With so many American students and visitors becoming our regular customers, we’re delighted to announce a Thanksgiving menu for Thursday November 27th that we’ll be serving lunchtime and evening.


Come celebrate with:

Black Pudding & Pumpkin Puree

pumpkin purée ¦ pinenuts ¦ watercress salad

Spiced Root Vegetable Soup (V)

carrots ¦ parsnips ¦ sweet potato ¦ celeriac ¦ fresh bread


Turkey Breast

potato wedges¦ spinach & cranberry salad

Taleggio Tart (V)

wild mushrooms ¦ onion ¦ garlic ¦ rocket salad ¦ sun-dried tomato & basil pesto


Pecan Pie or Pumpkin Pie




Two courses £16.50

Three courses £22.50

Bring your own beer or wine! (corkage applies)

Service 12 noon to 3 pm

and 5pm to 8.30 pm

table reservations :

01865 554200

Has the Christmas turkey had its day?

I can hear a lot of muttering amongst the chefs of Oxford restaurants this year about whether or not to serve turkey.

The argument for: it’s traditional, everyone wants to have turkey at least once at Christmas.

The argument against : it’s a culinary disaster, boring and tricky to get right.

For sure, we’ve all had at least one bad experience of being served up a dry piece of turkey breast and several experiences of overcooking this beast of bird ourselves on Christmas morning.

Two years ago, I was very fortunate to stay at which boasted not just an amazing professional kitchen ( where the likes of Jamie and Carluccio had been to stay and cook),  but a cornucopia of a kitchen garden and a cage of home reared turkeys.

morocco turkey

We were struck by the ancient beauty of these birds and to be honest it’s since made me think twice about eating them.

So what’s on offer this Christmas turkey wise amongst some of Oxford’s restaurants?

At Gee’s, there isn’t a turkey to be seen.  At The Rickety Press, it’s there with all its traditional finery and at The Oxford Kitchen only a turkey jus makes it onto the menu.

At St Giles Café, we’ve decided to ruffle a few feathers and go Moroccan style with turkey this year.

Moroccan Spice

A touch of paprika, cumin and Ras El Hanout…… accompanied by a courgette, apricot bulgar wheat and a spinach and cranberry salad.

You can find the full menu here


Imagine it’s September 1914 and you’ve been invited to a London salon for dinner..

It’s actually happening on Wednesday 29th October, our next Dining Club event, when we’ll be getting all psychical.

As ever there will be a 5 course dinner commencing at 7.30pm with a guest speaker. On this night it will Dr Tara Stubbs, lecturer and tutor in English Literature and Creative writing.  Tara also has a specialist interest in The Ghost Club which was founded in the 1860’s and is  the oldest organisation in the world associated with psychical research.  Past members of The Ghost Club include Charles Dickens, Siegfried Sassoon, Harry Price, Donald Campbell, Peter Cushing, Peter Underwood, Maurice Grosse, Sir Shane Leslie and Eric Maple.  In the early part of the 20th century, The Ghost Club met regularly for dinner in London.  For the menu please see

So if your are looking for a Halloween experience that’s a little bit different, send us an enquiry to and we’ll be back in touch………

From The Argentine to Andalusia

“Life is a journey. To travel is to live twice ” ( Omar Khayyam)

Our new dinner menu starting Thursday 31st July on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings each week, is inspired by a journey from The Argentine to Andalusia and beyond. It’s a journey taken by our chef Sebastian who has created this menu .

SebSebastian started working at St. Giles’ Cafe in December 2014. He works closely with Head Chef Dave on a day to day basis, making sure that the daily specials menu and cafe menu are interesting and using the best seasonal ingredients available. Although Sebastian heralds from Argentina, his culinary repertoire is heavily influenced by the Andalusia region of Spain. His passion of Argentine and Spanish cooking has seen customers return for his evening menus and he has enjoyed taking the helm of our events at St. Giles’ Cafe.

Our evening menu is priced £18.50/£24.50 for 2/3 courses a well as bring your own wine (£3.50 per bottle corkage).

Please call us on 01865 554200 or email for table reservations.

Chicken | Anchovy |Cos Lettuce |Crouton

Roasted Beetroot |Tomato |Breadcrumb |Garlic

Black Pudding |Pine Nuts |Rocket |Balsamic

Potato |Egg |Chorizo


Grilled Hake & Prawn | Parsley & Garlic |Asparagus

Chicken | Hazelnut Pesto |Roasted Sweet Potato

Aubergine | Goats Cheese |Basil &Tomato Sauce

6oz SIRLOIN STEAK (+ £1.50)
Beef Steak | Roasted Red Pepper & Garlic Salad | Portobello | Chmichurri


Raspberry Pastry | Dulce de Leche

Pear | Red Wine |Chantilly Cream

Dark Belgian Chocolate |Cream


Our menu changes regularly when seasonal produce is available and this can also affect the cost of some dishes.
Alternative menu options can be provided for any guests with special dietary requirements, providing adequate notice is given.

Comments from our customers on TripAdvisor:

“Last week, for our birthdays, I took my wife there to a Spanish-themed meal. A guitarist was playing discretely in the corner, and an Argentine chef served a memorable steak cooked in sherry. The three-course meal for two came to £46, the Spanish waitress was enchanting and efficient, and I count the evening among the most memorable culinary experiences that we have had during the five years we’ve lived in Oxford.”
“We went to St Giles cafe on a Friday night with some friends. It happened to be Argentinian night, as the chef was cooking his cuisine. It was superb. The waitress was one of the best we’d ever had. So friendly, knowledgeable and attentive. 10/10. The food was really unusual, we each had something different from the menu and tried it all. Not a bad dish going. We will definitely be returning with more friends.”
Read more here

Never mind come dine with me, come dine with us

The Dining Club

dining club image

Wednesday 28th May

ST GILES’ CAFÉ is delighted to announce the start of a regular last Wednesday of the month Dining Club.

Each month, commencing Wednesday 28th May, we’ll be serving a rather special menu and each evening will have an informal theme. Guests will be seated around one large table to allow discussion with fellow diners. The first of these themes is the Oxford English Dictionary. So it’s bring you own favourite word (s) as well as bring your own bottle. On hand will be Fiona MacPherson, Senior Editor of the OED, who will also be giving us some insight into the work and history of this world famous dictionary.

The evening will consist of a 5 course menu and will appeal to wordsmiths, lexicographers, writers, grammar aficionados, scrabble players, crossword addicts or people who just relish a good night out with a view to enjoying some new company. It will be informal and, we hope good fun.

Places are strictly limited to 18 people, so please reserve early .
The 5 course menu is priced at £35 per person. The evening commences at 7.30pm with a complimentary drink.
For reservations please email or call us on 01865 554200
Thank you.

Medley Manor Farm asparagus, baked goats cheese, miel de caña

Trio of home cured salmon – smoked; whisky & dill; beetroot & vodka with pickled cucumber, rye bread & tarragon mayonnaise
(Vegetarian option– pickled cucumber, rocket & orange salad)

Pigeon breast & poached pear, red wine sauce
(Vegetarian option– poached pear, Oxford Blue sauce & pea shoots)

Grilled rack of lamb, sweet potato cakes, roasted peppers in barbecue sauce
(Vegetarian option– Piedmontese peppers served with micro-herb salad & sour dough toast)

Eton Tidy – strawberries, meringue & Chantilly cream

Happy 1st Birthday to St. Giles’

One year on… thank you for being a part of it!


Our First Year

A recent Trip Advisor review…

“I used to come to the St Giles Café in the 1960s, when it was a greasy-spoon; I’d slope off with a friend from boarding-school, and we’d hide behind the dour padded pews, out of sight of any master who might be passing, and we’d eat over-margarined toast and planks of rindy bacon adrift on puddles of disreputable-looking baked beans.
Coming back to Oxford half a century on, I was thrilled to find the café still open, but though the grease had remained, the place had mislaid its charm along with its authenticity. Unfriendly staff, unexceptional food, and, worst of all, you couldn’t enjoy a cup of tea by itself, or a late breakfast, after a certain hour.
That’s all changed. Under new management, the St Giles Café is, quite simply, everything you could want from a café-cum-restaurant – and this in a city which, for some curious reason, seems abysmally shy of decent eateries, despite what you may read. First, the breakfast: as someone always in hopeless pursuit of the platonic English Breakfast, all I will say is that the St Giles Café offers the best in Oxford, with home-made sausages, immaculately soft fried eggs, and mushrooms which taste of pre-mass-production mushroom. I liked my first experience so much that I went back to sample the bangers and mash at lunch. And then I discovered that the café was open for dinner – further, that you can bring your own wine (corkage £2.70). Last week, for our birthdays, I took my wife there to a Spanish-themed meal. A guitarist was playing discretely in the corner, and an Argentine chef served a memorable steak cooked in sherry. The three-course meal for two came to £46, the Spanish waitress was enchanting and efficient, and I count the evening among the most memorable culinary experiences that we have had during the five years we’ve lived in Oxford.”

Private Dining at St Giles’ Cafe

St Giles’ Café is available for private dining and we’ve hosted a number of parties already this year.  We can cater for up to 25 people comfortably and can design you a menu to suit any occasion.  We were delighted to serve a seven course taster menu for a group of gentlemen who meet up every second month to dine somewhere in Oxford or surroundings. Here’s their menu with pictures of what we served:

St. Giles Café

BNO Menu

19th March

Apple & Walnut Salad

homemade beetroot sorbet

 beetroot puree


Seared Hand-Dived Scallops

black pudding & mange tout

scallops and black pud

Roast Rabbit Ballotine

mashed root vegetables, kale & gravy

ballotine of rabbit

28 Day Aged Sirloin On-The-Bone*,

homemade barbeque sauce, sweet potato wedges & micro-herb salad

(*to share between 3)

sirloin and sweet pots

Citrus Sorbet

mix of orange, lime & grapefruit

Peanut Butter Cups

homemade marshmallow, hot chocolate sauce

 peanut and marshmallow

Selection of Local Cheeses

cherry tomato chutney, celery & crackers

And here’s what they had to say about their evening:

“Not sure I have ever eaten so many types of animal in one sitting. Nicely sandwiched between a beetroot sorbet and peanut butter cookie on steroids. Thank you Baz”

“A great evening again – thank you so much. You have got a fantastic team! Fabulous food”

“Awesome 5 star all round congrats and thanks”

New Spring (hopefully) Menu

St Giles’ Café
Spring Dinner Menu

£18.50/24.50 for 2/3 courses

Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine
leeks & cornichons, tomato chutney & sourdough toast

Wild Mushrooms & Poached Duck Egg
sourdough toast (V)

Artichoke Soup & Toasted Almonds
homemade bread & butter

White Asparagus, Oxford Blue & Walnut Salad
red endive, frisée & rocket

asparagus salad


White Wine Poached Fillet of Cod
mussels, mange tout & new potatoes


Spanish Style Pork Meatballs
almond sauce, spring onion, cherry tomato & chilli cous cous

Halloumi Stuffed Aubergine
fennel, pepper, courgette & red onion, mixed leaf salad (V)

aubergine (2)

Grilled 6oz Sirloin Steak (£1.50 Supplement)
cavolo nero,  potato mash, sauce diane


Caramelized Nectarines
& Chantilly cream

Lemon Tart
& fresh raspberry compote

Chocolate Pot
shortbread biscuit & candied orange

Homemade Vanilla, Strawberry or Mint Ice Cream
Orange or Berry Sorbet

Service not included
Please bring your own wine (£3.50 per bottle corkage)
Thursday, Friday & Saturday evenings commencing 20th March

or email

New Year, new menu

St. Giles’ Café

February Dinner Menu

Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings from 6pm

2 courses £17

3 courses £23


Ham Hock Terrine

with sourdough toast & plum chutney


Soup of the Day

With homemade bread (V)

Goats’ Cheese & Cherry Tomato Tartlets

with rocket salad, balsamic dressing (V)

Dorset Moules Mariniere

with homemade  bread

(available as a starter or main)

Dorset Moules Mariniere


Organic Pan-fried Fillet of Cod

with roast peppers & tomatoes, almond cous cous & chilli dressing

Wild Mushroom Risotto

with Oxford Blue cheese (V)

Organic Lamb Kleftiko

with mashed potato, roasted vegetables, greens & gravy

Lamb Kleftiko 2

Confit Pork Belly

with bubble and squeak, fine beans, crackling & gravy

Pork Confit (2)


Steamed Honey & Almond Pudding

with crème anglaise

Honey and Almond steamed pudding

Chocolate Tart

with lime crème fraîche

Red Wine & Blueberry Jelly & Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

Homemade Sorbets & Ice Creams


Service not included. Bring your own bottle (£3.50 corkage)

Table reservations are strongly recommended

01865 554200

Foraging in Port Meadow, Oxford

Just now in the central section of Port Meadow that’s usually flooded, there are damp and warm conditions ideal for mushrooms. They are small and buttonlike and are in abundance before midday.

Have the cafe for the evening..

We’re able to offer our rather special room for private parties for up to 25 people.

private party

Already we’ve hosted a private dinner for 23 people from a leading market research agency;  18 people for a rather special surprise 21st birthday party and a group of 14 gentlemen who have their own dining out club.  We’ll tailor a menu to your requirements and budget, personalise the room, allow you to bring in your own wine (a small corkage applies) and of you can even play your own music.

St Giles supper table

Here’s a recent bespoke menu:

St. Giles Café

BNO Dinner 16th October 2013

Dorset Moules Mariniere

& homemade bread

Oxtail Soup

& parsley dumplings

Butternut Squash & Goats’ Cheese Salad with

 pinenuts, croutons & balsamic dressing


Organic Corn-fed Chicken Breast

with chorizo, fennel & pearl spelt broth, garlic aioli

Slow Cooked British Beef Blade

with red wine sauce, roast vegetables & sauté potatoes

Handmade Pumpkin and Swiss Chard Ravioli,

with béchamel sauce & salsa verde

Devilled Lambs’ Kidneys

with creamed spinach & sourdough toast


Chocolate Brownie

with hot chocolate sauce & vanilla ice cream

Oxford Cheese Plate with celery & flatbreads

Trio of Citrus Sorbets

orange, lime & lemon

Please call the café on 01865 554200 or email Baz at to discuss your requirements

“Just don’t tell anyone”

Right this way, your table’s waiting…

St Giles café is delighted to announce our new late summer and September dinner menu.  Commencing tonight, Friday and Saturday this week and thereafter on the same nights each week.

For table reservations please call 01865 554200 or email

St. Giles Café


2 courses £17

3 courses £23

Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine,

with leeks & cornichons, sourdough toast

Soup of the Day

with fresh bread (V)

Goats’ Cheese Mousse

with rocket & hazelnut salad

Home-Cured Gravadlax,

with pickled pineapple & frisse salad

Moules Mariniere

with fresh bread (Available as a starter or main course)


Organic Corn-fed Chicken Breast

with rocket & herb salad, sundried tomatoes & walnut pesto

Pan-fried fresh Mackerel

with baby spinach, Bombay potatoes & spiced yoghurt

Confit Pork Belly

with celeriac mash, poached apple & red wine gravy

Handmade Vegetarian Lasagne

with courgette, aubergine, tomatoes & bell peppers (V)

Potato and Butternut Squash Gnocchi

with fennel, chestnut mushrooms & peas, fresh soda bread (V)


Chocolate Brownie

with hot chocolate sauce & vanilla ice cream

Baked Vanilla & Chocolate Cheesecake

Vanilla & Rum Panna Cotta

with orange & lime coulis

Lemon Sorbet (DF) (GF)

Homemade Ice Creams (GF)

Hildon Mineral Water £1 per bottle, Homemade Cordial £2 per glass, Freshly Squeezed

Orange Juice £2.5, Farm Pressed Apple Juice £2.5, Selection of Teas & Coffees £2.5/£3,

Corkage £3.5 per bottle

Service not included

Cream teas: jam or cream first?

Oxford foodies are all a twitter about whether it’s correct to put cream on your scone first or vice versa.  So great is the debate that battle lines have been drawn in the flour and the Clots are ready to sling in out against the Jammers.  But this is Oxford.  Academic rigour is therefore required.

First a history of cream teas. The name “Devonshire tea” comes from the county of Devon in England where it is a local speciality. The exact origin of “cream tea” is disputed, although there is evidence to suggest that the tradition of eating bread with cream and jam already existed at Tavistock Abbey in Devon in the 11th century.  There’s of course much more at

Qualitative and quantitative research has been proposed and the former will take place at St Giles’ Café on the afternoon of Friday September 6th where all and sundry are invited to attend.

Meanwhile quantitative research is underway at St Giles’ Café and every customer between now and then will be asked their view,

Alternatively you can enter this poll






Having problems deciding what to eat?

Tonight at St Giles’ Café we’re delighted to welcome some rather brainy people for our first private dinner party.  They are called “behavioural architects” and their company has been trailblazing in the field of behavioural economics.

Many of us ( and I include myself here) are stumped when we face too much choice.  The more we see when trying to buy or order something , the less able we are to make a decision.  Its called the paradox of choice – too much can lead to real dissatisfaction and often creates a paralysis or inertia in making a decision.

cake decision

One aspect of behavioural economics, other than setting out to limit choice, is to create “nudges”.  Allegedly the UK Government has a ‘nudge’ office in 10 Downing St. That’s “nudge”, not “nudge, nudge”.

And so to eating out.  By and large Greek restaurants have the longest menus than any other type of restaurant.

Depending on personality type when faced with so many options we might plump for something we are most familiar with or we might reach a state of paralysis and rely on someone else to make a decision for us ( these people  are called ‘choice agents’).  From the restaurants point of view upwards of 50% of the customers actively seek help in making a decision.

In Manhattan there is a chain of Greek restaurants.

Like so many restaurants the menu runs to several pages.

There are the multiple variations of hot starters, cold starters

charcoal grills, main dishes, fish dishes, vegetarian dishes

side dishes, salads etc.

Pinned on the inside front cover is a ‘post it’ note, with five of

“Today’s specials”.

Actually “Today’s specials” never change.

They account for 80% of all the meals sold in the restaurant

and are the five meals with the highest profit margin

At St Giles’ Café , our menu is deliberately small, so we have no need for ‘post it’  notes.  And in case you are worrying about the behavioural architects dining tonight, they have already decided what to eat 🙂

May we whet your appetite?

Dinner at St Giles Café every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings

Roasted Provencale Vegetables with crisp polenta and salsa verde


St Giles Cafe Provencal Vegetables, Salsa Verde & Crisp Polenta

Home Cured Gravadlax with dill chantilly & watercress salad

St Giles Cafe homecured gravadlax

Hand made Tagliatelle with garlic & herb sauce, sundried tomato and fresh basil

St Giles Cafe Homemade tagliatelle

Pan Fried Fillet of Cod with crushed new potatoes, pea timbales and tartare sauce

St Giles Cafe Pan Fried Fillet of Cod

“A special experience….”

 St Giles supper table

The new St Giles’ Café is delighted to announce the arrival of regular Thursday, Friday and Saturday suppers. Commencing Thursday 4th July from 6pm until 9pm, we’ll be offering a fixed price two or three course menu with regular changes for £17 or £23 respectively. Tables can be reserved and pending a licence application you may bring your own wine*.

Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine

with leeks & cornichons, sourdough toast

Soup of the Day

with fresh bread (V)

Smoked Mackerel Paté

with sourdough toast

Goats’ Cheese Mousse

with rocket & hazelnut salad

Home-Cured Gravadlax

with dill chantilly & watercress salad


Organic Corn-fed Chicken Breast

with chorizo, fennel & pearl spelt broth, garlic aioli

Pan-fried Fillet of Cod

with crushed new potatoes, pea timbales & tartare sauce

Homemade Oxford Sausage & Mash

with greens & red onion gravy

Handmade Tagliatelle

with garlic & herb sauce, sundried tomatoes & fresh basil (V)

Roasted Provençal Vegetables

with crisp polenta & salsa verde (V)


Chocolate Brownie

with hot chocolate sauce & vanilla ice cream (GF)

Sticky Toffee Pudding

with custard or vanilla ice cream

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

with rosemary shortbread

St. Giles Sorbet (DF) (GF)

St Giles Ice Cream

rhubarb, orange & ginger

blackcurrant & vanilla

For table reservations please call 01865 554200 or email

*we reserve the right to apply a £3.50 corkage charge per bottle

Photo credit @foodieontour

St Giles Supper Launch


There’s an old Polish proverb that says “a guest sees more in an hour than a host in a year”, which was in essence the reasoning behind our two ‘taster’ supper evenings held last week. Over two evenings 58 people came to eat, drink, be merry and at the end give us their feedback via a short questionnaire.

Polish Proverb

A big thank you to everyone who came along and participated, your comments and scores have given us a ‘green light’ to open up for supper on a regular basis on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings imminently. And we are acting upon your suggestions.

So what did our guinea pigs tell us?

They told us about the things that we had tuned out:  for example, our door bangs, our extraction system needs improving, some portion sizes were too big, our selection of non-alcoholic drinks could be improved.

They told us about other places they would compare us with. Most mentions were given to Turl Street Kitchen, The Magdalen Arms, The Anchor, Rickety Press, Pierre Victoire, and Oxfork.

Thirdly, they scored us for our food, service, atmosphere and overall experience using a 1 to 10 scoring system where 1 is “very poor” and 10 is “excellent”.

And our scores were:

Food 8.6

Service 9.5

Atmosphere 8.5

Overall experience 8.9

A full review was also written by @foodieontour and can be found here

Guinea Pigs Required

The new St Giles’ Café is delighted to announce two “taster” supper evenings on Friday 14th June and Saturday 15th June, 2013. If you love food, please would you come and trial our first supper menu?

Ham Hock & Parsley Terrine

with leek & cornichons, sourdough toast

Soup of the Day

with fresh bread

Smoked Mackerel Paté

with sourdough toast

Oxford Asparagus & Home-cured Pancetta,

with poached egg & Caesar dressing


Organic Corn-fed Chicken Breast

with chorizo & fennel broth, garlic aioli

Pan-fried fillet of fish (tbc)

with sautéed new potatoes, pea timbales & tartare sauce

Homemade Oxford Sausage & Mash

with greens & red onion gravy

Spelt Pasta Bake

with sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, tallegio & feta (V)

Roasted Provençal Vegetables

with crisp polenta & salsa verde (V)


Chocolate Brownie

with hot chocolate sauce & vanilla ice cream (GF)

Sticky Toffee Pudding

with custard or vanilla ice cream(GF)

Vanilla Crème Brûlée

with rosemary shortbread (GF)

St. Giles’ Sorbet (DF) (GF)

For the very reasonable price of £12 for two courses or £15 for three, we’d like you to come, eat, be merry and then tell us all that you think.  These prices do not reflect future prices as that’s something we’d like your opinion on too.  Also please note it’s Bring Your Own Bottle (no corkage!) until such time as we are licensed.


Tables are available from 6.30 to 8.30 pm on both nights.  Please email Baz asap on or leave a message on 01865 554200 to make a reservation.


STOP PRESS:  Now fully booked for Friday 14th ( other than for 9pm).  Tables available for Saturday 15th from 6 through till 9pm

Foodies: are your a greedy guts or a gourmand?

I love Schott’s Food & Drink Miscellany.


Especially his hierarchy of gastronomy.


Gourmet ( a connoisseur of food and wine)

Friand (epicure)

Gourmand (one whose chief pleasure is eating)

Goulu (glutton)

Goinfre (greedy guts)


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

St Giles cafe reflectionSt Giles Afternoon Tea 1St Giles Exterior (cream)St Giles cakes 1St Giles Cafe Breakfast Board

With all credit and thanks to a very (multi) talented young man @fellican4  (photography) and Oxford’s and the UK’s most extraordinary blackboard artist @laurencejdavies

The After Wedding Breakfast

A few days back, a lovely person walked in and said ” Can you manage 14 people?”, I gasped for a second and said ” Yes, of course” and here’s what they said……

Kaikki Rakastavat

We went to Oxford last weekend. Our friend got married there and we had an amazing wedding party in the most prestigious location you can imagine. Bodleian Library at the Divinity School and the kick on party was in the Rhodes House! The buildings just blow out your mind. They are old and beautiful and you can only imagine how many stories they capture.

This wedding party was the first time my dear Aussie husband and I went out together after the baby was born. My father and brother flew all the way from Finland to babysit..and they were amazing babysitters! No emergency text messages during the party but I was able to relax and enjoy (although I missed my darling girl sooooo much!!!).

Anyway, on the following day we went for the breakfast and found this lovely local coffee house nearby the university. It was called St Giles Cafe…

View original post 66 more words

About getting a job

In taking over St Giles’ Café , for the second time in my life I’ve taken the entrepreneurial plunge and started my own business.  I’ve pretty much sold every thing I owned and used the proceeds to start up. The context , this second time round, is that my previous freelance career as a PR/advertising strategist was dwindling because of my age (54) rather than my ability.  Also my pension fund is worth diddly squat 🙂

I found myself largely unemployed and like so many (particularly young people) desperately in search of employment but with very little success. The most recent UK and wider EU statistics for unemployment make for particularly depressing reading.  I am so very disturbed about the very large generation of young people who are facing a significant period without work.

Cue my advertising campaign to find people to work at St Giles’ Café.  In the past four weeks I’ve placed two adverts at .  Not surprisingly I’ve been inundated by applications. The first time I received in excess of 175 cvs and latterly another 125.  And many, many people beat a path to the door of the café to hand in their cvs.

Ok, here comes the stuff that we’ve all been told about time and time again about applying for a job, particularly in the present economic climate.

Don’t walk in and speak your first words ” I want a job”  ( approx. 25  people)

Don’t write an email/send a cv with the opening “To whom it may concern” and the same cv that you have sent out to everyone else without a hint of personalisation to the job on offer. ( approx. 100 people)

Be very, very careful about what you say on social media……

One young lady came to see me this last week on my request following a relatively appropriate Cv..

Half an hour before she was due to arrive I ran my daily social media check about St Giles Café.

I discovered the following Twitter dialogue:

Applicant : OMG. Have got two interviews in 2 days.  #moneymoneymoney #MONEY

Friend: OMG. Who they for?

Applicant. One is for Sainsbury’s and the other St Giles’s Café.  Nothing particularly interesting. But MONEY man








Er…St Gilers, Cheggers and Jezza


When someone recently used the term “St Giler” to describe a regular customer to our café, I was rather curious as to how and when such a word had originated.

It transpires that there is a long standing Oxford tradition to add “er” or “ers” as a somewhat facetious suffix.  It is thought to have been borrowed from the slang of Rugby School circa 1875 where of course rugby football was first played and quite quickly became known as “rugger”.

Er, from there on and right up to today, it’s possible to trace a rich history of adding “er” and “ers” which has been more recently replaced by “zza” or “cca” as in Jezza, Macca and Prezza.

Here are some of my favourites..












Er, that’s enough.  The full story can be found at





The Soup Made Gastric Juices Flow

A placemat poem from one of our customers today. “The soup made gastric juices flow, from friendly staff the smiles did glow. The rain tipped down a heavy shower, but we have found a warming bower. The Randolph stings you several quid, we came in here and glad we did.”

Goodbye Mr Chips

Two weeks in and there are so many stories that its hard to know where to begin.

What’s undoubted is that St Giles’ Café is an institution. Since 1937 it has been a home to “St Gilers”.  I am collecting an extraordinary collection of famous and infamous people who allegedly have been seen at the café over the years and will list some of them in due course.

This last week we’ve been visited by many of the more recent customers – those that knew and loved the café as a “greasy spoon”.  Two well written blog posts have reflected on the old and new and they are both well worth a read.


I thank both of them.


And I pay tribute to one old regular who came in on Wednesday and asked, in quite a demanding way for egg and chips and a mug of tea. I replied that we no longer served chips but that we could serve eggs, bacon, sausages etc.  His face was crestfallen and I quite expected him to walk out. Instead, he ordered our Oxford English and a pot of our own loose leaf blend of tea.

I stood behind my counter watching nervously as he ate his breakfast and supped his tea. He was facing away from me and looking out on to St Giles’ and so I was unable to see any of his expression.  After some time, and having consumed his breakfast he stood up and walked to the counter.  He said, very emphatically, “I’d like to tell you, that was one of the best breakfasts that I’ve ever had and the tea was extraordinary”




Crisis in the kitchen

Over the many months recently (and years subconsciously) that  I’ve spent researching ideas for the new St Giles’ Café there are a few stand out (from the plethora of panini and baguette) experiences that have really helped me formulate my views on food in Oxford and wider afield.

I have always admired and enjoyed The Anchor in Polstead Road and its recent closure is a great loss to Oxford, though for me a great stroke of luck in that I was able to employ our Head Chef, Dave whom I have written about earlier. There’s much more to come on him…..

I have also admired the   and enjoyed many evenings there.  And my as yet only trip to  gave me great encouragement about the renaissance of high quality café food.

I was extremely privileged to be able to spend a month before Christmas honing my skills under the very generous Carl Isham, Head Chef at   Thank you Carl, you are brilliant chef and I rate very highly everything that you and the rest of your brigade seek to do.

And on several occasions I was drawn back to  because of their approach to food and the standard of their cooking. Whenever I have been. the place has been packed.  I knew vaguely who they were and what they did but it is only in the past week that I have fully understood and appreciated the extraordinary work that they do.

Please follow the link above to read more about them.  In brief, as a charity for single homeless people, they aim to take some of our most vulnerable members of society and train them to become chefs and help them then gain employment.  In this last week we have had the very great pleasure to have two of their apprentices to work trial shifts.  Both of them had very high skill levels, a real capacity for hard work and an evident passion for cooking great food.  And to both of them we have been able to give further work.

The manager of the Crisis Skylight Café (and the person responsible for their mentoring and training) Oxford dropped in to to see Dave and me last Friday. He came to thank us for taking interest in them and explained in detail the role that Crisis plays.

The thanks are owed completely to him, his two apprentices that we have met to date and for the brilliant work that they do.


Left handed lobsters, Aristotle and the meaning of everything

….is the title of a lecture being given in Oxford tonight by a visiting academic from Leeds who dropped by the café this afternoon for a reviving and restoring pot of tea.

How I wish I could attend.

I think he was tempted in by our new display of afternoon tea goodies ( Afghans, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Coffee & Walnut Cake, Scones, Boulas & Chocolate Brownies – all home made of course).

afternoon tea 01

The world is too much with us

This morning an American gentleman sat in our window seat looking out at the beautiful vista of St Giles’.  He had ordered a pot of tea , our delicious blend of Assam Leaf, Darjeeling Leaf and Kenyan Broken pekoe.  It was evident that he had come to take stock of the world.

He is visiting Oxford for a few days to catch up with old friends and was on his way to meet one of our more famous poet, actor and playwright residents.

In conversation, he quoted me the first line of William Wordsworths’s  “The World is Too Much With Us”.

So here is the full text of that:

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

Thoughts and feelings after 48 hours

My highlights and ramblings after our first exhilarating weekend

Lovely people – too many to mention all of them but….

Emma, whom I met less than two weeks ago, and who has been baking, ice cream making and bringing wonderful ideas into the café every day since

Dave, whose CV arrived in my inbox one week ago as if by magic, and who is IMHO one of the most exciting and talented young chefs I’ve ever met (and also a very cool dude).

Amanda, whose smile and willingness to please and serve so efficiently made the first day happen (and not least programme the till).

Graham, our KP and washer upper, who has toiled downstairs for the last five days without moan or whisper and ever taking anything that just needs to be cleaned regardless of its state.

Justin, our extraordinary handyman, decorator and king fixer of everything

Lydia, who worked front of house all day Monday, in such an extraordinary professional manner that belies her young years

I thank all of you and many others who’ve got the show on the road.

Lovely customers- again so many lovely people in the first two days so very appreciative of our food…

An elderly lady, visiting her daughters in Oxford, who walked in on Monday morning and asked for a latte, eggs, bacon and fried bread and upon hearing the Brandenburg Concertos on our sound system said her morning was utterly complete….

Three young, very polite, female Japanese tourists who each ordered our home made granola, the blueberry pancakes followed by our full Oxford English…

Three lovely visiting Australians, who were the first to sample virtually all of our cakes and left a message on our place mats wishing us the best of luck with our new venture..

A group of students who came in blurry-eyed, early afternoon on Sunday and ordered the large Oxford English and large glasses of water….

Two decorators who were the first people to order kedgeree.  I salute you.

Two near neighbours, visiting academics from Boston (USA),  who ate the smoked fish platter and with whom I chatted about St Giles, recent events in their home town and life generally…

Earthy and extraordinary tastes

Dave’s stock, ham hock terrine, pea and mint soup, kedgeree, blueberry pancakes, salads etc, etc . In fact everything he has made to date.

Emma’s boulas (a cinnamon and cardamom pastry), lemon drizzle and Afghans.

Our home made (by Dave) Oxford sausages that we nearly sold out of on day one, much more on these to follow.

The coffee, the tea, the St Giles cordial….

A story for my father

It was one of those evening when there is a distinct lull in the air. Calmness fell over the street and the diminishing sunlight made St Giles Street look like a photograph from a guide book. Baz sat looking out of the window of his cafe sipping a small tumbler of white wine. It had been the first day of his new life. Finally after fifty- four years of longing, he had opened a restaurant. It was called the ‘St Giles’ Cafe’. The cafe was a small room with 8 tables, blue and white walls, dark brown chairs and tables, and long mirrors running along each side of the room. Baz had spent most of his working life running an advertising company in London; it had been successful, but never what he really wanted to do. This small room was his dream and this day marked the beginning of something new.


As he sat, slowly sipping his wine, his eyes darted around the room, checking what was awry. Some of the tables needed new placemats, menus and the floor by the door needed polishing but other than that it was near to perfect. He had decorated the cafe himself, with the help of Justin (who was actually a gardener, but good with a paintbrush). They had spent two weeks working flat out to make it feel like a room that anyone could walk in to and feel at home. Every part of this small cafe felt like the jigsaw puzzles of his life gradually fitting in to place. The small kitchen at the back had been cleaned within an inch of his life, and the white cups, saucers, and ramekin dishes sparkled on the shelves. Frank Cooper marmalade pots were arranged in artistic pyramids to suggest that hot buttered toast was only moments away.


This room was a long way from the sadness this man had once experienced. A relatively loveless childhood, turbulent student years, and then a marriage to a beautiful woman who had ended up in a nursing home before their four children had reached the age of adulthood. It hadn’t been pretty or idyllic, but it wasn’t all grim, there had been moments of joy throughout this life of complication. As he surveyed the room he began to see various parts of his past come together. The duck egg blue colour of the walls reminded him of holidays in Cornwall with his eldest two daughters. It was the colour of a Cornish sky when they had gone to beach together to make sandcastles covered in shells. They would often wake early and run to the beach and make elaborate castles with moats that ran all the way to the shore: all the time the Cornish sky becoming bluer and bluer as it prepared for a glorious summers day. The dark brown polished wood of the cafe floor spoke of his youthful days in London, drinking, laughing and dancing in swanky wine bars with close friends.

To the left of him, fixed to the wall was a small brown cabinet. Possibly mahogany, he wasn’t sure, but it matched the dark floor perfectly. This cabinet had been on the wall in the dining room of the home his four children had been brought up in. Baz had chosen it at an auction, bid for it, and won it at a ridiculously low price. The cabinet had small glass doors that opened up to reveal two simple shelves that had once been the home to his collection of willow pattern china. But now, the little cabinet, sat on the wall, subtlety suggesting a past life of dining rooms and Sunday lunches that he had lovingly prepared for his extended family. The little window table to his right, was still to be cleared from that afternoons last rush of customers, so, two small blue teapots (almost the same blue as the walls) remained on the table. He had discovered these teapots on a recent trip to Rome with his girlfriend. They had been wondering the streets on a lazy afternoon and had stumbled across a small shop selling overpriced but delightful kitchen ware. The teapots accompanied them back to England and now sat like two old friends on the table by the window. Baz’s girlfriend had also lovingly made curtains for the cafe which tied the blues, whites and browns of the room seamlessly together. She had sat late into the night, in their new home, quietly creating them and now they hung in the cafe as if they were meant to be.


So, this room, it its own little way, signified so much. When he had opened for the first time at 9am that morning Baz had felt sick with nerves. The menu was full of delicious morsels but he had been worried that no one would come and he would sit in this little room alone. How wrong he was. By 11am on that sunny Sunday morning, the room was full of all sorts of people enjoying an English breakfast, Blueberry pancakes, kedgeree, and hot buttered toast with lots of marmalade. These people were chatting, laughing and listening to the light piano music that he had laboriously chosen. So, now as Baz sat, sipping his wine and smoking a congratulatory cigarette and looking around his cafe, he saw how magical this day had been. He had created a place where anyone could come and eat and be happy for a brief moment. Baz looked to the far table in the corner where his four children and girlfriend had sat and eaten their breakfast with relish, each of them, in their own ways, happier than perhaps they had ever been. Baz laughed to himself, he knew these moments were fleeting, and that you could never know what the future may hold. But for that moment, as he sat in the window of his cafe, the dusk filling the window with a warm kind light, he felt that everything just might be going his way. And he was happy too.

A post by Jess

Ready to go

Opening tomorrow, Sunday 5th May

The beautiful and the damned

***Warning: this post contains an image at the end that you may find upsetting***

In the past week we’ve been full on preparing the new St Giles’ Café for its reincarnation. I have always been very aware of the history of this place, not least because it has been a café since 1937, but that so many people have already stopped by to tell me about their experiences and memories of the place and to enquire about the reopening.

One gentleman, most likely an academic, asked me about my plans.  “Will you still be serving breakfast?”  “Yes, of course” I replied “but of a different nature and quality than that was served previously”.  His riposte was to the point, “I doubt that”, as he turned on his heels and walked off down St Giles’.  I think it’s fair to say that the previous reputation of the café was rather mixed. For some it represented the last of the “greasy spoons” and interestingly for many of those people that comes with a real sense of belief that it shouldn’t change.

I wish to retain some of the originality of the café as a place where anyone can come and have the heartiest of breakfasts.  But I also wish to offer food that is intrinsically “earthy” and where taste and flavour abound.

fresh garlic

In this last week I’ve sourced some extraordinary-tasting chestnut mushrooms.  I have also found some beautiful fresh garlic  (above) at Cultivate Oxford’s (@CultivateOxford) stall at the Summertown Farmers Market. Last weekend I had the very great pleasure to visit Susy Atkins (@SusyAtkins) at her beautiful cottage not far from Exeter where wild garlic carpets the valley.  She has recently published an amazing eponymous collection called Make Your Own Drinks and we discussed a bespoke fruit cordial for St Giles that we are already busy preparing.

And in this last week too, some very expert cleaners have been at the café removing several years of grease.

Scroll down if you really want to see what they removed………………..






st g grease



Bringing home the bacon

The origin of the phrase ‘bring home the bacon’ is sometimes suggested to be the story of the Dunmow Flitch. This tradition, which still continues every four years in Great Dunmow, Essex, is based on the story of a local couple who, in 1104, impressed the Prior of Little Dunmow with their marital devotion to the point that he awarded them a flitch [a side] of bacon. The continuing ritual of couples showing their devotion and winning the prize, to considerable acclamation by the local populace, is certainly old and well authenticated. Geoffrey Chaucer mentions it in The Wife of Bath’s Tale and Prologue, circa 1395:

“But never for us the flitch of bacon though, That some may win in Essex at Dunmow

st giles' home cured bacon

Today, we’ve unwrapped our first fourteen day home-cured bacon (pictured above).  The aroma is extraordinary – juniper, garlic and pink peppercorns.  We’ll let you know how it tastes soon……

Fobs, hats, fags and fry ups

As 52 St Giles undergoes its most recent metamorphosis, it seemed appropriate to look back at the history of these very singular premises.

The present building of number 52 St Giles was constructed in 1868, and was occupied then by a Polish watchmaker and jeweller, Israel Levi. Records show he was still living and working there at the age of sixty-five, with his wife and a young servant. Looking up at the house now, and blocking out the cars, I begin to picture this veteran horologist.  He is sitting at a high workbench, at the window probably, where the light is best, and he wears a black frock coat and small gold-rimmed glasses. Placed carefully on the bench are his precision instruments, and as I watch him in my mind’s eye, he is hunched over, peering through a magnifying glass, practising his craft with painstaking concentration.

How very different the shop frontage must have looked, when in 1891 it became a Milliner. Then, I imagine, the window must have been festooned with bonnets, boaters and nightcaps; fans, garters and parasols. And I can see the Victorian ladies of Oxford, sweeping in off the street to view the latest designs from Paris, They would have marvelled at the swathes of velvet and lace, the billowing Ostrich feathers, glossy satin ribbons and frothy silk flowers of every colour.

After a brief spell as the Binsey Dairy Supply from 1893-4, the shop became a tobacconist in 1895, run by several different proprietors until 1922. After the boudoir scents and atmosphere of a milliner, the interior must have become altogether more masculine and the air distinctly pungent. I assume that wooden shelving would have been used throughout, to display pipes and their accoutrements, cleaners and tampers, exotic cigars from around the world and cutters, tins of snuff, and elegant scales for weighing out the tobacco which would have been scooped from ornate jars.

And then, in 1937 St Giles Café was born. It is said that Oscar Wilde and CS Lewis dined there, but one suspects that any Oxford eating or drinking establishment dating back far enough could make similar claims. The point is that the café has been serving breakfast, lunch, snacks and tea for seventy-six years, and after a brief hiatus is about to do so again. With its bright minimalist Shaker style and signature palette of chocolate brown, teal and pale duck egg, the interior is certainly very different from anything that’s been there before. As is the food. But the history, thank goodness, remains.

St Giles Café looks forward to welcoming everybody, but it’s just possible that watchmakers, milliners and tobacconists may get extra special treatment…. A post by Jo

Just Sayin

A poem by William Carlos Williams


This Is Just To Say


I have eaten

the plums

that were in

the icebox


and which

you were probably


for breakfast


Forgive me

they were delicious

so sweet

and so cold

Earthy thoughts

Because I have been lucky enough to have had a ringside seat at the genesis and evolution of the new St Giles Café, several interested, but less directly involved parties have asked me to define the intrinsic nature of what will make this enterprise special – and most importantly, different, from so much else that is on offer in Oxford.

Increasingly there are some wonderful cafes and restaurants in and around our city offering food which is freshly made, from seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients – Turl Street Kitchen and Oxforks, to name but two. So if, I asked St Giles’ Cafe, you had to come up with one word that would define the nature of your cooking, what would it be?

Earthy. This is the word they put forward to encapsulate the nature of their food. And I can testify, having acted as culinary guinea pig for many of the dishes that will appear on the menu, that this word is entirely apt. But early one morning recently I lay awake wondering what it is about the food, and about this word, that makes it so apposite. What are the connotations of the word earthy, and what does it conjure up, in the mouth and in the mind?

Perhaps not surprisingly, I thought at first of the very literal associations with the earth, the actual soil that is the source – either directly or indirectly – of so much of our food. My early-morning, rose-tinted musings led me to nostalgic images of ruddy-faced, besmocked labourers in Merrie England, to maidens with wooden trugs held in the crook of their arm, piled abundantly with muddy-rooted vegetables, to Beatrix Potter farmyards and to chickens roaming over pungent haystacks. And then to the present day and to our community, and the enormous pleasure I derive, every time we walk our Port Meadow circuit, from admiring the many and apparently such abundant allotments along the route, from Wolvercote Common, past Traps Ground and Cripley Meadow and back through town past Osney St Thomas – the earth of Oxford is yielding up its riches. Extensions of this are the community horticulture organizations like @cultivateoxford and their wonderful Veg Van, bringing us produce from the earth only just outside Oxford.

st g earthy

And what else does the word imply, beyond the literal? For me, it says both unadorned and unashamed, true to itself. In relation to food, then, it is about letting deep flavours emerge and speak for themselves unapologetically, without the need for fancy embellishments. A home-made pork sausage, with lemon zest, nutmeg and Winter Savoury, needs no further enhancements.

And finally, by extension, earthy brings to my mind the sense of repletion and satiety. What more could we want?

Posted by Jo.



The clock is up so hopefully not long to opening time

Following my dream

photo (2)

My birth name is Mark Allman. Following my parent’s divorce, my mother’s remarriage and my sending away to prep school I assumed the name Mark Butcher, the surname of my step father. At secondary school, I was nicknamed Baz Butcher ( after a West Indian cricketer) and Baz became my most used first name for many years.  Strangely both Basil Butcher and Mark Butcher were of course international cricketers and much as I have always loved and still love the game ( highlight of my career = bowling David Gower out in a house match at school) I cannot claim any great playing ability.  I’m still known mostly as Baz, though some people will call me Mark, and the very latest name given to me is  Zoil.

After leaving school, my gap year was spent working in restaurants and cafes were I discovered a real interest in cooking and serving great food as well as the thrill of working in such a fast changing, pressurised and fun environment.  I went to University in the other place where I spent more time eating and working in restaurants at the expense of lectures and tutorials.  The words of my Director of Studies at the time, David Cannadine, still ring in my ears today:  “In this essay, you have enough information to fill the top of a pin head”.

At the end of my first year of not studying and yearning to go and work in the hospitality and catering business, I went home and asked my parents if I could leave University and go to study Hotel and Catering Management in Lausanne, Switzerland.  This idea was not well received and I was firmly told to return to the other place and resume my history degree.  A third followed and then a 30 + year career in advertising and public relations as a strategist in an international, independent and my own agency called Mind the Gap. It was a career that I enjoyed (not least for the lunches and dinners across the world) and which I look back on with very great fondness, but is was never my passion.

And that was always to have my own restaurant or cafe…………….

Cooking very soon!


And welcome to the new St Giles’ Cafe.  I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to take over this iconic cafe and I hope that we will be ready to open for May Day.

Take a look at our menus to see the breakfasts, brunches, light lunches, snacks and afternoon teas that we plan to serve.  The emphasis is on home cooked, traditional and original cafe food using whenever possible local, organic and seasonal ingredients.

We’ve spent the past three months researching recipes and cooking everything on our menus, seeking to get the very best tastes for everything from our own bread, muffins, cakes to our own sausages, smoked meats and fish.  It’s been a labour of love and it’s what we want to share with our fellow Oxonians.

A great cafe should of course be more than just about the food.  Whatever you do – whether you study, shop, paint, think, teach, build or visit Oxford , you’ll be very welcome at St Giles’ Cafe.

And if you want to get involved in this exciting new venture , I’d love to hear from you.  We’re in need of cooks or chefs, waiters and waitresses. You dont neccessarily have to have years of experience just an enthusiam to learn and love of good food and great service.

We’d also love to hear from you if you are a local supplier of any of our ingredients.

Please drop me an email at  with your details and I’ll get back you.  Or follow us on Twitter @stgilescafe.


Baz Butcher