I'm an American thirty-something who loves real food. I love Oxford, and I love its fancy restaurants. I also love the pub food you get in some of its better pubs. But you can't live on that stuff, and I've been here for two weeks doing research. At home I live on a very healthy, home-cooked diet of fresh produce, local, organic meat, etc. And I love to drink wine at home with my wife with a light dinner of salad and good bread, especially in summer. I also am on a limited budget, and I'm driven to economize even below that budget.
Enter Organic Deli Cafe. A colleague brought me here for lunch today, in part because it is one of the only places in Oxford where she can consistently get decent gluten-free food. I had a lunch special of sauteed zucchini with some other vegetables and quinoa, and two huge slabs of toasted "Oxford Sourdough" with profound English butter. The dish itself was a classic Mark Bittman preparation, super-simple, veggie flavors forward, delicious, light. The Oxford Sourdough was very mild by American standards--maybe about as sour as Trader Joe's--but it was also a different creature, slightly brown, with a thicker, browner crust that I associate more with French <i>moule</i>. It was really excellent, and in my unsystematic search for good bread in Oxford these weeks, it was by far the best.
So I returned the same evening for dinner, lured by the sign that said it was BYOB with free corkage. I popped aroudn the corner--literally around the corner--to Tesco and got a top-shelf bottle for the price of two pints-in-a-pub. Then I returned to order from the same menu that was available at lunch (it has the same menu as all day). Don't expect a steak or something here. It's the same Mark Bittman stuff. This time I got a salad with ham and roasted new potatoes and other things with two overeasy fried eggs exquisitely draped on top. That with the bread was magnificent.
So I got a really wonderful dinner, at a quiet table for one in the upstairs by an open window, with a bottle of wine, all for about 20 quid (the wine was 10 of that).
Also, everybody is really friendly (not necessarily true in Oxford in general), and the proprietor seems to really care about what the customers like (ditto).
I will come back here regularly next time I am in Oxford.
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