When I talk to people about my home town, I genuinely find it hard to describe just how heavenly it is.
William Butler Yeats once said “I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all . . . like an opera.”
Even Oscar Wilde piped up “In spite of the roaring of the young lions at the Union, and the screaming of the rabbits in the home of the vivisect, in spite of Keble College, and the tramways, and the sporting prints, Oxford still remains the most beautiful thing in England, and nowhere else are life and art so exquisitely blended, so perfectly made one.”
And my favourite, “Oxford; home of great ideas, gracious ideals and sublime possibilities” F.W.O Warde ‘The Glamour of Oxford’
So this weekend, I came home for my now monthly visit to my mother and to the city that shaped me. Growing up in and around Oxford I credit with my love of all things creative and my passion for the beautiful and the unique. I love coming home and I love walking around the city. These days it seems pretty foreign to me, I’d forgotten how amusing some of the accents can actually be and I was alarmed to see how many buildings that I associated with the olden days had been turned into Tesco Metros, perhaps Liverpool isn’t alone, but in amongst all of this I was reminded of the real good old days in seeing one of my dearest and oldest friends today against the backdrop of the stage where so many of our memories have been played out.
We met for lunch at Quod which is one of my favourite restaurants in Oxford. This isn’t a terribly hard decision. Oxford does not have a wealth of great restaurants. A couple of years ago, Oxford fell prey to the machinations of the town planners who thought that our dear, unique city needed to look like every other city in the country and with this in mind, they popped into all the empty buildings homogenous bars and restaurants of which there are the like in every city in England. I personally believe the best chinese in the world is in Oxford, I shall give that my full attention on other occasion, but in terms of good restaurants they are thin on the ground.
Quod is set in the old bank in the heart of Oxford. Based on the High Street, it looks out over several colleges and buzzes with students and visiting parents and the ladies who lunch in Oxford. I believe the name must be based on the one thing that Oxford is blessed with, quads, but it’s a little strange but not to put anyone off!
I met Laura outside and she had been waiting quite some time due to an issue with an Ugg boot and the necessity for new shoes. I believe there is always a necessity for new shoes and as such, I have included a sneaky picture i took of them on the train!
We hadn’t seen each other for such a long time and we hadn’t sat and had lunch in Quod since we used to drain cocktails back when we were down from university, so it was a much needed chance for a catch up.
Amongst this, we ordered some food and so I shall tell you about it. Laura ordered a goat’s cheese and red onion tart with black olives and a side order of chips and I ordered a chicken and tarragon salad, and jealous of Laura’s potatoes, a side order of sauteed potatoes. Laura had a sparkling water and I had an Elderflower Fizz, a non-alcoholic cocktail (there was a time I would have guffawed at such an oxymoron) of lemon, elderflower and apple and something fizzy. Regardless, it was delicious.
Laura’s tart was large and beautifully served with a little wisp-ette of salad on the side and the chips came in the most beautiful little metal pot tucked up in a little greaseproof paper blanket. The tart looked lovely and fresh and I didn’t actually taste but it seemed to be polished off with enjoyment. My salad had a huge amount of very tender chicken, beneath the large chunks of crunchy cos lettuce lay lots of little raw vegetables in the tiniest of morsels. I love small vegetables and I love raw vegetables and these little delights of carrot, radish, spring onion and courgette were perfect. The celery I could go my whole life without!! The salad was beautifully dressed with a sharp but sweet thick dressing and it was full of the lovely aniseed hint of tarragon. Delicious!!
Laura and I wound our way back towards the station via the twinkliest and sparkliest of shops, which we had to have a look in, and having bid farewell to Laura, I headed to meet my mother with a Mint frappe and a Ben’s Cookie. For those not familiar with Ben and his cookies, they are a staple of the south. Made and sold in a tiny corner of Oxford’s intricate Covered Market, they are still warm and sold by the kilo. Mine fell apart in my hand and I got chocolate up my nose but as I walked through the cool streets of the market, I really felt at home again.
QUOD BRASSERIE & BAR , 92 — 94 HIGH STREET, OXFORD, OX1 4BJ 01865 202505 http://www.quod.co.uk/
Ben’s Cookies, 108-109 Covered Market, Oxford http://www.benscookies.com/#OurStores