Despite the name, The Oxford Wine Café serves decent coffee. The mocha is really sweet, definitely suffering from a bit too much sweetener and not enough coffee, but was still good. If you’re a tea drinker then they have an excellent range on offer, including the cringe-worthily named ‘Girlie Grey’, all priced around £2.50. The China Jasmine tea came in a unique teapot, smelling and tasting delicious. This almost justified ordering tea at a bar surrounded by sophisticated wine sippers.
When the clock (metaphorically) struck 7.15pm, the mood lighting came into force, which occurred a bit too dramatically for Ariane’s liking, but otherwise was rather nice as people started to filter in for after-work drinks.
By 8pm, the café was really busy, with many people standing and talking in groups whilst holding their glasses as there were definitely not enough tables for everyone. However, we did go on a Friday, which is likely to be their busiest night, and it is certainly less crowded in the daytime. Naomi, as a Jericho inhabitant, has seen the rise in popularity of the Wine Café as the work space during the day. Now it’s likely to be rather busy, leading many of us to exclaim in a ‘hipsterish’ fashion “We knew about Wine Café before it was cool.”
Although The Oxford Wine Café appears very upmarket, it is not ultra-expensive. Unfortunately there is no student discount and the customers, at least from 6pm, are more likely to be actual working adults rather than other students – if you prefer to be amongst ‘your own’ this is not the place to go! This feeling of being surrounded by people from the real world with real responsibilities was further compounded by the litany of crew daters we spotted walking past the Wine Café, inevitably on their way to overpriced food and alcohol-induced shame, that I have to say I did not envy.
Alcohol is very reasonably priced, with the cheapest 125ml coming in at £3.23. A single measure with tonic of Boxer’s Gin is also £4, though doubles are significantly more expensive. A nice touch was the water available which you could have steeped in lemons, limes or plain if you preferred. There is also a good selection of newspapers to peruse in the daytime.
Ariane had a deliciously moreish toasted ciabatta with chorizo, mozzarella, ‘semi-dried’ tomato and salad. It was very filling and comforting, though a bit pricey at £5.95. They also offer other snack and light options, such as bagels. Their more substantial offerings include sharing platters, which cost around £13 between two people, or £18.95 if shared between 4; cheese, vegetarian and meat versions are all available.
There is a distracting glass pane in the floor which allows you to see the cellar below as you enter, which is surprising but pleasant touch. For the anxious among us, it’s hard not to imagine ungracefully crashing through this ‘quirky feature’ to reside permanently with the oak matured wine. Their personal wine cellar highlights the sheer amount of floor space afforded to the Wine Café. Compared to many Oxford Cafes, the Wine Café is very spacious, with a variety of seating areas from comfy but stylish sofas to spacious tables and the bar area. This may counteract the evening rush but those diligently working away in the Wine Café have found that the evening wine drinkers take priority.
Verdict: Maybe a bit too formal to work in easily, but if you’re looking for an upmarket drink with a friend or a meal with the parents, this is the place to go.