WHEN IN WITNEY – COFEESHOPS
I arrive to be welcomed by the beautiful smell of coffee being brewed with beans that Miguel, the Italian owner who moved to Witney 12 years ago, sources from Sicily. He is stood behind the counter, singing and making paninis from the display of fresh ingredients and fillings.
“Afternoon Madam, welcome aboard the A380. Take a seat and we’ll be right over!” He says, recognising me as one of his many regular customers. The place is thriving, as per usual, but I manage to find a seat at the back amidst all the hustle and bustle. I’ve been coming to place with my dad for years now; it’s kind of our thing. He enjoys the coffee and the Mexican tuna panini (which was on the old menu but Miguel will still make it for you.) Along with the beans, many of the ingredients and the delicacies the shop sells are imported from Italy too. The coffee has a mild bitterness to it, but it’s not burnt and served in the right sized cup, unlike the likes of Starbucks and Costa which offer their drinks supersized and served in soup bowls. Bags of these beans, bottles of olive oil and jars of green olives are displayed on the shelves alongside a few local jams and chutneys.
The cakes on display all look so inviting it is difficult to choose which one. They’re baked and delivered 3 times a week by a local resident of Witney and have been for years now. All the fillings are made fresh every day which is why Miguel is always in at 4/5am every morning. Food is made to order and as you bite into it, you can taste the freshness of the ingredients and the love and care that has gone into it, even if it is merely a sandwich.
This is a family run business. Miguel’s wife helps out from time to time, and all of his sons have worked here too at some point. His brother can be seen clearing the tables, always with a huge grin slapped across his face and usually humming some sort of Top 50 song. The workers are all young and are always friends of friends. Miguel assures me that he pays well beyond the minimum wage which is so lovely to hear as I know that many places in the area who employ young staff because they’re cheap. He believes if you treat your staff right, they’ll treat you right and be happy to come to work and give their 110%. For this reason, too, there is little staff turn over and you find yourself really starting to build relationships as you (almost indefinitely) return.
Miguel is whole-heartedly one of the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and never have I felt awkward or unwelcomed. On a bad day or when the weather is particularly gloomy, I stop by because I am guaranteed to be cheered up. He has that Italian charm about him that makes you feel as though you’re right at home and if you’re not careful you might find yourself spending hours here chatting about his life in Italy.
If you live in the area and don’t come here already, then you absolutely must and if you’re just visiting then stop by and treat yourself to the perfect brew and slice of coffee and walnut cake!
HUNTERS CAKE CAFÉ
Fun fact: the owners of this place were once upon on a time the management at my first ever job. I remember Ed (who now is backbone behind Hunter’s) used to slave away making the most delicious looking cakes. I was usually the first member in on a Saturday, bar Ed, and he would often say how he’s been here since 4am baking. I knew he wanted to own his own place one day and I am beyond happy that he finally did. This place is a true gem that serves probably the best slice in town.
Walking in the place is decked out with Christmas ornaments, fairy lights illuminating the seating area on a dark Tuesday afternoon early December. Jingle Bells is playing through the speakers and most of the tables are taken by families who have met after school, all digging into a mug of rich cocoa and soft, sugary goodness. This place is a well-known spot with everyone in Witney and is a regular for many for good reason.
Usually coffee shop cakes have been made a day or even a couple of days before, they might have been transported, frozen and most are defiantly left sitting out to dry and harden by the post-work 4 O’clock catch-up with your girl mates. You’re left feeling disappointed, dissatisfied and quite frankly, frustrated that you just wasted all those calories that cost £3.50. But that’s what makes this place stand out from their competitors.
Every cake that you see on the marvellous display is baked fresh every day making every forkful pure, pillow-y perfection! There are so many cakes to choose from! What do I want? Does coffee and walnut take my fancy? Oh, but look at that chocolate cake! Even the fruit loaf looks – pardon my language – moist! And don’t get me started on the cake of the month. (I’m forever surprised and inspired by Ed’s innovative brain and creativity, it seems as though every new idea he comes up with never fails to be as original and scrumptious as the one before!) After giving the whole ordeal as much thought as I’ve given to this year’s election, I finally settle on Lemon and Poppyseed and a cuppa’ tea. The slices are so big, so my mum and I share one and vow we’ll be back to try the rest.
Everything here from the trinkets that hang on the walls, the crockery used for your drinks and the inspirational (albeit cheesy) quotes hung throughout make this place cosy and inviting. If it didn’t shut in 40 minutes my mum and I could quite easily at and nattered away for hours on end.
UE COFFEE ROASTERS
If you’re someone who is into your coffee, and I mean INTO your coffee, then this is your spot. At UE you’ll find staff with impeccable knowledge who are extremely passionate about serving you up your own personal perfect cup of coffee. You can tell that each member undergoes an intense amount of training and for them, making coffee is not merely a part time job, but an art and something they have a real interest for. It safe to say that they serve the best oat milk flat white I have ever had. AN: I’ve had a lot! Each cup is beautifully crafted, never too hot as so not to burn the beans or milk and is served alongside a glass of water, cause’ you know #hydratebeforeyoucaffinate.
There are two UE coffee shops in Witney that opened recently however they’ve long been roasting their own beans and supplying to much of Oxfordshire at their roastery on the industrial estate. I live pretty close to here and used to pass by it when I walked my dog. Before any of the coffee shops opened on the High St my dad and I used to pop in mid-walk for a pick me up. This is where I bought my first AeroPress and Chemex and was taught how to use them. The Chemex has since become one of my favourite methods for brewing coffee, providing and clean finish, however I always seem to make it a little too weak, so I still come here occasionally to get my fix.
You can purchase a range of their teas, coffee and coffee brewing equipment too! The place has fantastic wi-fi and the chilled-out vibe makes it perfect for a day’s work if you need to get out the home or office. Their beans have won them many awards and the place is extremely popular with those both locals who pop in on a Saturday and those far and wide who manage their own places and want to buy their beans.
You’ll also find a selection of light brunch options and homemade bakes goods, including vegan and GF options. They have a chocolate cake which is divine; rich, gooey and oh so indulgent without being overly sweet and sickly. My mum and I always split a slice whenever we go and because it’s so darn delicious, we never feel guilty for getting at those final crumbs with our fingers. My friend also raves about their fig and tahini toast and sausage rolls so take her word for it and try them out if you visit.
I often enjoy walking my dog around the local lake on Sunday mornings, especially in the colder months when the leaves are beautiful hues of rust and fiery orange and the air is crisp. Tea has never tasted so good as the first sip when you arrive home. The coffee shed is the perfect pitstop as its location is the park across the road. It’s a very family and dog friendly place, providing people with the perfect winter warmers in Winter and something iced and refreshing for those picnics in Summer. Come visit in the Summer holidays and you’ll be sure to find the place filled with families enjoying ice creams, playing tennis or crazy golf all courtesy of The Coffee shed.
You can go on their website and get yourself a ‘Love the Leys’ card which costs £36 p/year. This will get you a 10% discount at the Coffee Shed and The Butter Cross Kitchen (which I must confess I haven’t visited and was unaware of their existence before coming here despite having lived in Witney for ages!) You’ll also get 10/% of the golf and tennis. If you use it often enough, you’ll be sure to get your money back swiftly. It also holds parties for work dues, kids or if you just fancy getting together with your gal’ pals. You can do thinks like craft work, or decorating cupcakes, pizza parties etc which are great for those younger ones. For those a little bit older, there’s happy hours Wednesday 5-7pm where you can get deals on the Golf and beer.
Fancy a bite to eat? You can get a selection of breakfasts and lunches too, not to mention freshly made pizzas. Nothing will cost you beyond £7.20 and the portions are decent too. All the baked goods are freshly made and come from local bakers in the area. The meat they use comes from Denmans, a nearby butchers and their eggs are from Mayfield. Kids menus and GF menus are also available so fear not.
Vonnie Whalley, the General Manager, is a campaigner for customer care and opposed to what she describes as ‘blank-faced baristing’ that you tend to find at a lot of places. Saffron is one of the teams hard working members and who I often am greeted by when I swing by on my Sunday stroll. She is always working hard, kind and accommodating providing not only me with a drink but my panting dog too; he gets a biscuit as well though, must be something in the eyes. It might me mid-Winter, but he’s getting old and is easily tired now a days.
Today I have ordered the hot chocolate, rich and creamy. Too often the ratios of milk: chocolate powder is unbalanced, and you’re left having spent £3.00 on a mug of Chocolate flavoured Nesquik, which is more sugar than anything else, or a clumpy mess where there was too much powder for the milk to marry with. Not here. I wouldn’t be surprised if this glorious thing had come directly from Santa’s Grotto. It reminds me of cosy Sunday afternoons watching Elf and wishing my parents would let me eat fruit loops, putting up the Christmas tree while Michael Bublé rings throughout the house and arguing with mum over how to decorate it.
HUMBLE BUMBLE CAFE
I don’t really know how I managed to find this place, as it’s based in Brize Norton and that is rarely ever somewhere I venture. I think a friend posted something about their opening a few months ago and it somehow slipped onto my Facebook Newsfeed – I’m forever glad it did! I stopped by one day just to look and, to say that the place the Bumble Bee café was buzzing would be an understatement!
Apparently, the inspiration behind this charming café came from Bev Campion’s love for healthy and wholesome home-cooked food and passion for extending that to those around her, both loved ones and strangers alike. Her father-in-law enjoys beekeeping, which was the reason behind the name; HOW ADORABLE! These things are reflected in the visions and mood boards that are plastered on the café’s wall. The hard work that went behind into establishing this are all on here too and posted on their website for everyone to see how they came to be the Bumble Bee.
They host parties and meetups as well as providing the community with quality cake, coffee and freshly prepared grub. The heart and soul can be tasted in the spongy goodness and hearty soups. The community, I’m told, have responded well to the new place and are excited to be living in Carterton now, what with its cool new bars (see my previous post) and heart-warming coffee shops like this. Honest people providing honest service and honest product – a nice change. Their selection of light breakfasts and lunches include meat sources from Bampton, just a mere town over. They have a fantastic selection of veggie, vegan and GF options with reduced menus for Kids and specials that change daily. Some healthy and hearty plateful will cost you no-more than a fiver so perfect for my student self.
It’s tipping it down outside and I’m cold to the core, so I order the Soup of the Day to warm my cockles and comfort the soul, and that it does! All the staff are friendly here and will happily have a conversation with you as if you’re a regular who comes on the daily, even though this is my first time being here and they’re all strangers to me! I can’t wait to bring my mum on route to our regular Aldi shopping dates. Perhaps my Dad too, and my Grandma and oh the neighbour’s kids! Just about everyone I think actually…