It’s got an amazing spot in the city, just opposite the Radcliffe Camera, however this café is a spectacle of its own. Housed in St Mary’s Church, the café’s main dining area is set in Oxford University’s Old Congregation House, the city’s first central university building, which was built back in 1320.
It’s a beautiful setting for afternoon tea, with its old brick walls and gorgeous vaulted ceiling, but on sunny days you also have the option to venture out into the gardens and enjoy your tea and scones whilst you look across at one of the city’s most iconic buildings. I also discovered they’ll provide you with hot water bottles and blankets if you’d like to sit outside during the UK’s colder months. How lovely!
Straight away I thought the service was top quality – the staff were friendly and attentive at all times, plus the kitchen was more than happy to deal with our range of dietary requirements. As we were a large group, they were dealing with requests for gluten free, dairy free and vegan afternoon teas.
This they did with a big smile on their face, and made sure we all receiving the right food, bringing out separate plates for the sandwiches and cakes that were gluten free or veggie, for example. Even the owner, Will Pouget, came over to say hello, checking if we enjoyed the food, and particularly the new vegan scones they’d brought us out to try.
Our table was laid out for us to arrive, with several tiered trays already on the table for us to start on. Tea and coffee was offered straight away – both confusingly served from teapots, and a selection of fresh leaf teas were on offer.
The event began with sandwiches, of course, and the options included smoked salmon, ham, cucumber and cream cheese and roasted pepper.
Next up with the scones, which I was more than impressed with – still warm from the oven, they were proper chunky scones and went down a treat. Both plain and fruit scones were on offer, served with clotted cream and a selection of fruit jams. I have to say they didn’t last very long!
I believe cakes are also on offer when you have an full afternoon tea at the Vaults and Garden Café, however, our group just tried out the sandwiches and scones. I did have a nose at some of the other tables though, and their fresh lemon drizzle and carrot cakes did look quite appealing!
Rather than sweets we went for bubbles though, and ended our afternoon tea with a glass or two of champers. Again the staff were always close by to top us up, and weren’t stingy with the drinks.
This hidden gem is a wonderful choice for anyone looking to have afternoon tea in Oxford. The prices are good and the food is fresh, organic and high quality. Throw in the wonderful service and amazing setting and it’s gotta be a top spot for food in the city!
We were the guests of Marco Polo and the Vaults and Garden Café for this review. However, as always, all views are our own.