Katherine MacAlister revisits an old haunt with a new twist

As you know, Sunday was a glorious day, the streets of Cowley Road thronged with couples in summer dresses and shorts, families off to enjoy the sunshine, teens heading to Port Meadow, students blinking in the sunlight, and the world and his wife checking out the newly-created square at the top of Dawson Street.

Framed by Cocos and The Kazbar, within a couple of months a row of boutique shops will open including a bread shop, florist, furniture and gift shop to create a little independent shopping oasis in the heart of East Oxford.

The Oxford Times:

With chains currently dominating Oxford’s retail possibilities and the mass brand opportunities offered by the Westgate, this will be a breath of fresh air and a high-five for all independents out there.

A smattering of tables and chairs then signals the beginning of the al fresco dining area, decorated with fairy lights, trees, tables and chairs stretched between the two restaurants, and already packed with diners enjoying a Bank Holiday breakfast and making the most of the weather.

And where better to come?

Coco offers a huge brunch menu from healthy superfood porridge to BLTs, ham, egg and hollandaise with toast, and everything in between.

The Oxford Times:

The fresh fruit juices are a must, boasting gorgeous flavours. The apple, pear, ginger and lime (£4.50) was cool, refreshing and thirst-quenching and arrived with a much applauded paper straw. I drank it in one go.

Then the Full English for my son, a modest £8.95 even though it included bacon, tomato, Oxford sausage, free-range egg, toast, mushrooms and garlic sauteed potatoes. Beans and black pudding were an extra £1 and he heaped them on. But in the end, the generous portion meant he didn’t finish. A first.

I had the Arnold Bennett omelette (£10), such a rare addition on a menu, and who can resist a smoked haddock and cheese concoction first thing in the morning?

It lived up to all expectations, served with a delicious rocket salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil. The option of chips would have been nice though.

Despite my satisfaction, it was still hard not to be jealous of the plates of eggy bread with maple syrup and crispy bacon (£7.75) being consumed on the other side of the table.

The waffles with maple syrup and fresh berries (£6.75) were similarly moreish. Then a round of hot chocolates with marshmallows (£3.30), because hell, why not, and a latte (£2.60), and we were set up for the day; happy, full and content.

It was my second visit in as many weeks, having previously chosen Cafe Coco as a suitable venue for dinner with a friend.

Always a safe but fun bet, it’s been a stalwart on Cowley Road for 26 years this month, but still guaranteed to be a top night out in terms of food and atmosphere.

First we stopped off at The Kazbar opposite for one of the manager Fabrice’s speciality Moroccan iced teas (iced mint tea, Absolut, lemon juice, sugar, sprigs of mint ) accompanied by some creamy houmous and a bowl of juicy olives.

Reluctant to leave the convivial Moroccan atmosphere and wonderful tapas, we peeled ourselves back over the road for one of Coco’s amazing pizzas, this time a new one for me: the merguez & tzatziki (£10.75) topped with spicy beef and lamb sausage, spinach, onions, peppers, garlic and mozzarella topped with cooling tzatziki.

It was a dream, the spice of the sausage set against the cooling yoghurt nestled in the middle, perfect for dipping crusts into.

My friend tried the black bean veggie burger which came with piquillo pepper, tomato, lettuce and gherkin and served in a seeded bun £9.95) the skinny chips and a superfood salad (one free the other an extra £2). Not only was it fantastic value for money but it tasty to boot, accompanied by a great bottle of house red wine.

So yes, this I where I come on a night off because I can take my professional hat off and just enjoy myself. Which then means I never write it up so, on this occasion, it deserves a shout out of its own.

It’s Coco’s turn for a stint in the limelight. And the daylight. And the moonlight.

Cafe Coco

23 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1HP

01865 200232

cafecoco.co.uk

Kazbar

25-27 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JB

01865 202920

kazbar.co.uk