Celine Wills, co-owner and chef at Handlebar, talks about new horizons in Oxford

The Handlebar in St Michael’s Street, Oxford has now been open for three years, gaining a solid reputation for its food, always fresh and generous, and for its quirky and warm atmosphere, a step away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre.

Opening in the evenings was a gamble. Turning from a café to a restaurant is tough. Reputations are hard to change.

But we did it for our chefs. Of course we still cook our famous brunches and lunches, but dinner is when you can really express yourself, experiment and have fun.

You should see our hake dish, with a beautifully seasoned raw cabbage slaw and beetroot purée. Or the lamb steak, marinated in harissa, served with cumin yoghurt, a touch of mint and a simple zingy salad of crunchy spring onions, cucumber and rocket.

The same goes for the bar and floor staff. They started doing cocktails, chatting with customers about the careful sourcing of our produce, which we all care so much about. It is a different service, that we all needed.

It all started at Christmas 2016, with a lot of enquiries for Christmas parties. We thought, why not? The place is so pretty and atmospheric in the evening. The rest is history, we opened the doors in the evenings that Christmas and left them wide open!

When a few months ago we were offered a little space within the bike shop downstairs, we jumped at the opportunity.

Personally I have always struggled to find somewhere casual and intimate to have a grown up drink in the city centre. This is where the idea of Le Bar came from.

A little bit of exposure at street level, offering crafted cocktails and a selection of sipping spirits. There are already a few staples on the menu like the Smokey Handle, a lavish blend of mezcal, tequila, aperol and pineapple juice. Or my favourite, the PPP, pisco, pomegranate and a few secret ingredients;) How did I live before that drink?

The idea of The Handlebar is to bring the atmosphere of a local hangout to the city centre, the same goes for Le Bar. We know all our customers. They come back time and time again because we care and because the idea of community is vital.

It is this notion that brought us to 39 Magdalen Road, off the Iffley Road. We are trying to build a community in the city centre, it is nice to move into a community.

Handlebar 39 has now been opened just over a month. Same model. Brunches and lunches seven days a week. The locals and neighbouring businesses have been extremely supportive and welcoming.

It is also evocative to have moved in to my favourite place for brunch back in the day, Oxfork. Everybody still talks about Oxfork and the impact it had on the community, hopefully we can build upon what they started. Will it open in the evenings? Watch this space.