AS somebody with fond recollections of tea shops as they used to be, I welcome the return of one in similar style at Boswells department store in the city centre.

Remarkably, it is the first time that this city institution has offered such a facility, complete with waiter/waitress service. The cafe’s name, 1738, commemorates the year in which this family business began. So it can be seen how long customers have been waiting.

Last week’s opening party proved to be a jolly occasion, lubricated as it was not just by tea and coffee but also by an excellent fizzy chardonnay supplied by the Brightwell Vineyard.

In conversation with its bosses Carol and Bob Nielsen I was told that this was the 2009 vintage in which Rosemarie and I just possibly had a hand in creating. It was that year, I think, that we joined other volunteer grape pickers one autumn Sunday morning at Brightwell’s 14-acre estate at Shillingford.

The wine was absolutely delicious. It can be enjoyed by customers of 1738 as part of an afternoon tea package for special occasions.

The party supplied Rosemarie and me with a first opportunity to meet Boswells’ managing director, Jonathan Pearson.

The Pearsons, he told me, have been involved in the company since as long ago as the 1880s.

What he didn’t mention, though I found it in our files, was that it was exactly a century ago that the old shop premises were demolished to make way for what is now William Baker House.

The new cafe occupies the first–floor area previously occupied by the bedding department.

Excellent local suppliers are a hallmark of 1738’s operation.

Besides Brightwell Vineyard, these include Peros Coffee, Happy Cakes, Truly Scrumptious, the Natural Bread Company, the Oxford Cheese Company, Limes Farm, Viva Las Cakes and Stephanie Almeida Bespoke Cakes.