The Rose Tea Room and Restaurant, Oxford

Date visited: Monday 20th July 2020

The Rose Tea Room and Restaurant is a relatively small establishment at the East end of Oxford’s High Street. It has one ground floor room for those taking tea as well as a couple of tables outside in the street. In ordinary times it would be busy with students during term time and tourists during summer. But these aren’t ordinary times, being only the third week after restaurants and bars were allowed to re-open after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.

Past uses of the 200 year-old premises are painted on the coving at the top of the walls on two sides of the tea room. The Rose has been in business since 1985.

During my lunchtime visit there was only one other customer, and they came only for a drink, not for food. With few people to serve, the waitress kept herself busy cleaning, as the ‘COVID secure’ guidance now demands. Customers must wait at the door to be seated to ensure social distancing though, with custom so limited when I visited, that wasn’t a problem.

The Rose has a relatively small food menu, with pastries for breakfast, a selection of four items for lunch, and a similar number each for ciabattas and cakes, in addition to afternoon teas and scones as one would expect for a tea room. In contrast the tea menu is quite extensive with a choice of over twenty loose leaf teas. Coffee, soft drinks, wines and beers are also offered.

A salmon ciabatta, a slightly deconstructed coffee cake, and a small pot of jasmine flower tea for £16.20.

I chose a salmon ciabatta, coffee cake, and a pot of jasmine flower tea, which together came to £16.20. The ciabatta was well filled and served with plenty of salad. In contrast the pot of tea was rather small and served rather too hot for a good jasmine tea. The coffee cake was, unusually, served with coffee cream in a small pot rather than already spread on or within the cake. Both cake and cream were well-flavoured without either having an overpowering coffee taste as is sometimes the case.

With very few students and even fewer tourists since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, there’s little custom for those hiring out punts on the River Cherwell in Oxford.
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