Using beans from Oxford-based Jericho Coffee Traders, the café has more to offer than just a good americano. The walls are lined with all sorts of fun things for sale, like Lomography cameras, cards and wrapping paper designed by local artists, books, magazines as well as an array of colourful mugs and other coffee-related paraphernalia.
After being away from Oxford for nearly a year, a trip back to Cowley greeted me with a bunch of unfamiliar new enterprises. One such was The Bear and the Bean, which tempted me inside with the promise of good coffee and a cosy atmosphere. And it certainly provided.
If your criteria for defining a ‘good cinema’ include affordable ticket prices, a varied mix of independent films and an intimate and cosy feel in each screening, then the Oxford’s oldest and only independent cinema, The Ultimate Picture Palace, is probably for you.
Located in the heart of Oxford’s student epicentre on the Cowley Road, the cinema is a favourite of most discerning local film-buffs. The beautiful art deco interior provides an atmospheric setting for screenings and the bar at the back of the auditorium serves drinks and snacks that can be taken to your seat. Another plus is the fact that the UPP doesn’t show adverts, only a couple of short trailers for upcoming features before the film begins. Perfect for those who, like me, hate sitting through half an hour of ads.
First opened in 1911, The Oxford Picture Palace, as it was first known, was forced to close in 1917 when the manager was called up for war service. The building lay abandoned for many years before being taken over as a furniture warehouse. In 1976 the cinema reopened as the Penultimate Picture Palace, but closed again in 1994. The building was used briefly as a squat and run as a free cinema by the Oxford Freedom Network. In 1997 the cinema was opened once again as the Ultimate Picture Palace.
For those wanting to know a bit more about the rocky past of the UPP, check out the documentary made in 2011 by local filmmaker Philip Hind (http://www.picturepalace.org.uk/).
Right in the heart of the city, Turl Street Kitchen is arguably the best place to eat in the centre of Oxford. Turl street itself is a pretty thoroughfare through the centre of town, with all the charm people expect when they imagine the City of Dreaming Spires. For this reason, it’s usually pretty packed out with tourists during the summer and students during term time. Luckily the café is pretty much bypassed by the big flocks of camera brandishing tour groups that make Oxford so hellish during the holidays.
Turl Street Kitchen is at its best when it’s filled with students, for whom it is a welcome break from the stuffiness of the surrounding University libraries. The big rooms at the front are light and airy and always humming with activity, which makes it a pretty enjoyable place to hang out. If, like me, you find it hard to get things done at home, but hate the oppressive quiet of a library, it’s a great place to just sit and sort your life out.
The only downside is that the food, though reasonably priced, is slightly out of the range of most student’s budgets. It is definitely worth it, though, to splash out on dinner there at least once for the cosy evening atmosphere and the large servings of good, hearty British food. When foreigners (particularly the French) criticise English cuisine, it annoys me, and not out of any real sense of patriotism, but mainly because it’s pretty untrue. Turl Street Kitchen proves my point when I say that British food, when done well, is excellent. Take their steak and ale pie or the sticky toffee pudding, both typically British and amazingly tasty.
Offspring of the local Truck festival, the Truck Store offers a carefully curated selection of all the best new music and films in physical form. The friendly team behind the tills are budding with enthusiasm to suggest or recommend films or new music and their Keen Bean café nestled in the corner by stacks of the latest releases is the perfect place to grab a coffee while you peruse.
So maybe physical format is a bit redundant, but it’s still a pretty nice feeling to own a piece of music or a film that you love in some form other than an illegally downloaded file. Maybe even just so you can display it at home to make you look cool/interesting.