The Bear and the Bean

Cowley Road (a.k.a. Cowleyfornia) is another independent business haven- with plenty of offerings for its student population looking to blow their loans on craft beer and flat whites.

Started as a collaborative project between Jordan O’Shea from Bear on a Bicycle Records (‘award-winning collective from Oxford specialising in uniting all creative media’) and Drew Brammer of The Keen Bean Coffee Club which used to be attached to Truck Store, The Bear and the Bean (geddit?) is a recent addition to the Oxford coffee scene, but a quick Google search will show you that it is already being named among the top places to grab a brew in the city.

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.

Meet Chessie from Midsummer Nightcap

How many among us can say we owned our own business at 24? Chessie Nally is an impressive young entrepreneur from Oxford who began her own business this year with a gorgeous 1959 Gloucester Caravan which has been converted into a bar. She now takes her bespoke vintage mobile  bar (which she designed herself) to festivals and weddings across the UK. We asked her a little more about the secrets of running a successful business….

How did you come up with the name Midsummer Nightcap? 

We made loads of suggestions on a family holiday in Italy. Midsummer night dream was my favourite Shakespeare play and also on my mood board for the business. I wanted a play on words, but ended up with ‘Urban Fridge’ when it was going to be more slush puppies and stuff. Then when Amy was designing logo we thought we wanted to change it to suit a caravan so went back to my list and picked that one.

How did you get the idea of starting Midsummer Nightcap?

I have always wanted to start my own business ever since I was a little kid. Me and my friends used to make mini stalls after schools selling painted rocks and flowers we picked from the garden. Having gone to university and spent the majority of my time working and running bars, I ended up buying a tuk-tuk after a trip to Kenya to start a mobile business renting it out for events, selling charity products and eventually becoming a slush puppy bar. I started working for an events company to gather experience in that world, and eventually decided on a vehicle to start Midsummer Nightcap. I had always loved caravans, and the vintage shabby chic look, and wanted to create something easy and simple which could fit in any event and be adapted to provide a bar for whatever was required!

What has been the hardest thing about setting up your own business?

Nothing is as simple or as easy as you think it would be- everything costs more, goes wrong, even if you plan for it. I found the only thing you can do is be able to laugh at things when they go wrong and just to keep trying, you can’t take it too seriously.

And what have been the perks?

Meeting loads of awesome people, the mobile bar and events business is very sociable and also generally a lot of fun, its so fantastic when you see everything working and people enjoying themselves and what you’ve created. Also I have so much more freedom than most of my friends do, which is always great.

What is your favourite cocktail?

Espresso Martini- which we serve on tap. Something to wake you up and get drunk!

What makes Midsummer Nightcap different/special?

I like to try and make Midsummer Nightcap special by making it fully adaptable and customisable, so that each event is different and what we do is for that particular event. We think about everything from what the staff wear, what we serve and the background music we play. We’re not run by a big brand or tied to any, we are just a small business trying to create a mobile bar providing exactly what you want for your event.

If you could start another business what would it be?

I would love to open a restaurant but that comes with its own struggles, or create a dog food company, one that creates cheap, natural, healthy food for dogs that doesn’t stink!

Who has helped you most along the way?

My dad one hundred percent- he is my best friend and business partner, he has been running his own business from before he was 20, and is the most supportive, creative person I know, and i wouldn’t have been able to do any of this with out him.

What are your main goals for the business?

To develop something that works, that can be used as a bar for festivals, events, weddings and be a feature within its own right, and something people can enjoy and make them happy.

The Ultimate Picture Palace

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 (

Cowley Rd, Oxford OX4 1BN

01865 245288

Turl Street Kitchen

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.

16 Turl St,
+44 1865 264171

Truck Store

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.


101 Cowley Rd
+44 1865 793866