Is Boswells the only relic of the family department store this side of the Chilterns? Full of objets d’art, toiletries, handbags, luggage, “gift” china, obscure cookery and household items, linen and toys this shop is a treasured landmark. Owned by the Pearson family since 1890 we cherish this notable oddity for its variety of mothballs and dusters and for its slightly old-fashioned staff many of whom have been serving for many years.
Now it has a marvellous tea room and if you can bag the table at the top of the stairs you have one of the best views in Oxford under your scrutiny.
St Mary’s is one of the most colourful churches in Oxford. Extremely high (as close to Rome as you’ll get in the C. of E.) it was founded in the 11th century and added on to in bits and bobs by St Hugh (12th century) the Carmelites (14th century) and the young George Gilbert Scott in the mid-19th century, to complement his Gothic Martyrs Memorial just outside. There are 15 Masses celebrated each week, which gives an idea of its ecclesiastical bent.
Something went wrong with their choice of interior decoration. It is too stark and modern, whereas it could be chintzy and cosy with mismatched chairs and tables. Still, it’s a small quibble because the cakes, the tea and the service are simply wonderful.
The manager and his assistant are attentive and helpful and the (international) waitresses are charming. Cakes are made somewhere in the Chilterns in a domestic kitchen and the variety is staggering: the pistachio cake is stuffed with nuts, the cheesecake is creamy and tangy, the Victoria sponge is feather-light, the coffee and walnut sublime. It’s great fun to listen to adults pondering which one to have- like children in a old-fashioned sweetie shop. You can also get what is known as a “light lunch”.
It’s a perfect place to chat to a friend (no clatter, no lap tops, no muzak).
Vive la Boswells!