I love a day out in Oxford and having lived there for 3 years, and in the county for most of my life, it’s great to have some little gems of places to eat out for different occasions. We were recently invited to Oxford to try out the newly revamped Castleyard Cafe at Oxford Castle. N wanted to stay on the farm, so instead I headed to Oxford to meet up with Mary from Over 40 and a mum to one and her son Monkey.
Previously I’ve only been to the café at the castleyard once, and that was for drinks and ice creams while performing at a Dancin’ Oxford show many years ago. So I was interested to see how they’d lightened the place up and turned it into a much more pleasant café to while away a couple of hours.
There’s lots of glass and wood, and has a more contemporary feel. I could easily see myself sitting there with a book, or having a snack or lunch with friends. It overlooks the castle yard – perfect for watching any displays going on there, and the comings and goings into the Castle Unlocked venue.
The food on offer is largely locally sourced, and looks delicious. The offer is very much deli style with a fairly limited menu in keeping with what looked like a small kitchen. I loved the food displays – who can resist cake when it looks like this?
I was glad I didn’t take N. He’s generally not a fussy child, but the choice was limited and there wasn’t anything specifically for children. For a café that says it’s family friendly, I think it could have done more. Yes, there are book shelves with a variety of books to keep children (and adults) entertained. Yes, there’s baby changing facilities and they’re breastfeeding friendly. But cafes who don’t offer more basic food options aren’t really as friendly as they think for most children.
As well as Pieminster pies (a bit of an odd choice, I think), soup and salads (we spotted mixed bean and cous cous salads), they also serve a selection of sandwiches. I fancied the ‘healthy’ chicken and avocado but unfortunately due to a pre-noon rush there were none left. I chose the ‘veggie’, a brie, grape and rocket sandwich instead which was delicious apart from the bread being a little dry). Mary’s New Yorker took a while to come after some confusion (they made Monkey a plain cheese and mortadella sandwich after we dissected the menu to find something suitable for a 6 year old boy), but looked delicious as well.
There was a reasonable variety of drinks for those after soft drinks, with juices for children if they’re not fizzy drink drinkers. The highlight (other than a very nice cup of hot chocolate), had to be the cakes though. I opted for the Stout and Chocolate cake, while Mary chose a peach sponge which looked delicious as well. I could have eaten a second cake, they were very nice. And there were also traybake style cakes and flapjacks for those who maybe aren’t as piggy as me! Ice creams are also available.
The staff were very friendly, but they seemed a little out of sorts having had the early rush, a delivery problem with their bakery and therefore not much choice available. But they did their best to respond to our needs. It was quiet when we were there but I’d hope they were able to cope with a busier time maybe on event days at the castle.
After lunch I had a quick walk around Oxford on the way back to the park and ride. I love wandering the streets, there’s so much to see. There were Dancin’ on the Green displays, plus the usual beautiful buildings. I did my own photowalk before heading home.
If you’re looking for a more independent and personal café than the big branded restaurants that are available to eat in around the castle complex, then do try the Castleyard Cafe. But my recommendation is not to take the children unless they are happy to eat more specialist deli style sandwiches.
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Disclosure: We were given a voucher to spend on lunch at the café. All opinions and words are my own.