Friday, 25 November 2011

The Ashmolean Café, Beaumont Street

The Ashmolean is looking pretty good at the moment, after its recent refurbishment. The interior sparkles and many of the dividing walls between rooms have disappeared, so that you can wander from one cluster of exhibits to the next and eventually come out into one of several light-filled stairwells.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Zappi's Bike Café, St Michael's Street

I've watched the Tour de France every July for the last twenty years, enjoying the blood and sweat, the shots of the French countryside, and the bone-dry humour of Gary Imlach, but it hasn't as yet inspired me to go very far on a bike. When I was younger I learnt to ride one in a straight line but I never mastered important things like hand signals. It's probably fair to say that I don't belong in a cycle shop.

 (This was the Tour de Picardie - I would have been very lucky to get this close to the finish of a Tour de France stage)

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The spice of life? Rajasthan, Cowley Road

My mother is a very good cook. When I was growing up, of course, I took this for granted, which was one reason why in my pre-pubescent years polite adults would refer to me as 'well-built', and other children...well, I'm sure you can imagine. It was not until my first year at university that I realised that there was one area to which her culinary expertise does not stretch: apart from judicious additions of ginger and a touch of chilli powder to casseroles and gravy, she never cooks anything really spicy.

It was doubtless a visit to an Indian restaurant, probably as part of the 'organised fun' (I can think of few worse oxymorons) of Freshers' Week, which brought me to this realisation. Now, I don't want to speculate here about why I had never eaten a proper curry before the age of 19, although I'd like to make it clear that my family is not imprisoned in a mid-twentieth century timewarp, waiting for Elizabeth David to come and tell them that olive oil isn't just for clearing out blocked ears. Suffice it to say that I hadn't. And although I have consumed many fairly spicy oriental dishes since then, when I do so I always feel a certain regret alongside the physical effects that other people seem to relish.