I got quite excited about the arrival of the 'posh bread shop' in Jericho. The Natural Bread Company have outlets in Woodstock and Eynsham and regularly attend Oxford's farmers' markets, but now they have a permanent presence in the city. It's not merely a shop, either - according to their website it's a 'cafe and bread bar' called 'Companion'.
Despite this more than marginally pretentious appellation, the place doesn't quite feel like it's being run as a cafe. When we were there a good number of the customers took away their coffee and/or baked goods; there's no drinks price list, menus aren't left on the tables as a matter of course, and the staff only took notice of us when we went up to order (although they were fine after that). That said, most of the tables were occupied.
The other caveat is the cost: I'm sure this reflects the ingredients used and the labour involved, but I'll still point it out. A full English here is £7.95, which may not be Oxford's most expensive breakfast but is definitely at the higher end; you can also order bread and cheese for £7.50 (see above). No doubt it's delicious, but it's still, well, bread and cheese. The prices of the loaves, cakes and other products are to match. Most loaves of bread are £2.50-4, although I can attest that they are good, and there are some very expensive sandwiches on offer. I was also slightly put off - especially at this germ-laden time of year - by the fact that everything is heaped up on display without any protective barriers.
Still, on the whole we were impressed by the breakfasts, which threatened to overspill the plates they arrived on even after we'd asked them to leave out the baked beans. They struck a nice balance between heartiness and delicacy: my egg tasted exceptionally fresh, and the quality of the (locally sourced, of course) sausage and bacon was clearly high. Moreover, few breakfasts are not improved by black pudding and crunchy sourdough toast. Perhaps there were a few too many mushrooms in comparison with the other components, but they weren't as greasy as breakfast mushrooms often are.
Artisan coffee seems to be the other speciality here, about which I'm no expert. On requesting 'something like filter' I was offered filter coffee with a choice of two types of bean. The one I had (the Guatemalan, I think...) was nicely mellow, and came in a carafe. As the Photographer said, 'this place is pretentious, but they do it well'. I think I like it.
29 Little Clarendon Street OX1 2HU