The Handle Bar Cafe on St Michael’s Street is without a doubt one of the best places to eat in Oxford, so you can imagine my delight when I discovered that they have opened up a new spot on Magdalen Road, up my end of town. This cafe lot has gone through so many changes in the last year, with no cafe lasting very long, so you never quite know how things will go. Next to Oli’s Thai, one of the best rated restaurants in Oxford, Handlebar 39 has some tough competition, but hopefully the varied menu and brilliant breakfasts will stand it in good stead.
I venture there with friends on a rather miserable day, drizzly and a bit cold, so was looking forward to a hearty breakfast to perk me up. It did not disappoint. I went for the Goodie Veggie, and I think I’d go so far as to say it was the best I’ve had in Oxford. Veggie alternatives to the full English breakfast are often a bit lacklustre, a veggie sausage swap, more eggs, and maybe a bit of avocado to make up for losing the bacon. But this one blew its meat-filled sibling out of the water. I was treated t so many rich and interesting flavours. A deliciously smooth cup of coffee accompanied a poached egg, garlic and cream mushrooms, fried plantain, a grilled tomato, and avocado on toast with flaked almonds and feta, and home made baked beans on the side. While not a huge fan of the Heinz variety, I am usually deeply skeptical of the home made alternative – they’re so often watery and flavourless. But these were a revelation – tasty beans in a rich, satisfying sauce – I could have had seconds. The different elements on the plate didn’t necessarily compliment each other perfectly – the plantain was a little sweet to accompany the garlic mushrooms – but overall the effects was of a series of wonderful tastes, not of clashes. The bread was great, and the avocado more than met my rather picky standards.
I genuinely could have ordered the whole thing over again I enjoyed it so much. So if you’re up the Iffley Road end of town, absolutely make Handle Bar 39 your next stop for brunch, and if you aren’t head for to the one in town where you can enjoy the same delectable treats. The only risk is that no other breakfast will meet these high standards – you have been warned!