Tag Archives: cafe

Jacobs & Field

This was a lazy Sunday. We decided we’d rather go out for lunch than make it ourselves, and we were both in the mood for a doorstopper of a sandwich. So we headed off, baby in tow, to our local deli, Jacobs & Field (15 Old High Street, Headington, OX3 9HP).

Since I was with my husband and we were passing the Baberoo back and forth, I had the luxury of using both hands to eat. I ordered the salt beef sandwich (£5.50) and a homemade lemonade (£2.75). My husband ordered the Merguez sausage sandwich (£5.50) and an Americano.

Salt beef sandwich

My sandwich proved very difficult to eat even with both hands free – the bread, while delicious, was falling apart with every bite and I ended up using my fork in the end. The salt beef and sauerkraut were both tasty and so was my husband’s Merguez sausage. I thought my lemonade was a bit too sugary, but it was refreshing nonetheless.

Merguez sandwich

The brownie I ordered for dessert (£2.50), however, was a standout. Somehow they manage to cut the pieces in the pan so that you are guaranteed at least one ‘side’ piece; this is my favourite part of a brownie so I was very happy. I can also highly recommend their baklava, which I’ve had on several other occasions. It is the best baklava I’ve had anywhere in the UK, ever, including all the London-based Middle Eastern shops and restaurants.

Brownie

So how did Jacobs & Field stack up against my five criteria for baby-friendliness?  (See my About page for more information about how I rate the menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding for every place I review.)

Menu: Deli food, it seems, usually requires both hands. I pored over the list of sandwiches to see whether there was anything that sounded like it could be eaten one-handed, but Jacobs & Field are pretty generous with their fillings and I doubt that any of their offerings is dainty enough to be consumed while holding a child in one arm. Likewise with the breakfast menu, which always requires a knife and fork. There are some great pies and pasties, and if you’re particularly dextrous you could try eating those one-handed. But your best bet is the quiche or the salad bar, I’d say.

Space: The place is jam-packed both inside and outside, with as many tables as they can fit into the space, along with adornments, decor, and food stacked from floor to ceiling. This is great for customers unencumbered with baby carriages, but it’s quite difficult to fit one into the café.  Even the outside tables are packed pretty close together and a pram would always be blocking someone’s exit. The exceptions to that are the two tables to the right of the entrance; those seem to be the best places to sit outside.  Inside, there’s not much room in the front of the café for a pram, so you must traverse a narrow space by the counter to get through to the back seating, where it’s a little wider and there’s more space for a carriage. That narrow space is exactly where customers have to stand to order and pay for their food. Wait staff also need to go back and forth through the space. I had to wait a while to get through, but once I made it to the back we snagged the table with the comfy couch and parked the Baberoo between it and the (beautiful old-fashioned) water cooler. Because of the lack of space, I’d suggest going at non-peak times so you can wheel your carriage through to the back, or, alternatively, go on a day that’s not brilliantly sunny so that you have a hope of getting an outside seat.

Salad bar and bookshelf

Ambiance:
A vintagey, home-grown vibe, with bunting strung all over and vintage china and homewares for sale alongside boxes and jars of deli delights, some produced by Jacobs & Field. It’s a very pretty place with a relaxed atmosphere. The music is very much in the background; I hardly noticed it at all except for when the Baberoo was bouncing up and down to ‘Rollin’ on the River’. It’s a bit warm inside, so be prepared to shed a layer or two. The staff are usually very friendly, although when it’s extremely busy they have less time to be attentive.

Corner table

Facilities: This must be one of the cutest café bathrooms ever; it has displays of vintage china and homeware and framed artworks. The Baberoo really enjoyed staring up at the bunting-bedecked ceiling while we were in there, and the wooden counter was supplied with a baby-changing pad. Everything was clean and fresh-smelling and well-lit.  There’s ample space to fit a baby carriage in with you, although to get it in you might have to ask someone at the table closest to the toilet to move their seat, which can block the door.  I did feel slightly guilty that all the other patrons would have to wait for us – and diaper-changing sometimes takes a while – since it’s the only customer toilet and it’s constantly in use.

Bathroom

Feeding: The comfy couch where we were sitting also has plenty of pillows, so the Baberoo was mainly happy during her feed; other tables have smallish chairs so might be more difficult for comfort while feeding. No customers or staff seemed to care that we were breastfeeding. I got a smile of encouragement from one patron, which was nice.

My final score for Jacobs & Field is a 7.75 out of 10.  If you’re solo with the baby, go at a time when they’re not very busy, order one of their brownies, and you’ll be in for a treat.

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The Jam Factory

My first review is of the Jam Factory (Hollybush Row, 26 Park End Street, OX1 1HU).  Today isn’t the first time I’ve been here; the Baberoo and I have visited several times, most often with my NCT group.  The group has been meeting for six months now, trying out Oxford’s cafés and restaurants and naturally gravitating back to the most baby-friendly places. As trepidatious new mothers back in January/February we found the Jam Factory, and it’s still the one we go back to most often. My reviews will be covering eateries I’ve been to before as well as ones that are new to me, but I thought I’d start with a place I love.

Jam Factory interior

Today the Baberoo and I arrived a bit too early for the lunch menu, so I tried out the Factory Frittata (£7.50) with a glass of red berry iced tea (£2). Alongside the iced tea came the rest of the pot (freshly brewed and still hot) and the promise of more ice whenever I needed it. The meal was very much like a full English breakfast (bacon, sausage, beans, mushroom, and tomato) with the eggs in frittata form, binding it all together.  I liked that the sausage and bacon were still whole, and I got four (count ’em!) rashers of bacon, which pleased me greatly.

Frittata

So how does the Jam Factory rate for baby-friendliness?  Point by point, here’s how it does against my criteria (menu, space, ambiance, facilities, and feeding). For a comprehensive explanation of these criteria, please see my About page.

Menu: At any time of the day you’ll find at least one item that can be eaten one-handed, which is something I never kept in mind until I had a baby and realized that one arm would need to be free in case she needed to be held! Eating one-handed is somewhat of an art and I still haven’t perfected it. My frittata today wasn’t a one-hander, but the Baberoo was sleeping in her carriage and then happily playing with a toy while I ate. If she’d been fractious, I’d have ordered a breakfast burrito instead!

Space: The Jam Factory has ample space for baby carriages, especially in its café section and its outdoor seating area. I’ve been there with at least six NCT friends and our prams all fit without impeding the other patrons’ means of egress.  And it’s not just me and my NCT pals: I saw another group of five mothers with prams in the café today. The Jam Factory is fairly busy with people working on their laptops (with free wifi) but there is usually space to fit carriages in.

Ambiance: Lovely, and today a staff member admired the Baberoo, which is always nice. It also showcases interesting art and design (there’s always an exhibit in the café – as well as in the dedicated exhibition space – and there are lovely hand-knit tea cosies for sale), is well-lit, and the music (Aretha Franklin today) is neither too loud nor too soft and won’t irritate your baby with a dancey bassline. The espresso machine does make a very loud sound and in my experience it can wake up sleeping babies, so don’t sit right next to it if you can help it.

Teapots

The only beef I really have with the Jam Factory’s ambiance is that it’s so hot. It wasn’t just this particular summery day (we’re in the middle of a three-week heatwave! This Canadian can’t believe it!), it’s just generally really hot in the building. The first time I visited – on a cold winter day – I had to take the Baberoo’s outfit off piece by piece until she was practically down to her diaper. I’m not sure what it is about the building – it does have glass ceilings so that doesn’t help – but they sure could use some air conditioning.  By the time I walked out of there I was as limp as wilted lettuce. A nice warm room might be helpful in getting small babies to sleep, but this kind of heat is uncomfortable.

Facilities: Go for the door with the D; it’s a disabled toilet that also doubles as a baby-changing room. Unlike most baby-changing facilities, the space to lay the baby on is a plain wooden tabletop-type area. It doesn’t have any guard rails so be careful not to let your baby roll. There’s also no disposable sheets to lay your baby on; I have my Thula eco mat (a kind of baby-sized yoga mat) so I just spread it on the table and the Baberoo had a soft and clean surface to lie on.

Changing table

The bathroom is very small; there was just enough room for me to wedge my (admittedly large) baby carriage in and there wasn’t much room left for me to stand. I am not a fan of leaving my empty baby carriage unattended, anywhere, for any reason, because it was damn expensive and I don’t trust anyone (although I doubt that the nice patrons of the Jam Factory would take it!). So I like having a little more room in the bathroom to bring it in with me. That said, the facilities smelled very fresh, they were clean, there was natural light coming through an actual window, and while it wasn’t decorated in any particular way it wasn’t horribly stark like baby-changing areas can be.

Feeding: I breastfed the Baberoo while we were sitting at the table and no one (patrons or staff) even blinked an eye. There are plenty of couches and bench seating that can make breastfeeding much more comfortable (the Baberoo is a reluctant public feeder, not because she cares that she’s in public – nor do I – but because she’s so used to the comfy pillow we use at home, so I appreciate it when there are seating choices other than chairs). I know from NCT group experience that bottle-feeding mums are also given prompt attention when they ask for heated water to warm their bottles.

Final rating: the Jam Factory is a lovely place and very baby-friendly. In my book it gets an 8.5 out of 10.

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