84, High Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1 4BG, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)1865 204463
Website: View bar's website
Door: Go early
Style: Cafe bar
Recommended for: Historic interest
Price guide: Middling
Food: Plates & dishes
Images By: diffordsguide.com
The Grand Cafe started out as Britain's first coffee house back in 1650, according to Samuel Pepys' diary. More recently, it has become renowned for its afternoon teas - with customers such as Bill Clinton popping in to celebrate his daughter's graduation - and has clearly become something of an Oxford institution.
There's a touch of 1980s modernisation about the place, with the brass-topped bar having acquired a mosaic-frontage along the way, but the bentwood chairs and potted palms mean this retains the look of an elegant Victorian parlour. Quotes from literary greats are also painted on the walls, with this one from Milton particularly apt: "One sip of this will bathe the drooping spirits in delight beyond the bliss of dreams..."
From coffee to tea and then to cocktails - once the jam and scones have been cleared away, the emphasis moves onto a short drinks list - though look around at the blackboards above the bar for extra choices.
Despite the fact many people come here to eat and take tea, we found the bartenders competent and the drinks balanced and tasty, if not the most beautiful creations we had ever seen.