The Eel goes to...Oxford

The Vaults Garden Café

Published: 7 Oct 2018

With a long history of discussion around the politics of food from the Food Climate Research Network at the University, the annual Food Symposium and, of course, the Oxford Farming Conference and its rebellious sister down the road, the Oxford Real Farming Conference, it’s no wonder the city’s food scene has some pretty exciting, sustainable features, says Fran Bernhardt.

Testament to the strength of the movement and a brilliant incubator of ethical projects is Good Food Oxford, a network aiming to create a better, fairer food system across the city. They have a good food charter based on what’s good for the planet, people and community and members sign up to say how they will commit to it.

Turl Street Kitchen is so committed to sustainability that it holds a Sustainable Restaurant Association three-star rating and has been commended by Good Food Oxford. They also support their sister charity and volunteer network, the Oxford Hub based just upstairs from their restaurant.

Weaving ethics into the grand traditional centre of the university, The Vaults and Garden café serves decadent but ethically-sourced breakfasts, lunches and afternoon teas in the Old Congregation House. It has committed to buy from a local organic garden to support them financially and runs a careful ‘no waste catering’ policy.

For an unbeatably low carbon footprint salad bag, look no further than Oxford Garden Farms. Grown in back gardens, the seasonal, local veg is delivered by bike and without plastic packaging on the day of harvest from as little as £5.

Cultivate is a cooperative social enterprise partnering with local growers and producers to bring ethically-made, local food to Oxford at regular weekly markets scattered across the city.

Run by university students with the help of volunteers, Ox Co-op sells organic fruit and veg boxes and fairly-traded dry goods from ethical wholesalers and local growers. They aim to be a feasible alternative to supermarkets even for those on student budgets.

Determined to turn the tide on the demonisation of some of our favourite foods, Real Bread Campaign supporter The Modern Baker uses organic grains and sourdough fermentation to create delicious pastries and reinstate bread as the ‘staff of life’.

Waste 2 Taste is run by two passionate food waste warriors, turning surplus into delicious meals. They plan to set up Oxford’s first surplus food café to provide food for all, as well as mentoring and training opportunities for homeless people.

Tiddly Pommes makes juices from the many unharvested apple and pears in local orchards and gardens, relics of what once were plantations. What started out as an experiment has now become a micro-enterprise.