Cous Cous Café in Oxford

    Guest post by Paul Simeon

    While in Oxford for two weeks attending a summer school, I rarely needed to find a place to eat.  We were given generous dinners in the large dinning room of St. Edmund’s Hall, lunch at the cafeteria at the Culham Science Centre, and breakfast at our dormitory, the William R. Miller Building, just outside the hustle and bustle of the main campus.  So what do we eat on the rare occasions when we aren’t fed?

    I found that eating out was a little more expensive in England than in America.  They had a few fast food chains, but not too many, even if I wanted to eat there.  The sit-down restaurants were pretty expensive, around 9-12 pounds per item.  Luckily, I found a nice place quite close to my dorm that was both affordable and noteworthy: Cous Cous Cafe.

    This Moroccan cafe served several types of sandwiches and wraps, as well as plate dinners with meats, vegetables, and, of course, cous cous. I probably would have gotten a falafel wrap had I not eaten it the night before at 11 pm from a food truck on a walk back from a pub with some friends. Yes, a food truck served fish & chips, hamburgers… and falafel. What caught my eye was a Brie and cranberry sandwich. I asked the lady which bread would go best (wrap, ciabatta, panini), and she said panini. The British and Irish have paninis everywhere. They must really like them. Then I wanted to add roasted veggies. She said it might not fit on the panini, which is thinner, so she recommended ciabatta. So, I got Brie and cranberry on ciabatta.

    She put thick slices of Brie, cranberry sauce with whole berries in it (kinda like Ikea’s lingonberry sauce), eggplant, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, cucumbers, and what I think was sliced up peperoncini. There was a lot on there, but nothing was overpowering. I could taste everything when it came to its turn on my tongue. The veggies doubled the stuff on the sandwich, at least, but they were only 50 p extra, well worth it. In case you’re not familiar, p is short for pence, but people mainly just say “pee”.

    I got a little thing for dessert, named Briouat, but spelled “brawit” on the display case. It has a flaky crust, shaped in a triangle, with honey, cinnamon, and almonds ground up inside. The filling is like a gritty paste.

    They charge an extra 20-40p for eating in, a common tradition in England that I have never seen in America.

    I went there on another occasion for dinner after the summer school ended, and we had to fend for our own for food. I had one of the plate dinners, warm cous cous with vegetables. It had carrots, chickpeas, zucchini, potatoes, and seasoned with tomatoes and onions.

    It was warm, soft, healthy. The cous cous was soft and buttery, although I don’t actually know if there was butter in it. The vegetables were all very soft but not mushy.

    It was a lot of food. I had to force myself to finish the cous cous. It was 5.25, a little high compared to their sandwiches for under 3. The place had people sitting outside at a table smoking from a hookah. I guess this place offers that as well as tea. It’s a nice place, and I’d eat there a lot if I stayed here longer. It’s cheap, healthy, and really close.

    Address: Cous Cous Cafe
    19-20 St Clements
    OX4 1AB

    Cowley Road Area
    7.30 – 20.00
    Telephone: 01865 722350

    Other bites in England:
    Oxford dinners – part I and II
    Soon-to-be new posts:
    – Indian food in Oxford: Mirch Masala and Fire & Stone’s Bombay pizza
    – Pie and mash at the Ship Inn Upavon and Pieminister
    – England’s healthy fastfood chain: Pret A Manger

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