Friday, 9 September 2011

The Moving Teashop at East Oxford Farmers' Market

Perched on a child-sized chair in the arts and crafts room, sipping from a dainty cup of tea, I felt like a schoolgirl playing house. East Oxford Primary School might not be your usual Saturday morning brunch venue, but after my visit to The Moving Teashop at East Oxford Farmers' and Community Market, it might soon become a regular fixture in my calendar.

Every Saturday morning since 2006, the market has been selling produce sourced from within 30 miles of Oxford, in addition to books, clothing and crafts. With a rotation of stalls, shoppers can pick up daily essentials from fresh bread to fruit and vegetables to meat. On my first visit, the stalls filling the school hall included takeaway sushi, fruit and veg, locally-reared veal, homemade cakes and artisan breads and tarts. More local than I realised possible, Tiddly Pommes apple juice is made from fruit grown in East Oxford. With the varieties on offer changing with the seasons, owner Rupert offers tastings of the different blends. Completely unlike the sugary, synthetic supermarket stuff, these juices were complex and delicious, and despite not usually being an apple juice fan, I took home a £3 bottle of the East Oxford 'Discovery' blend, made from fruit grown in a garden in Iffley. There's something incredibly appealing about buying produce from your own postcode area, especially when it tastes far better than anything the chains have to offer.

For those looking to satisfy their hunger immediately as well as for ingredients to prepare at home, there's a weekly cafe located in the school's arts and crafts room. Different groups take charge of the kitchen area each week, but one of the most frequent hosts of this corner of the market is The Moving Teashop. Run by two sisters, one a Leiths-trained chef and the other a baking and tea aficionado, The Moving Teashop serves up tempting brunch dishes washed down with cups of their own blend of tea (a mixture of English breakfast and Earl Grey), sipped from vintage china teacups.

On our visit, options included Boycott Farm ham and potato hash with a fried egg (£5) and mushrooms with cream, lemon and garlic on sourdough toast (£4). I opted for herb and spinach pancakes with lime butter, sweetcorn salad and roasted tomato sauce (£4.50), while C chose a slice of the butternut squash, pine nut and feta tart with salad (£3.50). Cups of tea (£1 including free refills) in hand, we took a seat at a child-height communal table. Couples, families and ladies who brunch did likewise, leafing through copies of the Saturday papers as they tucked into their food. Despite the presence of the papers and the retro floral tablecloths, C and I couldn't shake the feeling we were back at school. Surrounded by arts and crafts projects, it was like taking a step back to our childhoods.

School dinners certainly never tasted this good. My pancakes were light, fluffy and full of flavour. They aren't something I'd usually allow into my mental 'healthy' category, but these spinach-packed pancakes tasted nutritious rather than artery-clogging. The lime butter was unusual and tasty, adding an extra dimension, while the roasted tomato sauce and sweetcorn salad were ideal complements.

Herb and spinach pancakes
Squash and feta tart

C's tart was another success: a classic combination of autumn flavours, the pine nuts added extra crunch. Also on offer were a selection of delicious-looking cakes, including a traditional Victoria sponge with homemade raspberry and strawberry jam but we'd had our fill for the day: sweet treats will have to wait for next time.

With a variety of seasonal, tasty brunch options prepared before your eyes and the chance to drink tea from vintage china, The Moving Teashop is a winner in my eyes. The unusual venue only adds to the attraction, as does the fact that you're supporting a local venture and eating local produce rather than frequenting a restaurant chain. Other regular cafes include the Pop Up Cafe run by Kim and Ingrid and the market cafe run by Martha and John, which uses vegetables grown on their allotment, so I'll have to return to see what they have to offer. If you live in Oxford, the market is well worth a visit - and if you go with an appetite, so much the better.

Verdict: 9/10

East Oxford Farmers' Market is at East Oxford Primary School, behind Cowley Road Tesco, and runs from 10am to 1pm each Saturday. Click here for details of their stalls. The Moving Teashop will return on 1st October.

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