The Covered Market in Oxford was first built in 1774 as a way to centralize vendor stalls and clean up the main street. It started out as numerous butcher shops, and today about half the stalls are still food related, but business has expanded beyond butchery to green grocers, kitchenwares, sweets, and touristy country crafts.
We spent an afternoon wandering, trying to ration our stomach space, but there were still a number of things to try.
We ogled the meat and pie shops for ages, had a pasty, admired the oldest ham in England, had an excellent milkshake at Moo Moo’s, and bought market totes from a butcher shop for about 3 quid. Bargain.
This was one of those serendipity moments. We were making our way to the Tate, passing by St. Paul’s, thinking about lunch, when I recalled being here before and going down a narrow alley to a pub with a cellar deep deep down underground. It was hard to remember the details, because it was from a London Ghost Walk, which takes place on a weekend night when the finance areas of London are dead. But after staring up at clocks and poking our heads into any alley we could find, I located Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, the oldest pub in London. Dickens hung out here, and mentioned it in a story or two.
This isn’t the original building, of course, it’s a rebuild…from 1666!! It’s been a pub since 1538, remodeled after the Great Fire in London. The existing vaulted cellars are thought to originate from a Carmelite Monastery, which was here in the 13th century. And this, this is where we had lunch.
The pub spans several floors, starting with a bar at the ground floor, and it only goes down from there into the cellars where there are assorted rooms for eating and quaffing. At the bottom is where we ordered lunch and drinks. Two benefits here: the cellers were blessedly cool in the summer heatwave, and the prices were amazing considering its location and the “tourist value.”
Cheshire Cheese (Holborn)
I came upon Paw Pies at a local cafe, the French Press. We were originally in the mood for quiche, and this made us change our minds.
The owner of the business is inspired by the Australian meat pie, which is effectively similar to a cornish pasty. Basically an all-in-one meal of meat and vegetables encased in a pastry that can be easily held and eaten in the hand (or paw).
It can be eaten cold, for a lunch on the go, or warmed up as mine was. I had the breakfast pie, with bacon, potatoes and egg, it cost about $6.
The ingredients are sourced locally and organically where possible. The chicken, for example, is free range. There are specialty pies, depending on seasonality of the ingredients.
It’s a great new option, bringing a little Aussie style to town with some California flavor.
The French Press is the only retail business I’ve seen so far carrying the Paw Pies, but I believe the meat pies have only recently gone public. Hopefully the website will have a list of other places to buy the pies soon.