The Café Critique: the Crisis Skylight Café

Next time I will venture out into Cowley and Jericho, but for this week I felt that this centrally located café deserved a review as it is surprisingly, and unfortunately, little known considering its delicious, well‐priced food.

The Crisis Skylight Café can be found within the Old Fire Station complex on George Street, which also features an excellent studio theatre, rehearsal space and shop. They work with Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people. They help with housing, education, employment, health, giving support in a variety of areas as well as researching and compiling reports on homelessness around the UK. The café offers a skills based training scheme which aims to give people work experience which can lead to paid employment. Crisis also have such cafés in Newcastle and London.

There were several tables free when we ventured in around 1.30pm, the service was friendly and quick and a variety of customers were there. The room itself is spacious, but being able to find space with ease is certainly attractive in central Oxford cafés where tables can be a premium. The décor is clean and minimalist with supportive but surprisingly comfy chairs! Although, it faces out on to George Street it was not noisy, and the large windows made the room light and airy‐ very good for working and reading even books in very small print.

One of the real attractions for students is the prices! The baked sweet potato with a filling was only £4, I had tuna mayo and my friend had veggie chilli both of which tasted great. They also have a range of paninis and sandwiches, again around the £3‐£4 mark, just slightly cheaper than other cafés if you want to eat in.

The breakfasts are even better, perhaps not compared to college brunches but certainly to nearby cafés where full fried breakfasts cost around £8. At the Skylight Café, a ‘fireman’s breakfast’ is a mere £5 and other breakfast goodies are suitably priced, with porridge (featuring caramelised banana!) at under £2. A few might be disappointed that they don’t do eggs benedict or other egg dishes, but at that price who can complain! Unfortunately the café is only open Monday ‐ Saturday, 8.30am ‐ 4pm, so you can’t visit Crisis Skylight for a Sunday brunch.

The drinks are delicious, whilst I did not sample the coffee, the hot chocolate was one of the best I’ve had in Oxford, very creamy and indulgent but not too rich. Having hot chocolate when it’s sunny outside felt a little weird, but I rationalised that I had an essay due, which obviously justifies any indulgence! Their water has lemons in it, a small thing but a nice touch!

Verdict: Light, spacious, easy to find tables. Good food and drinks for amazing prices in central Oxford, which help a brilliant cause.

Or if you’d rather stay in….

If, like me, your expenditure on coffee is such that you sometimes feel like the Student Loan Company might as well cut out the middle wo/man and siphon off your loan to Missing Bean, a good option is to turn to home brews. Some people are content with instant coffee ‐ but those coffee connoisseurs who are also worried about the damaging effects of instant coffee granules on a room carpet might go as far as to invest in a cafetiere (French press for you strange people across the pond).

If so, then a world of ground coffee is your oyster; the Tesco and Sainsbury own brand fare is reasonable, but if you are pretentious enough to go for cafetiere coffee you might as well go the whole hog. Missing Beans are one excellent option, but they’re not muchless pricey than the stuff they made earlier. My personal recommendation would have to be Taylor’s; strong, reasonably‐priced and delicious. A good thermos flask full of strong, black Taylors coffee will see you through any essay crisis.