08 May 2018

The Oxford Caffeine Chronicles: Ratio Café

Update: Ratio Café has now sadly closed.

When I was back in Oxford over the Easter weekend, as usual, I tried to visit a couple of my favourite coffee shops — on that occasion, Colombia Coffee Roasters and Jericho Coffee Traders. But then when my parents and I went for a pre-cinema pizza at Franco Manca, I realised that a new speciality coffee shop had opened recently on George Street. I spent a regrettably large amount of time in the rowdy bars and chain restaurants of George Street as a teenager and although the street's character has changed a little since then, it was still a pleasant surprise to find a new coffee possibility. Unfortunately, as it was the evening, Ratio Cafe was closed and wouldn't be open again until after the Easter bank holiday.

But I found myself visiting my parents in Oxford again at the end of April and this time, I headed straight from the X90 bus stop on the High Street to Ratio Café, down the unlovely — but more pleasant than it once was — Cornmarket Street. On my first failed visit, I had been particularly excited by the single-origin V60 pourover options (lovers of speciality tea also seemed to be particularly well-catered-for). I found out later, however, that the 'senior coffee room (SCR)' — an acronym that plays nicely on Oxford's 'gown' side — is located in the basement and at the moment, has shorter opening hours while the staff get fully trained up. Although I was disappointed not to try a pourover coffee, it's definitely a good sign that Ratio are waiting until more staff are trained up rather than serving potentially underwhelming hand-brewed filter coffee. (NB: I photographed the SCR menu below on my first visit and opening hours may no longer apply.)

After chatting to the friendly, knowledgeable barista, I ordered a piccolo. The coffee is from Round Hill Roastery, a favourite of mine, and Ratio serve an exclusive El Salvador variety from Finca El Aguila. All of the usual espresso-based drinks are on the menu — I didn't notice at the time that both cortados and piccolos are listed, the former 10p cheaper than the latter. There is also a batch-brew filter coffee and various teas.

Mid-afternoon on an unseasonably cold Saturday in term time and there wasn't much seating available but I found a small table at the long that runs the length of the wall. I also ordered a chocolate and hazelnut cookie to keep me going, and it was very tasty. My piccolo arrived, but I had hardly even taken a sip before the barista whisked it away and made me another one with less foam. The second coffee was very good indeed and I appreciated the attention and the service — especially in such a new establishment.

With elegant, minimalist interiors and was a lively ambiance — the customers a mix of laptop-bearing students, tourists and locals — Ratio was a lovely place to spend time. I look forward to returning again to visit the 'SCR' once it's fully up and running. In the meantime, if you have time to kill while waiting for a bus at Oxford's Gloucester Green bus station, you'd be much better off walking five minutes along George Street and seeking refreshments at Ratio Café.

Ratio Café. 4 George Street, Oxford, OX1 2AF. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.

For more Oxford speciality coffee suggestions, please check out my Oxford coffee guide and Oxford coffee map.

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