IT WAS widely thought of as the most central and delightful rendezvous in Oxford.

The Cadena Cafe in Cornmarket Street was a popular place for shoppers, workers and visitors for more than half a century.

They ate, drank and relaxed as an orchestra played in the background.

“See you in the Cadena about 11 o’clock for coffee” was a familiar cry. Some people were said to have permanent appointments there.

In an advertisement in 1911, the owners proudly boasted that dinners, hot and cold luncheons and afternoon teas were “daintily served with dispatch”. This set the pattern of high quality service enjoyed by thousands of customers until 1970.

The Cadena company was founded in the mid-1890s and had nearly 50 restaurants and cake shops in the South of England. Cadena is the Spanish word for chain.

Although the Oxford branch was among the first to be opened, the first reference to it in Cornmarket Street is in 1906 when it replaced Lloyd’s Oriental Cafe at number 45. It later expanded to numbers 43, 46 and 47.

The extensions included the New Oak Room which had space for 200 guests and was “ideal in every respect for dinners, banquets and wedding receptions”.

Bread, cakes and confectionery for the shop and restaurant were made in a small bakery on the top floor. Later, the bakery moved to Red Lion Square off Gloucester Green and in the 1960s, to Mill Street, Osney.

Business was always brisk, helped by David Liff and his court orchestra, who entertained clients in the morning, afternoon and evening.

When the Cadena closed in 1970, there were many tears.

One regular wrote: “What can ever replace the gorgeous smell of baked bread and coffee beans as you passed? It was there, over a tea of brown and white bread and butter, boiled eggs and chocolate eclairs and with the orchestra playing a medley of romantic music, that I became engaged.

“Such happy days. Without the Cadena, Oxford will never be the same again.”

In her book, Memories of Bygone Oxford Shops, Hazel Bleay writes: “The Cadena was a wonderful place to take afternoon tea with cream cakes, complete with pinafored waitress service.

“It was also noted for the amazing aroma of coffee which would find its way on to the street.”

Any memories of the Cadena to share with readers? Write and let me know.