Katherine MacAlister goes all Scandi at Ole & Steen

Before my review of Skogen Kitchen on King Edward Street could be construed as yesterday’s news, another Scandinavian cafe has popped up on the horizon, this time in Oxford’s Westgate Centre, albeit a late arrival.

With Kupp already in situ on the John Lewis rooftop terrace, it seems there is no such thing as too much Nordic, and Ole & Steen has jumped eagerly on the Norse bandwagon.

As Skogen Kitchen is predominantly Swedish, and Kupp Scandinavian, Ole & Steen, two friends and fellow bakers from Copenhagen, is proudly Danish.

And as bakery in Danish is Lagkagehuset – it looks like we had a lucky escape on the name front.

Oxford Mail:

The large premises is accessible from both inside and out. Predominantly a bakery, with endless loaves of dense, crispy bread, piles of cakes and buns and endless patisseries on display, the cafe aspect enables Ole & Steen to cater for a wider audience.

And judging by its clientele, this ranges from tired shoppers to passing tourists, suitcases bundled under tables alongside shopping bags, students, grannies and families all resting their weary feet .

The interior however was disappointingly dour and bland, all dark grey and as soulless as an airport lounge.

Nevertheless, it was full, on both levels, with customers who stopping by for a coffee and a sandwich. 2018’s equivalent of a teashop.

Those in need of more staunch sustenance were peering at the sandwich display on the counter and the menu boards behind which offer brunch, soup and stews.

Oxford Mail:

We tried the mozzarella, pesto, tomato and spinach panini and then the ham and cheese toastie, alongside a smoked mackerel and Jersey potato on carrot rye with red cabbage and tartar sauce. We also opted for a Danish blue with pickled pear and rye chips on carrot rye, both at £5.20.

The Danish blue was eye-wateringly tart, the rye too bitty with gritty bits sticking in your teeth, and the smoked mackerel was dry and hard at the edges, as if the sandwiches had been on the counter for a while. The pickled pear however was a revelation, but not enough to transform the dish into something more enjoyable.

The toasties were better.

None of which really mattered, because we were only here for one thing. And it wasn’t until we turned our concentration to the cakes and buns that we fully understood where the love and passion in this establishment is directed.

Because that slice of cinnamon social was a marvel. Bouncy, squashy, doughy, sweet with a crunch of sugar and sweetness of vanilla custard, I suddenly remembered what the Danish were famous for - pastries.

And the pastries stretched out in front of us in a long line, all visible from the window from Tosca cakes studded with caramelised nuts leading into the soft gooey insides to apple pies shaped like muffins and piled high with soft sweet pomme and the Copenhagen which is more of a bun but filled with almond paste. The chocolate covered Sarah Bernhardt – a macaroon base topped with chocolate mousse covered in a shell of dark chocolate, demanded to be eaten as did the truffle log, marzipan slice and coconut puff

The patisserie counter on the other side was groaning with goodies from strawberry tarts, almost toppling with fruit to the passionfruit cheesecake slice and brownies with walnuts.

We tried our best, working our way through the offerings with the zeal of the Queen of Hearts all on a summer’s day, taking away a huge cinnamon slice (£13) slice that required two of us to carry the box home and was polished off as soon as we got through the door.

So go... but stick to the pastries.

Ole & Steen, Westgate Oxford. oleandsteen.co.uk