Ladd and Rufus Thurston at Elle's Deli, formerly Oli's Thai

Walking into Elle’s Deli on Magdalen Road, East Oxford is a strange experience. Where are all the tables, the bar where hopeful diners would perch back in the day when Oli’s Thai had waiting lists of six months for a table and eating there was like stumbling across the holy grail?

“people didn’t realise we’d still be cooking and serving Oli’s Thai food here as well, so iT’S BEEN REALLY BUSY”

Instead it’s like a gastronomic wonderland, the new deli-cum-cafe-cum-takeaway heaving with global goodies from fresh sandwiches, Welsh cakes, Portuguese custard tarts, tortillas or a bottle of hot sauce. And the piece de resistance is that Oli’s Thai food is ready to takeaway!

Ladd and Rufus Thurston outside Elle’s Deli

Welcome to Elle’s, where for nine years husband and wife team Rufus and Ladd Thurston ran Oli’s Thai, the toast of Oxford, complete with gushing national reviews and awards, until last year when they announced the party was over, and Oli’s Thai was closing for good, the end off an era. READ ABOUT IT HERE

“It was definitely the right decision to make. We love coming to work now”

There was however a silver lining, because in place of East Oxford’s favourite restaurant came Elle’s, where you can still buy Oli’s Thai food, and even perch on a table outside if you’re lucky.

Elle’s Deli

So why did Rufus and Ladd Thurston make the change and how’s it going? “It was a lifestyle change thing, a work/life balance,” Ladd tells me. “We wanted to spend more time with our kids (Oli and Elle), to help them with their homework and just be around more.”

(Rufus and Ladd also co-run their equally successful tapas sister restaurant Arbequina, on Cowley Road,with Ben Whyles and Ben Bateman)

“Not that it’s that different work-wise,” Rufus grins, “but it’s been really interesting – there are so many challenges involved with running a shop. It’s such a different pace.”

He’s right. The pair were just gearing up for the midday rush when I arrive for a chat, Ladd furiously cooking up her stupendous Thai food in the kitchen while Rufus prepared sandwiches. No rest for the wicked then?

Elle’s Deli

So how’s it going? “It’s been really busy because people didn’t realise we would still be cooking and serving Oli’s Thai food here as well, (all Ladd’s classic dishes rotate on the menu), so there are lots of new people popping in to take it home.”

Happy then? “It was definitely the right decision to make,” Rufus nods. “We love coming to work now. But we miss the buzz of Oli’s Thai if not the hours, so we are doing functions and pop-up supper clubs now and again to keep our hand in.”

Rufus and Ladd Thurston in Elle’s deli

Elle’s Deli is open 9.30am-4.30pm with food available from 11.30am-3pm daily. Go to for more information on the deli, shop and pop-ups.