The Water Tank Cafe

It’s all about vintage these days and with charity shops doing a roaring trade, Oxfam has capitalised on our new lust for second hand clothes and goods by opening a megastore in Cowley, the first of its kind.

Situated in a huge warehouse in Oxford Business Park, you can enjoy 18,500 sq ft of clothes, bags, shoes, books, bric-a-brac and more at the Oxfam Superstore. Colour coded, sized and stretching out as far as the eye can see, it’s a wonderland of pre-loved retail, a doyenne of charity shops and a champion of recycled fashion.

The Oxfam Superstore in Cowley

And with trends for over-sized jackets, mens shirts, anoraks, tweed jackets, bulky coats, shell suits and walking boots hitting the headlines, it’s the obvious place to go.

however high we piled our tray, it still only came to £17.90

When you are shopped out, have spent far too much (it’s a bit Primark – you always come out with more than you went in for) and need a sit down, then park yourself in The Water Tank, the absolutely charming in-house independent cafe where we had lunch.

Water Tank

Not only does it offer the best value for money I’ve come across in a long time, but some top-notch daily specials of soup and sandwiches, as well as a tempting array of drinks, cakes, biscuits, savoury pastries, salads etc, all of which are homemade. The concept is simple but excellent.

Take the soup – Indian spiced vegetable with seeded bread. For a start it was only £3.95 making it properly affordable for everyone, and secondly it was absolutely delicious, well balanced, beautifully spiced, thick, healthy and adventurous.

The Indian vegetable soup with seeded bread

The coffee is £2.50 a cup, and really good, served in a vibrant, cheerful mug and finished with a proper barista’s touch.

the Tiny Portugese custard tarts were £1 each (yes really) which were as soft, sweet and authentic as you’d hope

Nothing is dumbed down here just because it’s affordable, they could charge three times as much and it would still be the same fantastic standard.

Coffee at The Water Tank Cafe

As for the cakes, well I’m heading back as soon as possible. Tiny Portugese custard tarts for £1 each (yes really) which were as soft, sweet and authentic as you’d hope, marrow cupcakes (think courgette cake) which were soft and plump and I hard not to eat all-in-one go.

what they all had in common was the love, care and attention that went into everything on the menu

There were vegan brownies and toasted teacakes, banana bread and muffins. We were spoilt for choice and veggies, vegans and anyone with food allergies well catered for.

Marrow cupcake and a Portugese tart

But what they all had in common was the love, care and attention that went into everything on the menu. As for the cafe space it fits in perfectly, open plan but nicely enclosed, decorated with ethnic fabric panels so you can enjoy your own space while watching the shopping frenzy around you.

And however high we piled our tray with cakes, tarts, soup, crisps, drinks and muffins, it still only came to £17.90.

So yes, a big fan, but if you are planning a visit, bear in mind that the cafe and superstore are closed on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays or I would already have been back like a shot.

Oxfam Superstore, Oxford Business Park, Alec Issigonis Wy, Oxford OX4 2JZ.Opening hours: Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday 9.30am-4.30pm and Sunday 10.30am-15.30pm. For more info go to: