Theo’s is the new hotspot on Broad Street. Its clean white-and-beige interior with cushion-lined seats provide an aesthetic place to work, eat, and sip.
One of the owners, Rudy Qaqu, also runs the restaurant Acropolis in Headington. It’s easily Oxford-centric. The coffee beans are sourced locally, and many of the other baked goods are baked fresh, with a cake of the day and classic Mediterranean desserts like baklava. Even the booths were Oxford themed — mine had a sketch of familiar Broad Street.
Theo’s is run by a Greek-Kurdish family, with a Mediterranean-organised focus. Rajeen, who runs the restaurant alongside other family members, explained that the dishes are a mix between classic café fare and traditional Mediterranean dishes. You could find the difference in the little details. Their menu included freshly-squeezed orange juice, as well as Greek yoghurt bowls, along with more fusion dishes like their koulouri with poached eggs, spicy oil, and Greek yoghurt.
“It’s nice bringing something new to the city,” Rajeen said, “and we can pass on traditions to a new group of customers.”
The café sees everyone from tourists to locals to Greeks searching for a reminder of home, but they especially love students. Besides their student discount, they have many booths upstairs and down for working.
I also took note of the many gluten-free, and dairy-alternative menu items, clearly written. It’s rare but always welcome to see these kinds of accommodations.
My increasingly regular order at Theo’s is the hot chocolate. At a normal price of just over £3, you get a cocoa-y delight with marshmallows and whipped cream. They also have a wide selection of tea and coffee drinks, including a Greek frappe (which I’ll try once the ice machine is fixed!) While waiting, I had a Greek coffee – it’s extra foamy. The grounds at the bottom gave me faith in the traditional aspects that Rajeen was proud of, and I was glad that I could add a bit of sugar to the very strong coffee. I haven’t seen a Greek coffee in Oxford, so I was glad to have the option here.
Finally came the food. Each dish was extremely filling: we began with koulouri (think of a more crunchy version of a bagel) served with smoked salmon, an egg, cream cheese, spicy oil, and rocket. Rajeen noted it was a take on the classic bagel breakfast as well as on the Greek Koulouri as breakfast. The sesame on the koulouri added to the crunch of it, and the chilli oil added a bit of a kick that I will steal for my own bagel preparation. The cream cheese was a bit more than I’d expected, but the poached egg in the middle and the oil perfectly soaked the koulouri up. The koulouri had less flavour, but the other ingredients added a tangy, savoury twist that I loved.
Next was the club sandwich: it was typical of a British café except for the oregano and paprika on the chips, which my fellow diner and geographer pointed out to be a Greek twist. The bread was triple toasted and cut into triangles, and the Gouda, though not common in UK club sandwiches, added some nice depth and reminded me of the sandwiches I’d have at home in NYC. The tomatoes and cucumbers were fresh and crunchy, and the mayonnaise had a lemony twist I loved. I took the extra chips and half sandwich home for dinner and found it delicious: a good, quick meal that was both filling and reasonably priced.
Coming as a great surprise were the pancakes. After stuffing myself full with koulouri and ham, I somehow found room for dessert. The American-style pancakes were visually beautiful, with a symmetric swirl of syrup as well as sliced bananas, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. The fruit was sweet, and though the pancakes were a bit dry on their own, the syrup added moisture and sweetness I enjoyed greatly. I found the edges more fun than the middle with their crispy crunch. Overall the pancakes were delicious.
As I sat and ate, I saw a diverse group of people of all ages come in and out, eating anything from jacket potatoes to croissants with tea. Looking forward, Theo’s wants to expand its outdoor seating as well as its two-story indoor seating. The cafe’s warm space differs greatly from the takeaway-focused cafés and food trucks of Broad Street, though I’m sure Theo’s will make itself at home soon enough.