There’s something delightfully discombobulating about Café Wolseley at Bicester Village, which is akin to walking through the doors of Doctor Who’s Tardis.

One minute you’re standing in the flashy, modern consumer paradise of the county’s most famous retail outlet, and the next you’re in a charmingly old fashioned restaurant – all dark wood, oak panelled walls, gleaming tilework, oriental art, high ceilings and immaculately attired, and utterly charming staff.

It’s almost as if one has stepped through a porthole away from the label-obsessed frenzy retail outside, or – if approaching from the other direction – a sprawling car park, and into the genteel dining room of an Edwardian hotel or gentleman’s club. And it’s quite wonderful.

An offshoot of the venerable Wolseley in London’s swanky Mayfair – and its first outside the capital – Café Wolseley shares its restrained sense of glamour and stylish ambience. It also shares its impeccable attention to detail when it comes to food – and, especially, cakes: the patisserie housed in a wing all to itself.

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After opening at Bicester Village in 2018, the Cafe has attracted a steady stream of international diners laden down with bags of new acquisitions, luring them in with classic dishes and a few quirky additions.

It has now changed its menu to reflect the tastes of its clientelle, dropping some of the more unusual items – such as its signature tarte flambée – and introducing a few crowd pleasers like posh pizza. But it has not strayed far from its trademark brunch and dinner classics, with the emphasis on well sourced ingredients cooked well and with a minimum of fuss.

As proof, we enjoyed a fabulous pea and mint soup – which was bursting with fresh and zingy flavours (£6.50) and, perhaps more surprisingly, eggs Benedict with Wiltshire ham (£7.25).

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This was so satisfying it would have made a great meal in itself. The egg perfectly poached, the muffin light, springy and just toasted enough, while the dressing was rich – combining with the still runny yolk in a creamy flood of loveliness which moistened the base and made it all too more-ish.

Banbury Cake:

On previous visits I have enjoyed another of The Wolseley’s signature dishes – Wiener schnitzel served with anchovy, but that has been replaced by a chicken variety, possibly more in keeping with the tastes of Bicester Village’s shoppers. Other interesting choices included salt beef hash with fried eggs and spicy lamb merguez sausage with tabbouleh, but, on a recommendation, we went for the steak. These were 80z rib eyes and were, predictably, excellent, although a little expensive at £28 a piece. They were served with medium cut chips and a smooth creamy Bearnaise sauce. Mine was ordered rare and came exactly as it should – which is something of a rarity lately – lightly flashed and so juicy it almost oozed. The beautifully marbled meat was of such good quality there absolutely no chewiness, with every scrap devoured.

I washed it down with some fabulously tobacco-rich Malbec.

Banbury Cake:

To finish we had the Wolseley’s famous array of cakes to choose from, though as fabulous as their famous Black Forest gateau or baked vanilla cheesecake sounded, I needed something cool and refreshing – so, to the obvious amusement of our waitress, I went back to childhood with a banana split (£7.95), expecting a banana with a scoop of ice cream and maybe a few sprinkles. What appeared was a vision in dairy, fruit and confectionary.

It was quite simply enormous – a meal in itself for the sweet-toothed. Yes, it had a banana and, yes, it was split – but that’s where any similarity to the traditional dessert ended.

Banbury Cake:

It was a riot of vanilla ice cream, fruit and artfully whipped cream on a caramelised banana, topped with toasted almonds and bitter chocolate sauce; a very grown-up, if quite naughty, treat.

There was nothing to follow save a double espresso and a long sit down.

Café Wolseley may be in Bicester Village for the shoppers, but it is turning the familiar retail destination into a a culinary one. And about time too.

The essentials

  • Cafe Wolseley is at Bicester Village, Pingle Drive, Bicester and is advertised on its website as being open from 11.30am - 9pm Monday to Saturday and until 8pm on Sundays- though it tends to stay open later on Fridays.
  • Book at 01869 220 676 or go to info@cafewolseley.com
  • Parking: Loads outside
  • DON’T MISS: The steaks are great and that banana split is a real treat if you have room left at the end. The pea soup is fresh, zingy and vegan. A real winner.
  • THUMBS UP: The standard of cooking is excellent with chefs happy to adapt many dishes to accommodate diners with allergies or gluten intolerance. The chips are also GF.