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Jericho Café. 112 Walton Street, Tel 310840. Click HERE for menu.


These are heady times to be eating out. As Britain has finally acknowledged that Yorkshire puddings and haggis do not a satisfying cuisine make, so a bewildering array of foreign cuisines have swamped our shores, breeding with each other to form countless new varieties to tweak the British palate . While frightfully exciting, the multi-cultural approach can be a little confusing at times - Oxford hasn't actually got a Ye Olde English Techno-Manga Serbo-Croat Cyber- Tea-Room yet, but it can't be long coming. One need have no such fears at the Jericho café, however, as it calls courgettes "zucchini". When a restaurant calls courgettes "zucchini", you know exactly where you are.

This isn't to say that the place is boring; rather, it concentrates on simple but effective Mediterranean food. The menu has a strong Italian and Greek influence -it's olives, humous and pasta a go-go. And, of course, the ubiquitous zucchini, which pop up all over the menu, but are so beautifully cooked it would be silly to complain. Basically, its as much River Café as Jericho, making it perfectly suited to the pre or post Phoenix Picture House crowd, especially as, with its new licence, it's now open (and serving alcohol) until 11. The Café is split on two levels - we went downstairs, which is a lovely, stone cellar sort of affair, with a gratifyingly relaxed atmosphere. And, of course, a Daily Information prominently displayed as you go down the stairs - always the sign of a classy joint. It also has a wire person looming in at the window - make what you will of that.

We started off with anchovy pitta bread with olive oil and grilled tomatoes, and fried so-called zucchini with a particularly yummy tzatziki. It's the kind of stuff that you can't really go wrong with if you take your time, use decent ingredients and at least have a vague idea of what you're doing, and at about £3.25 a go everyone's a winner. The dividing line between starters and main courses isn't really clear - either in theory, or on the menu, where they're all just sort of clumped together - and that's reflected in their price, typically around the £5 mark. We had a spinach leaf and Greek cheese salad with a creamy Parmesan dressing, which was fine, and some excellent lamb with rosemary and garlic and chargrilled vegetables. These in particular were superb, great big long slices of aubergine and (of course) courgettes (I shall not give in) slowly grilled and deeply succulent. Mmm.

Definitely one of Oxford's best places to go if you're not looking for oysters and caviar served by penguin-suited waiters with wing collars (though if that's what you want, you're probably far too square for the funk-centre that is Jericho, and would be better off back at High Table at your College). You can cut down the price by just getting a beer or too instead of wine, which suits the food just as well, and there's no better place to kick back and have a drink once you've finished your meal. Laid-back, comfy and very cool.

Dan Butt