I’ve just got back from a trip to Oxford. Those familiar with the beautiful city will be aware of the chain of three ice cream bars dotted around the streets. They are all named George and something beginning with D – Danver, Davis and Delila (I couldn’t find the secret of the naming convention) and they are decorated in funky primary colours in a loosely Ben and Jerry’s way. Former student George Stroup founded the business in 1991 and it’s been a feature of the city ever since. The ice cream is made on the premises of one of the shops but each outlet is meant to have its own brand while holding to the company’s social business roots.
I’ve been to two of the shops so far and my favourite is the Cowley Road George and Delila.
It’s a real student hangout with plenty of space just away from the main tourist routes. I find George and Davis a little too touristy and busy but I guess that is the whole point of having a different approach in each location.
They are all open from 8 in the morning until midnight. I really like the evening feel where a real mixture of customers come in for an ice cream or a coffee. The students will spend hours at laptops taking advantage of the free wifi, families enjoying the delights of Cowley Road will eat somewhere else or go for a drink and call in afterwards.
That touches on what I really like about G&Ds. It is very customer-focussed. It can have three different personalities in the same town because that’s what towns are like. The customer base in each site is different and therefore why wouldn’t you have a different G&Ds. It’s common sense but it is difficult to achieve and it’s a tribute to the business almost twenty years later that the formula still works.
The menu is limited once you get away from the ice cream. There are three different types of bagel which are freshly made up. The quirkiness of the place is reflected in the availability of the bagel pizza. I tried the tuna and sweetcorn which was fine. The highlights of the menu are of course the ice cream but also the drinks which use the ice cream. The Holy Cow is deemed, by people who have had a lot of hot chocolate, as the finest they have ever had. In a customer-centric business it is no surprise that there is regular input into the flavours – there was a White Russian flavour special when we were there. The ice cream is good and you can have it in lots of different combinations. The cookies are quite thick and solid. They taste good but they are enormous and brick-like in construction.
Service has always been friendly, if a little fraught on busy summer days, whenever I have visited. I’ve seen the comments on some TripAdvisor reviews but I feel you have to adapt your expectations a little depending on the number of customers and how the staff deal with it. The smaller George and Davis can seem like a permanent queue in quite a small space.
G&Ds is now part of the Oxford experience in lots of ways. Relax and enjoy it.