Hackett's Coffee Bar and Bistro in Witney has only recently opened. It can be found to the north side of Waitrose car park in a converted former old drill hall which was, for a while, a Tumble Towers play centre. The location is ideal - not least for parking - and despite being very much in the town centre and accessible, it retains a good feeling of space and individuality. The style might be described as modern industrial chic. It has a wonderfully fresh, clean stylish feel which was the result of hours spent trawling through "Interiors" magazines. I suspect that Kim Cook, the driving partner in the business, did not find this a great chore: she has certainly come up with a winning formula. She has had no previous experience of running restaurants (a recent job was driving combine harvesters!) but tackled the project with a delightfully fresh approach, learning as she went along and benefiting from others' experience. After initial staffing problems, she has teamed up with Fiona Tate, formerly of Bistro 35, who has now taken on a managerial role. This has strengthened the team of about 20 staff, all of whom seem smart, attentive and professional. A new award-winning chef, Graham Aimson, has just arrived from the Bird in Hand at Hailey, and the small sensible menu is precise and innovative.
Hackett's is open seven days a week from 9.00 am and can cater for everything from morning coffee after that exhausting shop, to business lunches (it has WiFi connection), to afternoon teas, to early-evening drinks and full-blown dinners. The trendy decor spreads to different rooms and Hackett's has a balcony as well as an outside terrace, so customers have the choice of a little privacy or joining the hubbub of the main seating area.
The whole place has a real buzz about it and there is live jazz most weekends, as well as themed evenings. All this is printed on an events card so customers can keep up to date. A beer festival is planned for next year, as well as wine tastings and wine dinners.
The management are keen on supporting the fair trade movement, and Fairtrade tea, coffee, hot chocolate and wine are all available. Following a favourable review in the "Oxford Times", I can see Hackett's becoming a focal point in Witney. Four of us went for lunch and stayed far too late, enjoying coffee in the sunshine outside and idly watching the world go by. We were not rushed and were made to feel at ease by the polite and attentive staff.
We ate a cross-section of food, and had not a single moan! Highlights were the succulent and tasty crabmeat with spinach and pine kernels, butternut squash ravioli, an impressive- looking and delicious dish of halibut and prawns, recently entered into a national fish-dish competition, and the potato coddler, a jacket stuffed with butternut squash on a bed of beetroot—a heavenly blend of flavours.
The conclusion is very simple: Hacketts is new, good and conveniently located, and after a few teething problems has settled down to be the perfect multi-purpose venue.
Hackett's Coffee Bar and Bistro, Wesley Walk, High Street, Witney, Oxon OX28 6ZJ
tel 01993 700858