It’s easy to pass by: a small cafe-bakery in a modest building on New Inn Hall Street, with a plaintive sign showing a smiling, chibi-style baker. Despite living just around the corner, I only spotted Dore Dore at the end of Hilary’s term and one sunny morning decided to give it a go.
The atmosphere is cozy and relaxed, helped by the old-style house with its wooden beams, as well as various sofa armchairs arranged in a warm way. I was surprised to find there was seating upstairs too and was charmed by the whimsical decor, with cheerful pictures, cute wall decals and a shelf of books to browse. I particularly liked the series of kawaii animal drawings – bunny, bear, cat – along the staircase, which gave a friendly and playful air to it. Although the cafe is two minutes from the bustling surroundings of Westgate Shopping Centre, it is peaceful enough to suggest a lovely study space, and indeed there were already several students typing away on their laptops when I arrived.
The atmosphere is cozy and relaxed…
Dore Dore specializes in Chinese and Japanese desserts, especially festive cakes, several elaborate models of which are displayed in the small display case; these cakes are lighter and fluffier than their English counterparts and tend to favor cream over frosting. Themed birthday cakes are a popular choice, with examples such as Harry Potter and Pikachu often featuring vibrant fruit.
But they also offer a variety of goodies, such as mochi, red bean rolls, and tiger rolls, in addition to a selection of salads and breakfast sandwiches. I was very tempted by their coconut bunnies – they looked so cute (in both ways!) with their dainty pink noses and pensive expressions, almost too adorable to eat.
I opted for a cafe mocha (£2.80) and a Japanese cheesecake (£3.00). They have the option of adding a special latte art for an additional 80p; you can show them a photo from your phone and they will magically transpose it into your coffee. So far, however, I’ve enjoyed my mocha – it can’t beat the tastes of Jericho Coffee Traders, but it was lovely nonetheless. The cheesecake slice was a little disappointing though. I’ve read other positive reviews, so maybe I pulled out a weird one: it seemed too thick, unlike the airy, puffy texture such cheesecakes should have. They should be wobbly and fluffy, but mine was distinctly unjiggled.
By contrast, the wife’s cake (£1.60) with its sweet and moist filling was delicious. I think they’re also called darling cakes, and there are various stories about its origins, usually involving a poor but devoted couple trying to stay together. It’s really more like a pie than a cake, this kind of puff pastry (also found in mooncakes and suncakes) is one of my favorites, and Dore Dore did not disappoint me. They added a hint of coconut to the candied winter melon batter, giving it extra flavor, while the batter was baked to a lovely golden color and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
I would have liked to see more vegetarian and vegan savory options; they had gorgeous buns just out of the oven, but they had chicken or pork in them. And the wonderful scent of bakery cafes – the warm smell of fresh bread mixed with the subtle aroma of roasted coffee – was oddly faint for the most part. Still, the variety of desserts to choose from is wonderful and offers a change from most restaurants in Oxford.
As an independent cafe that opened just before the lockdown and managed to survive the pandemic, I admire the obvious love and care put into its creation, and will be back. The prices are reasonable, the space comfortable, and the food looks tasty. Each baked good has been individually wrapped since to help stay safe after the pandemic. Maybe next time I’ll try one of their lattes, if only for the sake of seeing a picture of my dog appear in the cafe, and to study while enjoying strawberry mochi and chocolate cake .
Featured Image Description: The Dore Dore Bakery cafe sign on New Inn Hall Street.
Featured image credits: Yii-Jen Deng