Where to start? With the incredible story of the Syrian women who run the Damascus Rose Kitchen at the Old Fire Station, and how cooking has helped them deal with their trauma?
With the delicious food they serve there and our wonderful lunch?
Or with the Old Fire Station Cafe’s recent transformation?
You can’t get more authentic Syrian/Middle-Eastern food than this. The menu is simple – an £8 mezze bowl includes falafel, hummus, fattoush, broad beans, bread and batata harry (see above).
Or opt for a combination of individual dishes. Highlights included the babaganoush (smoked aubergine topped with parsley and pomegranate seeds), the falafel (some of the best I’d had, light, fragrant and green with herbs) and the ful medames – iron rich fava beans topped with fresh tomato, onion and herbs, zingy with lemon juice, herbs and oil.
the Damascus Rose team is made up of refugee women from Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt and Syrian who met at Asylum Welcome
The zahra (see pic) is an absolute necessity – fried cauliflower topped with tahini, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and pomegranate.
In short, the food, which is all vegetarian and vegan, is absolutely delicious, completely authentic, and brilliant value for money.
Their story then? Nuha Abdo came to Oxford over five years ago from Syria. A UN social worker, her husband was a university professor when war broke out he was called up to join the army. He escaped to Turkey and came to Oxford. Settling in Rose Hill, Nuha came later.
“the one thing we still had was our food skills and food culture. It’s part of who we are, and it makes us proud”
“Of course we were thankful to be in England, but we left without knowing if we would see our family, friends and neighbours again, or what would happen to them. We had to start again. We spent all our money getting here so it was very traumatic. We had to learn a new way of life and culture. It was hard,” Nuha explains.
“I cried for two weeks and then stopped and wondered what I could do to help. So I started volunteering at Asylum Welcome and met lots of people in the same situation. We would meet up to talk about how things worked here, to learn the language and chat. So many refugees are really isolated, especially when they can’t speak English.
“We would also cook Syrian food, because the one thing we still had was our food skills and food culture. It’s part of who we are, and it makes us proud,” Nuha says. And so Damascus Rose Kitchen was born.
‘Flo’s, The Place in the Park‘ (in Cowley) then asked Damascus Rose Kitchen, to run the kitchens there a few days a week and showcase their food.
“In short, the veggie/vegan food, is absolutely delicious, completely authentic and brilliant value for money”
That in turn was so popular that when The Old Fire Station was refurbed and reopened, it asked Damascus Rose Kitchen to take over the cafe.
There are plans afoot to enlarge the Damascus Rose team (which is made up of women from Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt as well as Syrian), to open for longer and extend the weekdays, as well as serving pre-theatre dinners, but for now Damascus Rose Kitchen is open Wednesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm, although the cafe also opens on Tuesdays.
if you want to support this new endeavour or eat the best Middle-Eastern food in town, Damascus Rose Kitchen is a massive attribute to Oxford’s culinary scene
“Hospitality is part of our culture, so all the food here is made with love. We want people to love it and we enjoy sharing that,” Nuha says proudly.
Whether you want to support their new endeavour or eat the best Middle-Eastern food in town, Damascus Rose Kitchen at OFS is a massive attribute to Oxford’s culinary scene.
The café at the Old Fire Station is open 10am-4pm, Tuesday to Saturday. Damascus Rose Kitchen runs every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. https://oldfirestation.org.uk/cafe/