It’s been a lifetime in the making, as Julie Kleeman and husband Yeshi opened their new Tibetan cafe, takeaway and shop on Magdalen Road today, a dream they’ve been harbouring since they first met 11 years ago.
The pair first set up Taste Tibet from their home in East Oxford six years ago, seeing their infamous momos, dumplings, dahls and curries, before opening a stall at Gloucester Green Market, then starting a pop up at Silvie on Iffley Road and feeding the country’s festival-goers.
And with their own premises opening its doors today, Julie and Yeshi are in a celebratory mood, despite the difficult circumstances.
And while the pandemic has meant that Taste Tibet has had to slightly alter its offering for now, it’s still business as usual for this entrepreneurial couple.
And with the Tibetan Buddhist Centre on the same street, and a Tibetan owner of The Magic Cafe next door, their new addition is transforming Magdalen Street into a little corner of Tibet, something Yeshi has always dreamt of.
READ HOW TASTE TIBET FED THE NHS HERE: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/donate-taste-tibet-begins-feeding-oxfords-nhs-frontline-workers-but-they-need-your-donations-please-help/
Throw in the area’s hugely rich foodie offering, from The Rusty Bicycle opposite to Oli’s Thai and The Magdalen Arms up the road, Hamblin Bread and Silvie’s round the corner, plus Wild Honey and The Magic Cafe on the same street, plus The Chester Arms nearby, and one realises just how fast this corner of East Oxford is turning into a real foodie mecca.
That Taste Tibet’s own cafe has been a long time coming only makes the event more enjoyable. And for those of you yet to enjoy their authentic Tibetan food, you’re in for a treat.
Because whether you want to nip in for some ready prepared food to take home and cook or freeze, buy it hot at the counter or order some to collect, Taste Tibet is up and running.
And come December, when lockdown is lifted, you’ll be able to enjoy the new look interior fully, from the safety of your own table.
“yeshi has always had this burning desire to introduce as many people as possible to Tibetan food”
So how do they feel? “It’s been a long time coming,” Julie laughs. “And while the circumstances are not ideal, we have so many loyal customers who have been eating our takeaways and food for years, coming every week to find us at our pop up at Silvie’s just round the corner. We just hope they follow us here.
“We have talked to so many people in our local community, some of whom have supported us since the very beginning when they were picking up food from our home, so we are quietly confident our new venture will work. We’ve already had such positive feedback.”
“It’s very personal for Yeshi – to see the name of his country up there above our new cafe and takeaway”
So what have the pair had to do to open during the pandemic? “We have altered our menu to ensure that the food can be served quickly and people will not be waiting around. And will only be running on Thursdays/Fridays and Saturdays during lockdown,” Julie explains.
“After that our vision is for people to come for lunch or dinner and have lots of different options, from hot food, to freezers full of family meal packs to pick up on the way home.
“It will be very informal here so that people can meet, eat and work here, once they are able. There will be no table service,” she adds.
Having said that Julie and Yeshi are still excited and apprehensive today. “Well it’s early days and we have waited so long for this. We have really appreciated all the support Oxford has given us and want to show that appreciation. So we are massively excited and feel really privileged to still be able to open up at this difficult time. It just feels very surreal.”
As for Yeshi, who hails from Tibet, it is a very historic day. “It’s very personal for Yeshi, to see the name of his country up there above our new cafe and takeaway, because he’s always had this burning desire to introduce as many people as possible to Tibetan food, so this has given him a real thrill – to put Tibet on the map.”
And with a new cookbook planned, and more Taste Tibet sites on the horizon, this is only the beginning for Julie and Yeshi, so watch this space!
Taste Tibet is at 109 Magdalen Road, Oxford and will be open from 5pm-8.30pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until after lockdown. Go to https://www.tastetibet.com