Gees Restaurant & Bar reopens with a refreshed glasshouse, Secret Garden and Gees Gallery

As Gees Restaurant & Bar officially reopens following a major refurbishment, take a look at what’s on offer, including a refreshed glasshouse and the creation of two new dining spaces, Secret Garden and Gees Gallery.

Diners have returned to Gees Restaurant & Bar as it officially reopens following a closure of 13 weeks for a complete refurbishment as part of a £1.5million investment in Oxford’s historic venue.

This famous, Grade II, listed Victorian conservatory was built in 1897 as a greengrocer and florist selling market garden vegetables and flowers, often produced nearby by the Gee family at the Gee’s nurseries in Norham Gardens. Jeremy Mogford converted the vegetable, fruit and flower shop into Gees Restaurant & Bar in 1985.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Conservatory Seating
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Food

Fast forward to spring 2022, and following a top-to-bottom makeover, Gees has unveiled a brand-new kitchen, a glamorous repositioning of the old Gees bar, and a total redecoration throughout.

With the addition of the new Secret Garden, a secluded courtyard terrace at the rear of the glasshouse, and Gees Gallery, a beautiful multifunctional private dining space, Gees’ welcomes guests to the Mediterranean-inspired utopia with a new glow.

Secret Garden

With the increasing demand for sitting outside, especially post-pandemic, Gees has incorporated its new outdoor dining area with the modern guest in mind – a place to be used for al fresco dining and meeting friends.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Secret Garden
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Secret Garden

“Colours of optimism…. Yellows of the sun and blues of the water inspired the Secret Garden. The garden terrace is a sunlit, south-west facing sanctuary for diners.

Drawing influence from the styles of the River Café in London, and from Gees’ sister restaurant Quod with its own terrace’s huge popularity, a colourful setting complemented by the creation of a uniquely constituted fountain was born.”
Jeremy Mogford.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Secret Garden water feature
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Secret Garden water feature

“I’ve said for years that Gees should have a water feature… a perfect fit amongst the many plants and foliage I’ve tended to over the years.”
—Jacqui, Head Gardener at The Oxford Collection.

Beyond the new water fountain, Gees’ new Secret Garden has distinct views to the west of the unique ‘Phil & Jim’ steeple of St Philip and St James Church and the surrounding rooftops.

To the east, a new perspective over what was formerly a flower shop and is now Gees Gallery, the exterior space blends the new world with the Victorian… the famous Gees glasshouse.

Gees Gallery

One of Jeremy’s long-standing dreams is to work closely with the colleges in Oxford and other institutions in Oxford city and beyond to loan works of art or sculpture for free display in a spectacular new rotating gallery space.

These may be viewed by the public by arrangement, free of charge. Gees Gallery will also invite promising new artists to exhibit their work for a limited period to launch their careers.

The first artist to be featured in Gees Gallery was at the forefront of British art in the 1950s, named Bernard Kay (1927-2021), who created some rather interesting works, but strangely would never sell them. Gees has acquired some prime examples of his works to launch Gees Gallery.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Gees Gallery private dining
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Gees Gallery private dining

The Oxford Collection’s portfolio - Quod Restaurant & Bar, Old Bank Hotel, Old Parsonage Hotel & Parsonage Grill, and soon to open 36 St Giles - has recognised the return of group dining. So the simple, modern, and airy interior space is designed to accommodate lunches, dinners, drinks, parties, conferences, promotions and film shows.

The design takes inspiration and guidance from the architecture of the building. The original stone exterior and interior aim to transport guests to the ancient Italian, Spanish or Greek cityscapes.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Gees Gallery private dining

“We have become increasingly aware of a huge demand for events seating up to 40 people.” —Rebecca Mofford, Director of Operations at The Oxford Collection

Gees Gallery will promote and sell art and photography and limited edition take-home culinary items made in the new kitchens of Gees Restaurant & Bar, including bespoke olive oils and pickled vegetables.

Bar repositioning and additional bar in Gees Gallery

“The original Gees bar has been repositioned and lovingly reworked by Dighton, The Oxford Collection’s master builders. I bought the bar in 1978 from Malcolm Glicksten of Relic Antiques; it came from France.

It was then used in the little wine bar next to Browns which was converted from the flower/plant shop. The bar’s adventure continued when it was recycled for the brand-new Gees opening in 1985. Now, fast forward to 2022, and it has been reconstituted in a new position.

Another striking and modern bar is housed in Gees Gallery, also topped with an incredibly rare marble which resembles an artist’s palette.” —Jeremy Mogford.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Gees cocktail
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Gees Gallery bar

“The new bar location at Gees promotes greater freedom of movement - easing a once congested entrance area to ensure a more generous sense of arrival and welcome at one of Oxford’s landmark destinations.” —James Wyman.

New menu

Gees Restaurant & Bar reopens with a new menu. And Matt Smith, Gees’ new Head Chef, is taking up and developing the existing brief for Gees cooking, featuring regional dishes of Spain, Portugal and Italy using British produce, local if possible, as they have done for many years.

Chef Matt brings with him more than 20 years of kitchen management experience, having previously headed up the team at The Ivy Oxford. His previous career highlights include running his own successful restaurant in Whitby, North Yorkshire, and as Group Chef for Provenance Inns & Hotels.

His flare for simple, authentic food that celebrates the finest local ingredients is the perfect complement to the rustic Mediterranean cuisine for which Gees Restaurant & Bar is so well known.

Guests can expect a taste of summer in Oxford with a daily evolving seasonal menu featuring traditional cooking techniques and master cocktails.

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Head Chef Matt Smith
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Food

“The new bar location at Gees promotes greater freedom of movement - easing a once congested entrance area to ensure a more generous sense of arrival and welcome at one of Oxford’s landmark destinations.” —James Wyman.

Bringing it all together

The Oxford Collection’s long-standing and inspirational local architect, James Wyman, has been involved with the ongoing development and improvement of all of The Oxford Collection’s businesses.

“He understands our philosophy and thinking… so his collaboration with our ideas and brief has resulted in the evolution of the new Gees with its Secret Garden and Gee Gallery.” —Jeremy Mogford

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Rebecca Mofford & Jeremy Mogford
Rebecca Mofford & Jeremy Mogford outside the Grade II listed Victorian conservatory

“The project evolved as a series of disparate parts - all bound together by a common focus - to enhance the existing site for customers & staff alike.

“A neglected rear yard - now transformed into a secret garden. The original fragmented back-of-house areas are now unified within a purpose-built extension and upgraded facilities throughout. Above all, movement throughout the site was key to unlocking the unusual adjacencies.

“The shop, which previously had numerous rooms and levels, was reordered to provide a single open and fully accessible gallery that links everything together.”

“The design accentuates the elemental and material qualities of the existing buildings - serving to reinforce our enjoyment of the historic environment and sustain the site for the future.” —James Wyman, Architect

Gees Restaurant & Bar - Architect James Wyman
Gees Restaurant & Bar - Designer Antique Sink in Gees Gallery

The final investment in the 2022 refurbishment of Gees Restaurant & Bar is over £1.5 million, covering the addition of two new dining spaces, construction and furnishing, rebuilding the kitchen with additional staff, plant and storage facilities, a new roof, and restoration throughout.

As Gees Restaurant & Bar reopens, the new venues will increase capacity to seat up to 210 guests across the famous Grade II listed Victorian conservatory, the Gallery and the Secret Garden.

PS: Gees Gallery features a famous Barbican Hand-Rinse Basin that was designed for the now grade II listed Barbican Estate in London, which is now also held by the V&A museum.