Gees Restaurant & Bar officially reopened this week following a more than £1.5million investment in Oxford’s historic venue. Diners returned as of 12 noon on 26th May 2022 after a closure of 13 weeks for a full refurbishment. The restaurant reopens with a renewed glasshouse and the creation of two new dining spaces, Secret Garden & Gees Gallery.
The Grade II listed conservatory started life as a greengrocer and florist in 1897. Jeremy Mogford converted the vegetable, fruit and flower shop into Gees Restaurant & Bar in 1985. Fast forward to spring 2022 and following a full, 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.
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.
“Colours of optimism…. Yellows of the sun and blues of the water inspired the Secret Garden”, says Jeremy Mogford. “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.”
“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.” – says 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 the St Philip and St James Church, and of the surrounding roof tops. To the east, a new perspective over what was formerly a flower shop and is now Gees Gallery, the exterior space that blends the new world with the Victorian… the famous Gees glasshouse.
It has been Jeremy’s long-standing dream 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 of time to launch their career.
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 very interesting works, but strangely would never sell them. Gees has acquired some prime examples of his work to launch Gees Gallery.
The simple, modern and airy interior space has been designed to accommodate lunches, dinners, drinks, parties, conferences, promotions and film shows. 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. Rebecca Mofford, Director of Operations at The Oxford Collection says: “We have become increasingly aware of a huge demand for events seating up to 40 people.”
The design takes inspiration and guidance from the architecture of the building, the original stone exterior and interior aims to transport guests to the ancient Italian, Spanish or Greek cityscapes.
Gees Gallery will promote and sell art and photography, as well as 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.
James Wyman, Architect, “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.”
Architecture & Final Investment:
The Oxford Collection’s long-standing and inspirational local architect, James Wyman has been involved with the ongoing development and improvement of all The Oxford Collection’s businesses. Jeremy Mogford, “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.”
James Wyman, Architect, “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 – 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.”
James goes on, “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.”
Gees Gallery features a famous Barbican Hand-Rinse Basin that was designed for the now grade II listed Barbican Estate in London, which now also is held by the V&A museum.
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, new roofing, and restoration throughout.
Matt Smith is Gees’ new Head Chef and he 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 we have done for many years.