Discover a trendy tapas spot, a range of cool cafés and traditional pubs serving up modern bites alongside fine dining restaurants in beautiful Oxford.
The Magdalen Arms
On a Saturday night, it feels like all of Oxford has made a beeline for this rustic yet chic gastropub to feast on generous platters of whole shoulder of lamb. Sister pub to The Anchor & Hope in London, The Magdalen Arms takes a gutsy approach to modern cooking with starters such as whole globe artichoke stuffed with goat’s cheese and herb crumb, and mains like chunky slices of tender, slow-cooked pork with braised rainbow chard and mash, which easily feeds two. The wine list offers plenty of choices at around £25, and they make a mean mojito. If it's sunny, ask for a table on the terrace. Mains from £14.
Casual dining, cheap eats
Plan ahead to sample Laddawan Thurston’s Thai food. With just a few tables, this appealingly spare dining room on a back street outside the city centre is booked weeks ahead, even for lunch. You might still be able to snag a counter stool though, from where you can watch dishes like jungle curry with butternut squash, coconut milk and red hot chillies being expertly put together. The refreshing papaya salad with fish sauce, lime juice and chilli recalls the best of Bangkok’s hawker stalls. Mains from £11.
Cheap eats, casual dining
This narrow converted chemist’s shop on Oxford’s Cowley Road is the location of some of the best tapas in the country. Request a seat at the long, steel-topped counter to watch robustly flavoured plates like grilled baby leeks with punchy romesco sauce come off the plancha. Must-try dishes include crunchy salt cod croquetas and slow-cooked ox cheek with cauliflower purée. The first floor dining room is perfect for larger groups. Tapas from £4.50.
Mr Hanbury's Dining Room
Casual dining, special occasion
For a taste of the Oxfordshire countryside, head to this rural thatched pub where Leon Smith’s food is so local and seasonal that you can order roast rump of lamb raised in the adjoining field served with spiced bhajis made with courgettes from the pub’s garden. Part of the Artist Residence group of boutique hotels, the decor fuses English pub stylings with modern elements, including neon sculptures by artist Andy Doig. Mains from £18.
The Oxford Kitchen
Special occasion, casual dining
On sunny days, the doors of this casual fine dining restaurant in the upmarket suburb of Summertown are folded back, making it an ideal spot to watch the world go by. The set lunch menu is great value and offers modern and beautifully presented options including gazpacho with an aerated rosette of tomato essence, and delicate fillet of plaice with a vibrant vegetable minestrone and smoky sweetcorn polenta. Mains from £15, dinner à la carte from £35 for two courses.
Old Parsonage Hotel
Kid friendly, casual dining
The secluded walled courtyard of this ivy-covered 17th-century parsonage is the perfect tranquil spot for afternoon tea. The restaurant, with its charcoal walls hung with numerous artworks and gentleman’s club feel, is equally popular with diners. The ‘very high tea’ features fresh finger sandwiches, feather-light scones with exceptionally good jam, and a delightfully squidgy brownie, all served with loose leaf tea from a silver pot. Afternoon tea from £25.
Casual dining, kid friendly
After a Saturday night on the town, brunch among the greenery of this Victorian conservatory is a soothing experience. The full English gets a Spanish spin with chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage), or try the generous serving of avocado with smoked salmon, poached egg and toasted sourdough. The all-day menu, which includes the likes of braised octopus, chickpeas and paprika, is well worth investigating. Brunch items from £3, mains from £14.50.
This cavernous city centre spot with an impressive marble-topped bar reinvents the pub for the discerning, style-conscious drinker. A range of 21 keg and cask draft beers are on offer from cult breweries like Wylam and Magic Rock, and the selection changes regularly. The pub grub menu includes seriously good southern-fried chicken with saffron aïoli, dry-aged steaks and fish and chips. Mains from £12.
Turl Street Kitchen
Casual dining, cheap eats, kid friendly
Set in a Georgian building near the Bodleian Library, this social enterprise serves a menu of simple dishes based around local ingredients, like fish in a tomato-heavy bouillabaisse. Bare wood tables and chairs give the grey-green dining room a rustic atmosphere. The good value Sunday lunch is popular with families. Mains from £11.80.
With its gleaming copper and bronze Elektra Italian espresso machine, retro ’60s-style orange portable record player and collection of dog-eared vintage vinyl, this bijou coffee shop wouldn’t look out of place in hipster Brooklyn. Specialist coffees like Kenyan Kamwangi are freshly ground and expertly prepared. The range of interesting snacks includes spinach cake. Coffee from £1.80.
2 North Parade
If you’re looking for local, organic produce, head to this modern, stylish grocers where you’ll find everything from organic yogurt and cream from North Aston microdairy, to wines from Brightwell Vineyards, as well as locally farmed organic fruit and veg.
With its stripped wood booths and barley twist stools, this looks like a traditional city-centre boozer. But forget fizzy lager and pork scratchings because it’s all about creative pizzas made with flour imported from Naples and topped with the likes of nduja sausage and sriracha sauce, and an ever changing and carefully curated list of craft beers. Pizza from £6.50.
Casual dining, kid friendly
This popular contemporary brasserie with an annex deli has been drawing the crowds to Oxford’s fashionable Jericho suburb for the last 15 years with its accessible all-day menu of pizza, pasta, steaks and Mediterranean-inspired dishes such as grilled lamb steak with aubergine, crispy chickpeas and houmous. With a menu for under-11's and a leafy garden terrace, Branca is ideal for family dining. Mains from £11.
There isn’t a more romantic or tranquil setting in the city. Dine al fresco on the banks of the River Cherwell and watch the punts drift by from this converted Victorian boathouse while enjoying crowd-pleasing dishes like scallops with pea purée and pancetta crisp. The award-winning wine list offers plenty of opportunity to splash out for a special occasion. Mains from £17.75.
Kitchen by Dominic Chapman
Special ocassion, casual dining, kid friendly
This venerable hotel close to Blenheim Palace has just bagged Michelin-starred chef Dom Chapman of Great British Menu fame to oversee its wood-panelled dining room. Sophisticated, modern European dishes might include lasagne of wild rabbit and foie gras, and Barbary duck breast with fondant potato and plum purée. A special menu for children under 12 includes spaghetti Bolognese and sticky toffee pudding. Mains from £15.50.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
Raymond Blanc’s beautifully maintained 15th-century Oxfordshire manor house in the village of Great Milton is a paean to perfectionism. From the manicured lawn where you sip pre-dinner champagne and nibble on delicate canapes to the immaculately turned out waiters who patrol the airy conservatory dining room, everything is in its right place. Blanc’s modern haute cuisine draws on Asian influences in dishes like crab salad with coconut, kaffir lime sorbet and passion fruit. Mains from £50.
At this contemporary 12-seat Summertown bakery, one bite of the millionaire’s shortbread – made with raw cocoa, almonds and dates – will show you that raw, organic ingredients are not incompatible with indulgent and delicious dessert. Sourdough breads are made with ancient grains and the excellent coffee is from Monmouth. Snacks from £2.50.
Rooftop Restaurant at Ashmolean
Get up close and personal with the city’s dreaming spires from the terrace of this landmark museum’s rooftop restaurant. Designed by acclaimed architect Rick Mather, the modern glass-fronted dining room is flooded with light during the day and makes a stunning location for any form of refreshment from a glass of wine to afternoon tea or a three-course meal that may include such delights as guinea fowl with smoked beetroot dressing. Mains from £12.50.
The Rusty Bicycle
Casual dining, cheap eats
You’ll be welcomed like a local at this friendly neighbourhood, back-street pub and beer garden in east Oxford where the easy-going menu features burgers made with dry-aged beef ribs from Aubrey Allen, 48-hour fermented, stone-baked pizzas and healthy options such as a bowl of quinoa, avocado and green veg with lemon dressing and feta. Craft beers include the pub’s own small-batch-brewed Dodo lager. Mains from £8.
Casual dining, special occasions
This contemporary hotel brasserie in the city centre is the perfect pitstop for a light lunch after a morning's sightseeing. The handsome interior, with its exposed brick, flagstone floors and marble-topped bar, is flooded with light through large arch windows. Mediterranean-style dishes may include Cornish crab with fennel, chicory and cucumber, or lamb with cannellini beans, anchovy and olives. When the sun shines, ask for a table on the secluded terrace. Mains from £11.95
Five foodie places to try
Open daily, this 18th-century market is the place to come for everything from fresh meat and fish to Korean food. Don’t miss the Oxford Cheese Shop’s jaw-dropping display.
Two Saturdays a month, North Parade Avenue transforms into an artisan and organic market with fresh produce and street food from local traders.
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of September 2017 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at email@example.com.