Discover a trendy tapas spot, a range of cool cafés, fine dining restaurants and a host of traditional pubs serving up modern bites 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; expect starters such as ham hock terrine, and mains such as seven-hour lamb shoulder, gratin Dauphinoise and pickled red cabbage. The wine list offers plenty of choices around the £25 mark, and the bar staff make a mean mojito. If it's sunny, ask for a table on the terrace. Mains from £15.
Casual dining, cheap eats
Plan ahead to sample Laddawan Thurston’s Thai food. With just a few tables, this appealingly simple dining room on a back street outside the city centre is booked up weeks ahead, even for lunch. If you're lucky, you might be able to snag a last-minute spot at the counter, from where you can watch dishes like jungle curry with butternut squash, coconut milk and red hot chillies being expertly put together. Mains from £8.50.
Cheap eats, casual dining
This converted chemist’s shop on Oxford’s Cowley Road is where you'll find 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 with aioli, and slow-cooked ox cheek with cauliflower purée. The first-floor dining room is perfect for larger groups. Tapas from £3.
The Mason Arms
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 alongside spiced bhajis made with courgettes from the pub’s vegetable 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 £14.
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 from which to watch the world go by. The set lunch menu is great value, offering modern and beautifully presented options. Dinner à la carte from £37.50 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, featuring charcoal walls hung with numerous artworks and a gentleman’s club feel, is equally popular with diners. The ‘very high tea’ option includes fresh finger sandwiches, feather-light scones with exceptionally good jam and a delightfully squidgy brownie, served with loose leaf tea from a silver pot. Afternoon tea from £25.
Casual dining, kid-friendly
After a Saturday night on the town, a quiet brunch among the greenery of this Victorian conservatory is a soothing experience. Scrambled eggs get a Mediterranean twist, with morcilla (blood sausage) and Pugliese toast, and the generous serving of avocado with smoked salmon, poached egg and toasted sourdough is always a tempting option. The all-day menu includes the likes of linguine with salmon and brown shrimp, and wood-fired guinea fowl. Brunch items from £3; mains from £14.50.
This cavernous city-centre spot with an impressive marble-topped bar reinvents the traditional pub for the discerning, style-conscious drinker. A range of 21 different keg and cask draft beers are on offer, with the selection changing regularly. The pub grub menu includes seriously good southern-fried chicken with maple syrup, dry-aged steaks and fish and chips. Mains from £10.
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 chestnut mushroom risotto with baby leaf spinach. Bare wooden tables and chairs give the dining room a rustic atmosphere. The good-value Sunday lunch is a popular choice for families. Mains from £6.50.
With its gleaming copper and bronze Elektra 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 are freshly ground and expertly prepared, and the range of snacks includes an interesting spinach cake.
2 North Parade
If you’re looking for local, organic produce, head to this modern, stylish grocers. You'll find everything from organic yogurt and cream from North Aston Dairy to wines from Brightwell Vineyards, as well as locally farmed organic fruit and veg.
With its stripped wooden booths and barley twist stools, The Grapes looks like a traditional city-centre boozer. But forget fizzy lager and pork scratchings because this eatery is all about creative pizzas made using flour imported from Naples and topped with the likes of nduja sausage and pear & hazelnut pesto. There's an ever-changing and carefully curated list of craft beers, to boot. Pizza from £7.50.
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 past 15 years with its accessible all-day menu of pizza, pasta, steaks and Mediterranean-inspired dishes, such as lamb rump with grilled veg and a mint and caper yogurt. With a menu for under-12s 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, enjoying crowd-pleasing dishes like rump of lamb and Cornish sea bream, and watch the punts drift by from this converted Victorian boathouse. The award-winning wine list offers plenty of opportunity to splash out for a special occasion. Mains from £17.75.
Special occasion, casual dining, kid-friendly
Situated close to Blenheim Palace, The Feathers is a 17th-century townhouse hotel with a charming wood-panelled dining room. Sophisticated, modern European dishes might include seared Cornish mackerel with salsa agresto, fennel and pink grapefruit, and wild mushroom and spinach pie with creamed leeks. A special menu for children under 12 includes spaghetti Bolognese and sticky toffee pudding. Mains from £12.95.
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 canapés to the immaculately turned out waiters who patrol the airy conservatory dining room, everything is in its rightful place. Blanc’s modern haute cuisine draws on Asian influences in dishes like Cornish crab, kaffir lime, coconut 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 aren't incompatible with indulgent and delicious desserts. The bakery's 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 is a stunning location for any form of refreshment, from a glass of wine to afternoon tea or a three-course meal (which may include such delights as guinea fowl with barbecue mayonnaise dressing). Mains from £13.50.
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. The easy-going menu features burgers made with dry-aged prime cuts, wood-fired pizzas and healthier options such as a bowl of kale Caesar salad. Craft beers include the pub’s own small-batch-brewed Dodo lager. Mains from £7.50.
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, marble-topped bar and large arch windows, is flooded with light. Mediterranean-style dishes may include seabass carpaccio with chilli, lemon and basil and a spicy Italian sausage and red pepper pizza. On a sunny day, ask for a table on the secluded terrace. Mains from £11.50
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 Company'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 4 September 2018 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.