Best places to eat in Oxford

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.

All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of 15 May 2019 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 If you think there is any incorrect or out-of-date information in this guide please email us at goodfoodwebsite@immediate.co.uk.

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Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for the country they are travelling to.

The Magdalen Arms
Casual dining

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 Cornish mussels marinière, and mains such as Hereford steak and ale suet crust pie and buttered greens for two. 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.

Oli’s Thai
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 £9.

Arbequina
Casual dining, cheap eats

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 sea bass with fennel salad and piquillo peppers come off the plancha. Must-try dishes include crunchy salt cod croquetas with aioli, and slow-roasted pork belly with mojo verde. The first-floor dining room is perfect for larger groups. Tapas from £3.50.

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
Casual dining, special occasion

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. Lunch à la carte from £32.50 for two courses.

Old Parsonage Hotel
Casual dining, kid-friendly 

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, featherlight scones with exceptionally good jam and a delightfully squidgy brownie, served with loose leaf tea from a silver pot. Afternoon tea from £27.

Gee’s
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 crab and brown shrimp, and wood-fired guinea fowl. Brunch items from £3; mains from £15.95.

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 £5.50.

Brew
Cheap eats

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
Casual dining

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.

The Grapes
Cheap eats

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 delicious bites like spicy fried cauliflower with smoked chilli sauce and Oxford sausage, cider and apple sauce sandwiches. There’s an ever-changing and carefully curated list of craft beers, to boot. Sandwiches from £5.

Branca
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 chargrilled sea bream with creamed spinach and new potatoes. With a menu for under-12s and a leafy garden terrace, Branca is ideal for family dining. Mains from £11.

Cherwell Boathouse
Special occasion

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 smoked haddock tagliatelle, 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.

The Feathers
Casual dining, special occasion, 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 roast whole plaice, with brown shrimps, cucumber, pea shoots and dill new potatoes or 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
Special occasion

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. Five-course lunch menu £105 per person.

Modern Baker
Cheap eats

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.

Rooftop Restaurant at Ashmolean
Casual dining

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 pork belly with porcini mushrooms, smoked pancetta and puy lentils). 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 bowls of kale Caesar salad. Craft beers include the pub’s own small-batch-brewed Dodo lager. Mains from £8.

Quod
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 spinach and ricotta ravioli with pine nuts and basil or 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

The Covered Market

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.

Bitten Street

Monthly street food events in Oxford Castle Quarter play host to local traders such as The Souvlaki Brothers and Goujon Monkey (that’s fish and chips served from a vintage Citroën van).

Jericho Cheese Company

The aesthetics may be cool, but the welcome is warm at this specialist in British and Irish cheeses. Look out for local Rollright, a soft cow’s milk cheese.

North Parade Market

Two Saturdays a month, North Parade Avenue transforms into an artisan and organic market, with fresh produce and street food from local traders.

Gatineau

This patisserie is run by Hervé Gatineau, former head of pastry at Maison Blanc. Try the oversized brioche au sucre.

Read our other city guides…

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