Best for a feel-good factor
Turl Street Kitchen
Situated in the heart of Oxford’s city centre, near the Bodleian Library, Turl Street Kitchen is an innovative restaurant and social enterprise that makes a big effort to be sustainable and respectful of the environment. Profits are also invested to help local charities. Serving up reasonably priced mains (around £12), with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, you’ll certainly feel good about dining at this down-to-earth eatery.
Address: 16-17 Turl Street, Oxford OX1 3DH
For menus and reservations: www.turlstreetkitchen.co.uk/
Best for riverside dining
Cherwell Boathouse Restaurant
Punting is a timeless tradition in Oxford, and Cherwell Boathouse is the punt station to visit if you want to have a go. However, if you’re more of a landlubber, stay on terra firm and watch punters paddling upstream from the tranquil setting of the boathouse’s excellent restaurant. When the weather is fine, you can also dine al fresco. Menus change with the seasons, but you’re always guaranteed appetising food and award-winning fine wine.
Address: Bardwell Road, Oxford OX2 6ST
For menus and reservations: cherwellboathouse.co.uk/
Best for a welcome break
Whether you’re browsing shops or spending time escaping the hustle and bustle in the green oasis that is University Parks, when you’re feeling hungry, head to the nearby Café Rouge. The French-style bistro offers all-day dining, and there’s been recent new additions to the menu, such as bouillabaisse, camembert and pancetta croque, and orchard salad. It’s also easy to decipher which dishes you can request to be made suitable for vegans or without gluten.
Address: 11 Little Clarendon Street, Oxford OX1 2HP
For menus and reservations: www.caferouge.com/bistro-brasserie/oxford/little-clarendon-street
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Best for a Thai treat
The word is out about the delicious Thai dishes that are served up at Oli’s Thai, so although the small, simple restaurant is located a little outside Oxford’s city centre, you sometimes need to book weeks in advance for a table (or hope the walk-in bar space is free). Dining here, however, is well worth any wait. You’ll be rewarded with flavoursome, hot, spicy and zingy Thai food — memorable for all the right reasons.
Address: 38 Magdalen Road, Oxford OX4 1RB
For reservations: www.olisthai.com/
Best for pub grub
This traditional English pub is hidden along a narrow alleyway (apparently once known as Hell), so the first challenge is to find it. However, as you enter the 18th-century Grade II-listed inn, you’ll discover you’re not alone. Popular with tourists — it’s Inspector Morse’s boozer — other famous visitors have included Elizabeth Taylor, Stephen Hawking, Ernest Hemingway and President Bill Clinton. The Greene King establishment serves classic pub grub and beer food that’s perfect with a pint.
Address: 4-5 Bath Place, Oxford OX1 3SU
For menus and reservations: www.greeneking-pubs.co.uk/pubs/oxfordshire/turf-tavern
Best for top tapas
Patatas bravas, Padrón peppers, chorizo — all your favourite Spanish tapas dishes can be found in Arbequina, alongside some more unusual beetroot borani and fried Sanlucar prawns. However, the pièce de résistance that is raved about the most in this rustic restaurant, once a dispensing chemist shop, is the tortilla. Described as ‘perfect’ by those in the know, surely you don’t need any more of a recommendation to visit.
Address: 74 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JB
For menus and reservations: arbequina.co.uk/
Best for thirsty castle visitors
Chez Mal Brasserie
It would be a crime not to dine in Chez Mal Brasserie while in Oxford. The contemporary restaurant, serving a variety of tantalising mains, is located in the Malmaison hotel, which in a former life was a prison — the beautiful dining terrace outside was once the old exercise yard. Not surprisingly, the bottomless Saturday brunch with unlimited Prosecco or Heineken is popular with customers. Pop in after visiting the city’s Norman medieval castle — it’s on the doorstep.
Address: Malmaison Oxford, Oxford Castle, 3 New Road, Oxford OX1 1AY
For menus and reservations: www.malmaison.com/locations/oxford/chez-mal-brasserie/
Best for Alice fans
Quod Restaurant and Bar
Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was inspired by a girl called Alice, born in Oxford. And it’s believed a little door inside Christ Church’s Cathedral garden is where she set off on her adventures. This spot, and Alice’s Shop, are a 10-minute walk from Quod Restaurant and Bar, a stylish brasserie where you’ll be grinning like a Cheshire cat when you see the varied menu. Salads, pizzas and grill options are all available — though you may want to avoid the rabbit!
Address: 92-94 High Street, Oxford OX1 4BJ
For menus and reservations: www.quod.co.uk
Best for French cuisine
At this traditional French bistro you can expect to eat escargot, moules and steak-frites, even if you choose from the three-course, good-value Dîner Prix Fixe menu. The charming restaurant has romantic atmosphere too, so it’s also an excellent venue if arranging a date. You could even continue the evening at the Oxford Playhouse or Burton Taylor Studio — both are a six-minute walk away. A Pré-Théâtre two-course and coffee menu is also available for £12.50.
Address: 9 Little Clarendon Street, Oxford OX1 2HP
For menus and reservations: www.pierrevictoire.co.uk/
Best for inspiring spires
Rooftop Restaurant at Ashmolean
You really are dining in among the spires at this glass-fronted rooftop restaurant, found at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University’s collection of art and archaeology. Diners are treated to a spectacular panoramic view of the city, and the food is rather wonderful too. Although a limited choice on the à la carte menu, you’ll find a meat, fish and vegetarian main. Breakfast and afternoon tea are also available.
Address: Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street, Oxford OX1 2PH
For menus and reservations: www.benugo.com/restaurants/rooftop-restaurant
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