Oxford: A dining guide

Think of Oxford, and images of stately university buildings and be-gowned students swishing through the streets spring to mind. Those more familiar with the city might think of punting on the river and maybe high tea at the Randolph Hotel.

It’s doubtful that ‘vibrant dining scene’ pops into your head. However, visitors will find that this cosmopolitan little place has such a variety of tempting dining options that the real challenge isn’t where to eat, but how many places you can squeeze into a weekend in Oxford.

Unless you’re seeking a classic cream tea or a chain restaurant, the city centre streets around Carfax and High Street won’t be your first port of call. However, just a short walk away from these main thoroughfares, you’ll find some great independent restaurants.

Nestled along a side street in the city centre you’ll find The White Rabbit, a family-run independent pub who’re passionate about craft beer and freshly baked pizza. With pizzas starting from £10.50 and a lunchtime panini menu available, this is the ideal spot for great value grub on any occasion. Plus, the lengthy outside area is complete with outdoor heaters, parasols and even heated seats, meaning you can go any time of year despite the unpredictable British weather.

Cityscape of Oxford. England, EuropeFor something a little different in the centre of Oxford, try Edamame, a pocket-sized Japanese restaurant with communal tables on Holywell Street. With different menus for lunch, dinner and Thursday sushi night, it’s worth perusing their website before you set out. Opening hours are limited, but the high-value, low-cost home-cooked food is so tasty that it’s worth arriving early or being prepared to queue.

A 10-minute walk north of Oxford city centre, you’ll find the bohemian-chic Jericho quarter, beloved by the city’s 20 and 30-something crowd. A couple of student-friendly curry houses still stake their claim on the main drag of Walton Street, but most of Jericho’s bars and restaurants cater for a slightly more affluent market. For a casual lunch, try neighbourhood institution The Jericho Café or the grand Freud Cafe Bar, both on Walton Street. If you’re looking for a more substantial evening meal, the sleek glass-fronted Italian restaurant Branca serves up a range of dishes including pasta and fish.

Pub grub can be found tucked down Cranham Street at The Rickety Press, a former boozer turned cosy pub, which now has a menu of fast food delights such as burgers, pizza and loaded fries. Further north of Jericho, close to Oxford Peartree Travelodge, is the well-heeled area of Summertown, which has a number of popular restaurants around South Parade, including New Dancing Dragon serving Asian cuisine.

Cowley Road OxfordIf you’re looking for a range of international restaurants, you’ll want to explore Cowley Road. Rougher round the edges than Jericho, this no-less trendy area is where you’ll find yourself overwhelmed by the choice of international cuisine such as Lebanese, Indian, Chinese, Turkish, Spanish, Italian and more. A few addresses to note are TripAdvisor’s 2023 Travellers Choice winner Antep Kitchen, Oxford institution Arbequina tapas restaurant, and Pomegranate, a popular Lebanese restaurant with a great-value menu and friendly service. If you fancy a post-dinner drink, you’ll also find plenty of pubs and cocktail bars on and around East Oxford’s main street.

With more than 30 colleges to explore (not to mention museums, monuments and galleries), your visit to Oxford is bound to involve a packed itinerary. But the real question isn’t whether you should see Magdalen or Christ Church, it’s which of the city’s many restaurants you should prioritize.

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