The best restaurants in Oxford

The best restaurants in Oxford

Gee's Restaurant & Sbarra

Gee restaurant and bar

Oxford’s food scene has improved tremendously in recent years with the city’s high-end but somewhat conservative old guard now flanked by a plethora of vibrant and lively restaurants, hip pubs where food outshines alcohol, and small but stellar independents serving authentic Asian cuisine to avid local fans. It is worth taking a hike outside the city center to reach some of these lesser known gems. Destination expert Etain O’Carroll shares her favorite places to eat in the city of dreaming spiers.

For more Oxford inspiration, check out our guides to the city’s best hotels, nightlife and things to do.

Town center

Quod Brasserie & Bar

Located on the ground floor of a former bank, Quod is one of Oxford’s most popular restaurants among students and young professionals, as well as don and other venerable Oxford folks. The location is perfect – in the middle of the High Street, between colleges – and the food (pizzas, salads, fish and meat dishes, plus daily specials) is served quickly by young waiters. The atmosphere is enlivened by a lively din of conversation and large contemporary works of art on the walls, perfect for lingering over a braised lamb shoulder served with cannellini beans and sliced ​​with anchovies and olives.

Contact: quod.co.uk
Reservations: Recommended
Price: £ £

Quod

Quod

Vaults and garden

This is one of the more unusual cafes in Oxford, housed in the attic of St Mary’s University Church. With an emphasis on fresh, organic ingredients and with plenty of vegetarian options, it’s also one of Oxford’s healthiest places to eat. You can have breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea and best of all you can sit outside in the cemetery and admire one of the most beautiful architectural spaces in England. If you’re hungry, try the creamy goat cheese and puy lentil gratin followed by a slice of celestial orange, lavender and polenta pie.

Contact: thevaultsandgarden.com
Reservations: Walk-in only
Price: £

soy beans

You’ll have to queue to enter Edamame, but it’s worth the wait to get a table at this tiny Japanese restaurant. With an understandable pride in serving only authentic Japanese dishes and flavors, this family-run operation has been an Oxford institution for over 20 years and with good reason; the signature edamame (small soybeans) are heavenly, the curries and stir-fries expertly cooked and the sushi – served only on Thursday nights – the best in town.

Contact: edamame.co.uk
Price: £
Enter: Just introduce yourself

Ashmolean rooftop restaurant

Britain’s oldest museum also houses Oxford’s most prestigious restaurant. This rooftop space has a glass wall that opens onto a terrace filled with tables and a grassy “lawn” where you can relax on lounge chairs overlooking the rooftops beyond. The menu is also not bad and features a limited number of imaginative, well cooked and well presented dishes. Pork ribs with beans, artichoke hearts, and salsa verde are hearty without being too filling, and are good paired with one of their mouth-watering pies.

Contact: ashmolean.org
Reservations: Recommended (for evenings)
Price: £ £

The old bookbinders

This quaint pub, a nice venue tucked away on an unassuming residential street, was built in 1869 for the workers of nearby Oxford University Press. Inside, it looks completely traditional with mugs on the shelves and beer coasters and posters on the walls, until you notice the train on the ceiling and the delicious smell of cooking. Beer aficionados flock to the bar and diners flock to the densely packed back tables to sample the traditional French bistro menu. Its restrained modesty makes its charm even more evident.

Contact: oldbookbinders.co.uk
Reservations: Essential (for dinner)
Price: £

North Oxford

Gee restaurant and bar

This beautiful Victorian conservatory first housed the flowers, fruit and vegetables of the Gee family, who were the area’s leading nurserymen. For nearly 30 years it has been one of the best (and most famous) restaurants in the city, a North Oxford landmark still at the top of its culinary game. The location, with its tree-lined outdoor terrace for summer dining, the new art gallery and secret garden is ideal. Inside, it feels like you’re at a summer garden party with the glass conservatory, mismatched furniture and pendant lamps giving a light and airy backdrop to dishes like sea bass with roasted fennel, capers and butter of brown shrimp.

Contact: geesrestaurant.co.uk
Reservations: Recommended
Price: £ £

Gee's Restaurant & Sbarra

Gee restaurant and bar

Cherwell Boathouse

Yes, it’s a boathouse, Victorian as it were, where students and tourists rent picnic boats floating on the River Cherwell. But it’s also one of the city’s restaurants, tucked away on a path in affluent North Oxford. In the summer you can eat outside on the deck, listen to the soft thud of the small boats on the river, and enjoy ambitious but well-balanced dishes such as silver mullet with pickled Cevennes onion, rainbow chard and cheese potato mousse (foam). In winter, dinner is served inside the cozy boathouse, with its exposed brick walls and cluster of tables draped in white linen.

Contact: cherwellboathouse.co.uk
Reservations: Recommended
Price: £ £ £

Cherwell Boathouse

Cherwell Boathouse

East Oxford

Taste Tibet

A small place, tucked away on a quiet street in East Oxford, Taste Tibet serves “Himalayan soul food” much loved by a legion of local fans. Transforming from a popular market and festival stall to a simple restaurant with exposed brick walls, wooden floors, and long white tables, they draw the crowds with a small but carefully thought-out menu that works for vegans, vegetarians, and meat lovers. Expect curries, stews, dales and their legendary momo served with hot pepper sauce. Behind the scenes is a zero-waste operation, a thriving community donation project and the story of a lost and rediscovered homeland. Look for their beautiful new cookbook.

Contact: gustotibet.com
Price: £
Enter: Just introduce yourself

Arbechina

Hidden by a vintage pharmacy sign above the door, there’s something incredibly modest about Arbequina, a tiny tapas venue with tiled walls, a stainless steel counter, and hardwood stools. It’s all deceptively simple, however, as soon as you taste that first bite of food, you know you’re somewhere special. From sliced ​​nduja so thin it melts in your mouth to earthy beetroot borani served with spicy feta and crunchy nuts, it’s such good food that you’re invariably tempted to order more, succumb to that second bottle of wine, and wonder why you’ve never been Before.

Contact: arbequina.co.uk
Reservations: Essential
Price: £ £

Kazbar

Despite its Moroccan name and souk-like vibe – waxed ocher walls, old lanterns, and brightly colored pillows – Kazbar is essentially a tapas bar, and it’s very good at that. Just outside the medieval old town, it is a romantic and welcoming place to spend an evening with friends or lovers. Good wines, spirits and beers, mostly Spanish, soft drinks and mint tea complement the sizzling tapas. There’s also a great selection of cocktails from a sweet and spicy fig and vanilla daiquiri to Marakesh Express, a cinnamon espresso shaken with Absolut vodka and Kahlúa.

Contact: kazbar.co.uk
Reservations: Walk-in only (except for groups of eight or more)
Price: £ £

Kazbar, Oxford

Kazbar, Oxford

The arms of the Magdalene

A casual, unassuming pub in up-and-coming East Oxford; the Magdalen Arms is the kind of place you enjoy on a rainy afternoon. Deep red walls lend a cozy charm, stripped floorboards and mismatched furniture encourage a relaxed country pub vibe, and the big, hearty flavors of the modern British menu brighten the duller days. There is no ostentation, just heartwarming good food. Couples play Jenga as they scoop up wood pigeons and venison terrine on sourdough toast, families dig into steak and beer lard crust pie, and others dwell on wild rabbit with chorizo, chickpeas, fennel, and aioli.

Contact: magdalenarms.co.uk
Reservations: Recommended
Price: £ £

The arms of the Magdalene - PATRICIA NIVEN

The arms of the Magdalene – PATRICIA NIVEN

West Oxford

The concierge

The Porterhouse, a converted Edwardian drunkard, exudes contemporary chic, with blue walls, stripped wood floors, and tan leather loveseats. Grab a pre-dinner drink in the lively bar, then move on to the intimate dining room for a classic cut of beef, home-seasoned, hand-butchered and cooked by Bertha, a charcoal oven beast. It’s a meat eater’s paradise, with only one vegetarian option on the menu, but everything is perfectly cooked. Choose your cut from the chalkboard and sit down to enjoy the most succulent of steaks, a simple salad and a dollop of Gentleman’s Relish.

Contact: theporterhouse-oxford.com
Reservations: Recommended
Price: £ £

The perch

Tucked away in the small village of Binsey and within easy walking distance, The Perch is a 17th-century thatched-roof pub and Oxford institution. It has attracted locals across Port Meadow and along the river for centuries and was a favorite of author Lewis Carroll. On summer weekends, the garden is packed with families; in winter, muddy dogs sleep by the fire. The farm’s seasonal menu includes classics like pot-roasted ox cheeks or Gloucestershire Old Spot pork belly, though vegans and kids are well catered for too. Wash it down with some English wine before heading back to town.

Contact: the-perch.co.uk
Reservations: Recommended, essential on weekends
Price: £ £

Perch, Oxford

Perch, Oxford

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