Oxfordshire has a wealth of fabulous venues for wining and dining. Perhaps the most celebrated is Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, its gardens tucked away behind high walls in Great Milton.
The Feathers at Woodstock takes great pride in its food, as does The Manor at Weston on the Green. Fallowfields Country House Hotel keeps Dexter cattle, geese, hens and ducks – you can go and commune with them near the orchard or admire the well-tended herb ‘n’ veggie patch. The Old Swan and Minster Mill, serene by the River Windrush, has an idyllic Cotswold setting.
If the country mansion lifestyle appeals, you can dine with elegance at Blenheim Palace or at Heythrop Park’srestaurant, set in an historically important landscaped garden complete with golf course.
Country hotels/ inns and pubs across the County offer a wide range of dining experiences, some featuring local produce, other specialising in local game. You may come across unexpected delights like the Feathered Nest and the Bay Tree, both in the picturesque Cotswold town of Burford.
Garden Centres are often worth a call – amid the colourful orchids of Newington Nurseries (grown by the owner), you can take tea and home-made cakes and lunches for special occasions.
Oxford Canal, once a hive of industrial activity, is now the scene of gentle holiday outings – but many old canal-side pubs survive and tea shops like Annie’s Tea Room meet our modern requirements. And look out for local tea shops, churches, village halls and the like, offering home made cakes and maybe preserves.They are an excellent way to meet the locals.
Outside Oxford the Bear and Ragged Staff at Cumnor (a pretty thatched village) and the Perch at Binsey offer fine food. The White Hart in the thatched village of Wytham (a short walk from Wolvercote) and the Black Boy in Old Headington may be worth considering. The Fox and Hounds, standing amid thatched cottages at Uffington, not far from our only prehistoric White Horse, is a traditional English pub – and all the better for it!
PUBS and BISTROS – Oxford
Students, townspeople and visitors all share their enthusiasm for Oxford’s plethora of pubs, cafés, bistros, wine bars and restaurants which serve food and drink in a huge variety of settings and styles.
Historic pubs: include The Eagle & Child in St Giles, the regular meeting place of JRR Tolkien and his literary group, the Inklings; the Lamb and Flag, (the symbol of St John – whose college owns the pub) also in St Giles; the White
Horse on Broad Street – Oxford’s smallest pub, much frequented by ‘Inspector Morse’; the KA (King’s Arms) on the
corner of Holywell Street; The Bear in Alfred Street, famed for its tie collection; and The Turf Tavern, built up against the 12th century city wall where Aussie PM Bob Hawke’s record for drinking a yard of ale still stands; the Rose & Crown on North Parade. Far from the Madding Crowd, tucked away behind Magdalen Street, is an excellent place to meet up for a chat. The Mitre is Oxford’s oldest inn, once owned and managed by the real Alice in Wonderland’s former governess.
Riverside pubs: include The Head of The River on St Aldate’s (Folly Bridge); the Trout at Wolvercote; the Isis near Iffley; the Perch at Binsey and the Victoria Arms in Marston, the destination of many a punt trip. The Oxford Visitor Information Centre sells a publication about Oxfordshire Pubs – also available in its e-shop.
WHERE TO EAT – Oxford
From the Ashmolean‘s modern roof-top restaurant to the Macdonald Randolph’s two AA rosette grandeur, from the Oxford Hotel’s modern AA rosette restaurant to Jamie’s Italian on George Street and from Raymond Blanc’s le Petit Blanc to Brown’s on the Woodstock Road, beloved of students and their parents, Oxford offers a diversity of eateries to suit all tastes and purses. The Living Room also offers roof-top dining for those balmy summer/autumn evenings.
Cuisines from all over the world are represented, including the: Chiang Mai (Thai), Edamame (Japanese – good for hungry students) and Shanghai 30 (Chinese). For real, authentic Chinese eating try My Sichuan in Gloucester Green, adjacent to the family-run Gino’s Spaghetti House – which does what it says on the tin. La Strada also serves freshly cooked Italian food – and has a discount for groups who have taken an Official Walking Tour.
Quod on the High is a good place to see and be seen its their meat comes from the owner’s farm. Cherwell Boathouse, romantically situated on the banks of the River Cherwell, is always worth a visit for fresh food with a French flavour. The next-door café’s good for a snack after a punting trip. Also enjoying a riverside location, No 1 Folly Bridge’s French chef adds that little ‘je ne sais quoi’ to his dishes. Or you can eat on board with Oxford River Cruises.
The Oxford Castle Complex hosts a variety of eateries including The Big Bang, famed for its (almost) infinite varieties of sausage. You can sample the Malmaison‘s dishes using local ingredients – in Oxford’s former prison; staying the night is optional! The Jam Factory offers locally sourced food (+ Scottish beef) and cultural experiences ranging from science talks to skateboard art.
Tea shops abound including The Rose (on the High), Georgina’s (Covered Market), the Nosebag (St Michael Street) and The Cafe in the Town Hall which is a good excuse to take a brief look at the building -Victorian ‘wedding cake’. Other suggestions would include 1071 near the Oxford Castle for a sandwich, coffee + cake. Patisserie Valerie on the High and The Vault at St Mary the Virgin Church, offer tempting lunches and goodies. For a real Afternoon Tea Experience, though, you have to go to the Macdonald Randolph – booking is advised.
Right in the heart of Oxford is Bill’s, named after a greengrocer from Lewes: good food in a good location. Fire and Stone have a pizza place in the centre of Oxford (watch them at work) and Pizza Express‘ rooms in the Golden Cross display Elizabethan wall paintings to good effect; they don’t mind if you just go and have a look.
Most city centre pubs such as the Turf, the Mitre, the King’s Arms, The White Hart on Broad Street, The Eagle & Child and Lamb & Flag offer a selection of eatables for the weary traveller. St Aldate’s Tavern provides food freshly made daily on the premises, with excellent seasonal choices both for one and to share.
A warm summer’s day makes refreshing home-made ice-cream an imperative – and one of D & G’s cow-motifed cafes can’t be too far away. The Covered Market’s takeaway salad bars, hot biscuit shop, smoothies bar and bakery (get your lardy and dough cake here), along with the famous Brown’s (no pretensions) Café and the Pieminister pie shop cater for hungry city centre folk. Pieminister‘s pies are freshly made locally – in Bristol – well, Bristol’s not that far away! The locals, students and those in the know head for the world-ranging eateries on the Cowley Road – but that’s a world away…..
Information courtesy of Visit Oxfordshire
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