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eating in Oxford


rshorens
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My family is making a day trip to Oxford in November to see the city and visit 2 friends of my daughter's from Yale who are studying at Oxford now. Looking for restaurants for lunch and dinner with historic atmosphere, frequented by students and faculty, good food, good value.

Thanks!

Roz

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Oxford City Centre has the most appauling selection of restaurants, aimed in the most part at the middle market. Dominated by two big players, Clinton Pugh (Lemon Tree, Kazbah, Grand Cafe, etc) and Jeremy Mogford (Quod, Gee's, Old Parsonage), there are few really fun, authentic and good value places to eat or drink. You should have a drink at The Bear (hundreds of ties on the walls, and the brewery seems to have been relatively kind with the decor), ice cream at either of George and Davis' cafes, goat curry at the jamaican eathouse on the Cowley Rd and afternoon tea at the old parsonage. I have not been to Gee's for years but might be worth a look, and the Chaing Mai thai always gets talked about.

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If you look on the guardian website, you may be able to find some hilarious recommendations by Anthony Jones who has reviewed every medicore restaurant in oxford for G2, glorifying each and every one. Don't listen to him: he is wrong.

Oxford's restaurants are dominated by two men: Jeremy Mogford and Clinton Pugh.

Mogford founded Brown's and sold it a while back. (Don't go to Brown's: the food is below poor.) He now owns Quod, The Old Parsonage and Gee's. Of these, Gee's is the gem - beautiful conservatory on the Banbury Road which was a Victorian florists (I think): it serves decent if overpriced food (veal chop for £20 - not stratospheric, but the cooking is hardly exceptional). Be that as it may, it is a lovely place to spend a couple of hours. The Old Parsonage is a great hit with American tourists - it's a lovely old building but the dining room is staid and the food unambitious. Quod is plain boring, and they don't season their food.

Pugh's restaurants are provinical-flashy and quite fun though the food is rather poor. They are: Kazbar (unremarkable pseudo tapas with ridiculously uncomfortable seats), Cafe Coco (pizza restaurant with pretensions), the Grand Cafe (overpriced, glorified coffee shop), and (has it re-opened yet?) the Lemon Tree which was reputed to be the best restaurant in Oxford a few years back but still served plenty of food reheated in the microwave (my friend's sister used to work there).

I quite like Branca, a very sensibly run place on Walton street which has a limited and simple menu of things they know the kitchen can get right: pork belly, steak, lamb with white beans and pesto (+salads and pizzas)... It is quite a brassy, noisy place, vaguely metropolitan and excellent value. Not really worth travelling for, though.

Otherwise, the Cherwell Boathouse might be worth a visit if it is a nice day - it is by the river (no surprise there) and has an incredible wine list (I think it's owned by one of Morris & Verdin). The problem is the food, which my dad says is much improved, but was distinctly middling last time I was there (a year ago today).

Other places: Al Shami - a lebanese restaurant in Jericho which is always mentioned in lazy round-ups of 'the best lebanese restaurants'. (If fakherldine (totally misspelt) has a few reviews it will probably turn up in the accompanying side-column); Petit Blanc - dull, dull, dull; some poncey Italian by the water on folly bridge: reports have not been good; Chiang Mai - above average Thai just off High Street; The Elizabeth - hilariouly retro, clubby place opposite Christchurch - famous for partridge (apparently), buy crayfish from boys who fish for them on Port Meadow, lots of ceremony, starched napery etc., cooks school food for grown ups which isn't as bad as you'd think.

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Great minds think alike endless Autumn, but I think that the Elizabeth might have shut down. Christopher Gray, the unsurprisingly dull restaurant reviewer from the Oxford Times, recently reported of a new chef at The Fishes in Sutton Courtney, who was previously HC at The Elizabeth. I might be wrong, but I am sure he said that The Elizabeth had closed.

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Christopher Gray, the unsurprisingly dull restaurant reviewer from the Oxford Times, recently reported of a new chef at The Fishes in Sutton Courtney, who was previously HC at The Elizabeth.  I might be wrong, but I am sure he said that The Elizabeth had closed.

'The Fish', not 'The Fishes'. I don't know about The Elizabeth although a search turned up a link to a website that no longer exists (from a page that also listed Gousse d'Ail as 'new'!)

I'm afraid I agree with most of the comments though, Oxford isn't overrun by great restaurants.

Cherwell Boathouse is pretty nice, and Petit Blanc can be ok but I haven't been there since they became part of the Loch Fyne chain.

Another restaurant not yet mentioned is Brookes Restaurant. I've only been once (christmas lunch), but it seemed ok. If anyone else has been there they can perhaps give an opinion. (It's part of the Brookes school of hotel & restaurant management, so not so much frequented by students and faculty as staffed by them!)

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with historic  atmosphere, frequented by students and faculty, good food, good value.

Hehe - not to demanding in ur requirements then! :wink:

In addition to the above, Lunch at the Kings Arms fulfils most of your requirements, although the food is only Average English Pub (in itself part of the experience, I guess)

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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I agree that the Turf is good for booze. If one wants the classic English pub lunch, e.g. irridescent peas, soggy pies in plastic wrap, and lots of mustard -- that is the saving graze -- they do that as well.

I have not been to Brown's in almost 25 years. When it was first opened, it was quite good for Oxford. Sad to learn it has declined. I have fond memories of Elizabeth's from the late 60s.

The other recollection I have is of some quite good places in the country about 20 to 30 minutes from Town Centre. That would require a car.

I also enjoyed shopping for cheddar, bread, cider, and crisps in the town market and heading off to the riverside for lunch. This was in the days before Neals Yard helped raise the standards for British cheese, but you usually could find a good aged veiney cheddar for sale along with fresh tomatoes and a decent crusty hardy bread.

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Maybe VivreManger is thinking of The Trout at Wolvercote? It has a lovely setting by the river, but the food is very average and its popularity means that service ends up being very slow. It's completely overrated. Worth going to for a drink, but there are plenty of better places for food.

Edited by Hollandaise (log)
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  • 1 year later...

I have a good friend who is spending a week in Oxford for an academic conference in early July. Last time he was there (2 years) ago he had a hit or miss experience in finding decent food...

So, I thought I would bump up this thread and see if anyone had any suggestions... Indian, Pub food, nicer dining suggestions are all welcomed, as are favorite pubs for tipping back a pint.

Thanks in advance!

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

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I lived in Oxford for some time and I must confess it's got a pretty awful selection of decent places to eat. Students and pushbikes abound.

Le Petit Blanc's probably the best bet in the city centre, but if you head slightly out of the city into the little villages that surround Oxford, you'll find little gems of country pubs. My personal favourite.It's not mind blowing food, but when the weather's mighty, sitting outside by the river, peacocks and jumping trout abound.

Head up the A34 to Woodstock, have a dander 'round Blenheim Palace and sample the food here. Used to be good and it's still holding two rosettes.

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I have a good friend who is spending a week in Oxford for an academic conference in early July.  Last time he was there (2 years) ago he had a hit or miss experience in finding decent food... 

So, I thought I would bump up this thread and see if anyone had any suggestions...  Indian, Pub food, nicer dining suggestions are all welcomed, as are favorite pubs for tipping back a pint.

Thanks in advance!

I think a lot of what Endless Autumn wrote above still holds true. We went to the Petit Blanc recently and it seems to have perked up a bit after going through a low spot. Certainly the service was better than it had been on previous visits, although Judy was not please to find a stone inside a morel, so there is obviously still room for improvement.

Branca's is just across the road from PB, we've only been there once, but it was pretty reasonable, and there are several other reastaurants in the area.

The Cherwell Boathouse is also worth a look, again its been a while since we went there, but the food was good as is the setting.

Le Petit Blanc's probably the best bet in the city centre, but if you head slightly out of the city into the little villages that surround Oxford, you'll find little gems of country pubs. My personal favourite.It's not mind blowing food, but when the weather's mighty, sitting outside by the river, peacocks and jumping trout abound.

But if you do go to the Trout, be sure to book ahead as they are likely to be packed out. If you continue a mile or two further along the same road you'll reach the White Hart at Wytham which is worth a visit. (I don't know if they have their own website, but here's a review.)
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Gee's Brasserie next to the Old Parsonage hotel on Banbury hotel always seemed to be quite reliable - does anyone have recent reports? here's the link

Is your friend at one of the colleges for the conference? Was at a training course at St Catz a few years back and found the food surprisingly acceptable ...

Cheers

Yin

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:angry: Petit Blanc I would personally avoid, as it definately not what it used to be, and I had my worst meal in Oxfod both service wise and unremarkable food wise.

Why not try Al Shami for great Lebanese Meze, it is fairly basic, but always busy. I would avoid the main courses( mainly grills etc), as the meze option of all the starters are great, as is the selection of Chateau Musar, Lebanons famous wine. Our favourite meze item last time was the raw lamb dish, but lots of safer options. Great Lebanese Coffee and sweets (Baklava etc).OPen 7 days 12- about 12 I think.

Its not far from the aformentiond P.B. but to me its a million miles away.

25 Walton Crescent They do have a website, but I'm not clever enough to know how to put a link on!

Enjoy :raz:

http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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Hasn't the Lemon Tree reopened now?

Yes, it reopened a while back. We haven't been yet, though it's on the list to visit sometime.

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The Trout at Wolvercote trades purely on its location and is a production line of simple pub food nothing more. It is a tourist packed hell hole on a sunny day and souless on a dull one.

The Lemon tree is still over priced. I think this can be a real problem with "provincial " chefs. They see the prices in the better restaurants in London etc and think that they can charge the same not because they provide food to the same standard but because they are better than other local restaurants and therefore can get away with it.

I hasten to add that not all provincial restaurants fall into this trap :biggrin: but many do and when people judge a restaurant on the price of its food (easy to do if you are a stranger to the area) then it is a real pig to find that its really misleading.

The best bet is to get out of town. (The Cherwell Boathouse excepted which is, at present, on top form) Try the Trout at Tadpole Bridge or The Mason Arms at South Leigh (this is v.pricey (with no prices on the menu, on the basis that if you need to ask dont go) but the best recommendation I can give for this place was that Mr M Winner slagged it off for being pretentious! Every table is served a new pat of (thoroughly scumptious) italian butter left in the wrapper. Mike said that he expects the butter unwrapped if he is paying the bill. The review is framed and on the wall. Raymond Blanc is a regular here and he and I agree that the food is very very good.

And of course talking of Raymond, Le Manoir aux Quatres Saisons is not far away for a real treat.

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I endorse Chiang Mai Kitchen. Old building (which once housed either Bleu, Blanc, Rouge or La Sorbonne); good Thai food.

I agree too that Gees is nice and that Cherwell Boat House is uneven, but very pleasant on a summer's evening. In past years I've eaten three times at Petit Blanc, never really well.

No one has mentioned the riverside Italian restaurant Aquavitae, at Folly Bridge. I very much enjoyed my one meal there, I think three summers ago.

It is sad that there are no terrific non-Asian restaurants in Oxford. And baffling.

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:biggrin: After thinking about Oxford for a bit, I was going to mention the above restaurant, instead here's a couple of extras from when I used to live in Jericho- The Duke of Cambridge was always fun for drinks on Little Clarendon Street, and the best burgers to take away after too many in there come from Peppers, about 100 yards, down the road from Petit Blanc- in fact you would probably see all the staff in there late on geting some food! :smile:

http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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Mason Arms at South Leigh (this is v.pricey (with no prices on the menu, on the basis that if you need to ask dont go) but the best recommendation I can give for this place was that Mr M Winner slagged it off for being pretentious!

Forgot about the legendary Gerry Stonhill's place. Once referred to as 'the most arrogant man in England' by Michael Winner. I do like irony...

He used to have a sign above his door, proclaiming 'No kids, no mobile phones, no disabled' and used a mobile phone scrambler so no one could possibly get a signal.

Needless to say the PC brigade put an end to his rather odd and discriminatory practices. Top food though and always a good selection of fine wines.

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Gee, was I imagining it then? Gosh, how foolish of me.

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

I must remember never to post personal observations, opinions or facts whilst posting on egullet

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