The Old Parsonage Hotel and its restaurant are a somewhat swankier affair entirely. It’s where the socialites of Oxford hang out in town before drinking Zombies at Lola Lo. The restaurant is less formal than its sister outfit Quod, though, and focuses on afternoon teas and all-day dining. But it’s more interesting as it has grounds to veer further from the safe bet of confit duck with red cabbage. There’s smoked haddock and cod fishcakes, for instance, as well as roasted bone marrow and a goats’ cheese soufflé.
The Rickety Press
Oxford’s food aficionados believe this used to be the best restaurant in the city. When the magnificent Charles Michel was still about town, he’d frequent the pub. So too did the Oxford Gastronomica lot, who know a thing or two about eating. When it launched, the Rickety Press was a low-key, food-focused restaurant with fine cooking and ideas you’d struggle to match unless you went out into The Cotswolds, or down to Henley. Now, it’s had a bit of a makeover and it seems to be more geared towards a crowd that wishes it were in London but still has a year at university to contend with. Pizza and burgers – but good ones
Probably the most ‘Oxford’ restaurant ever conceived is the Cherwell Boathouse. It’s what it says it is, and you dine next to a particularly tranquil spot on the Thames, all ducks and sunshine. The regular menu is a bit fussy and can sometimes be a little too ‘parents taking you out for a nice meal but forgot to book somewhere properly amazing’ – but go for a tasting menu, where slow cooked pheasant egg is paired with things like a 2007 Meursault, and venison loin alongside a 2002 Volnay 1er Cru Santenots du Milieu.
Led by Raymond Blanc, Brasserie Blanc first opened its doors in 1996. This restaurant is all about the French cuisine (‘honest food, cooked with the heart’ is his motto) – and the best of it. Their menus are seasonal and the set menu currently features the likes of risotto verdi, pan-fried plaice and steak frites.
The Ashmolean Museum is known across the country for its fantastic collection of art and artefacts, but few know of its equally fantastic rooftop restaurant, famed for its afternoon tea. There are lots of different teas to choose from, or prosecco if you choose the ‘Celebration Tea’, perfect for accompanying their selection of cakes, temptingly placed on display in the centre of restaurant. The Ashmolean building itself is magnificent, and was refurbished in 2009, modernising the interior whilst preserving all that is architecturally brilliant in its classical values and appearance. There is, of course, a café downstairs but the real joy sits at the top of the building. This is the perfect spot for a well-deserved break from gallery hopping or to simply enjoy its unrivalled view of the roofs of Oxford, from behind the floor-to-ceiling glass windows or, English weather permitting, from outside on the terrace.
The Trout Inn
The Trout Inn is a well-known and well-loved historic pub located in Oxford’s Port Meadow, a large area of common land filled with flora and fauna just a few minutes walk from the centre of the city. Nestled on the banks of the River Thames, which runs through the meadow, the pub still retains many of its traditional features, including a listed wooden footbridge. Outside, tables and chairs in the garden area offer excellent views of the river, surrounding countryside and the pub’s beautiful stone building, while the interior boasts comfy sofas, roaring log fires and period features in a quaint dining room area.
Another Oxford pub with a ‘gastro’ concept is The Perch. Tucked away next to the canal, cycling here on a warm day is quite special. The food is very simple – don’t expect anything majestic. But if you’re in need of some fish and chips and a pint of ale, you’ll be hard-pressed to find better.
Located in the pretty suburb of Summertown, Pompette – the French word for tipsy – serves up a European-inspired menu, with nods to head chef Pascal Wiedemann’s French roots. Enjoy cured meats sand cheese paired with a selection of European wines at the charcuterie wine bar, or opt for a more formal dinner in the dining room. Pascal’s maximum favour, minimum waste ethos is reflected throughout the menu, with current dishes on the menu including Montbéliard sausage with puy lentils and Dijon mustard; salmon with creamed coco beans and brown shrimps; and St Austell mussels with nduja, white wine, cream and parsley.