Wondering where to eat in Oxford? The Oxford food scene is growing year on year and with hundreds of restaurants, cafés and markets to pick from, the choice can feel overwhelming. We’ve digested the full range into a more palatable selection, from cheerful quick eats at Crisis Skylight Café to elegant fine dining at Gee’s.
With almost 500 restaurants within the ring road, nine of which featured in the 2018 Michelin Restaurant Guide, Oxford has the quantity and quality to deliver whatever dining experience your heart desires.
Whether you fancy British classics, French decadence, Japanese elegance, exotic Nepalese, or practically anything else, our pick of restaurants in Oxford will cater for your every need.
Oxford has a proud café culture – whether you’re looking for luxurious treats at The Grand Café, games and snacks at Thirsty Meeples, or a quiet brew at local institution G&D’s, there really is something for you on every street corner. Here are just some of the excellent cafés in Oxford.
If you’re only in Oxford for a short time, Vaults and Garden Café is a perfect place to start. Grab a seat out in the garden if you can, or just lie back on the grass, where you can admire some of the city’s finest architectural landmarks in Radcliffe Square. The garden is a real sun trap and, under blue skies the honey-coloured stone of Radcliffe Camera, Brasenose, and All Souls Colleges is a sight to behold. If the weather isn’t so favourable the 14th-century vaulted ceiling of the café, underneath the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin, has its own charm. At Vaults you’ll find a varied menu of hot lunches, organic salads and homemade cakes – and if tea and coffee aren’t your thing, the sensational Willie’s Cacao hot chocolate might hit the spot.
As a top-ranked café on TripAdvisor, you’d expect a lengthy lunchtime queue at Café from Crisis on George Street. But their delicious yet affordable meals have gone under the radar among many locals. Café from Crisis is within the Old Fire Station, home to an arts centre and theatre, which may be why the café goes relatively unnoticed. Also known as Crisis Skylight Café, the name comes from the charity Crisis who run the eatery. Training and work opportunities are offered to homeless people, so your pennies will go to a worthwhile cause.
Another spot that could pass you by is Fernando’s Café, on Queen Street. Nestled behind the historic Carfax Tower – look for the Brazilian flag out front – the owner Fernando serves paninis, salads and hearty hot meals, all reasonably priced. Check the daily specials, as the traditional Brazilian meals include such crowd favourites as picanha and feijoada – plates of rice, beans and meat that warm the soul. Fernando’s may not look like much, but with generous portions and value for money, you’re guaranteed to walk away satisfied.
If you prefer a delicate brunch to a rustic lunch, head to Organic Deli Café & Wholefoods Store in Friars Entry, a charming alley tucked behind the White Rabbit that connects Gloucester Green with Magdalen Street. With all-day vegan breakfasts and a selection of gluten-free breads among the menu regulars, Organic Deli ensures no customer is left out.
Colombia Coffee Roasters inside Covered Market is a relatively recent addition to Oxford’s coffee houses, staking a claim to be the city’s premium establishment for a speciality brew. With a hand in the whole process from tree to cup, these folks take their coffee seriously and share their wisdom during tasting sessions and coffee courses. If you’re willing to spend a little extra in search for the perfect cuppa, this is the place for you.
History touches every corner of the city of dreaming spires, sometimes leading to disputed heritage. On Oxford’s High Street, next to The Queen’s College, two cafés sit face to face, each claiming to be most venerable. The Grand Café, adorned with marble, mirrors and afternoon tea stands, is where the first-ever coffee house in England opened, in 1650. While Queen’s Lane Coffee House, a more modest affair but one of the few places to savour a Turkish coffee, has been in business since 1654, longer than any other European café.
There are other, younger cafés also regarded as Oxford institutions, chief among them being G&D’s Café. G&D’s is the collective name for a mini empire of ice cream emporiums, owned by Oxford resident George Stroup, that began with George and Davis in Little Clarendon Street. Since then George has been joined by Danver in St. Aldate’s, opposite Christ Church College, and then Delila in Cowley Road, a 15-minute bus ride from our Oxford hotel. The identities of George’s friends remain a mystery, but it’s common knowledge that any G&D’s café you visit is a friendly place where you can sit back with a cuppa and a treat.
Oxford has a range of food markets for you to visit. There’s a city centre marketplace, selling what you’d expect – just about anything. But look closer and you’ll find community-run cooperatives dotted throughout, offering all kinds of local produce.
The obvious choice of markets in Oxford is Gloucester Green Market, an open-air collection of stalls open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. You’ll find general wares, flowers, clothes and, you guessed it, fresh fruit and veggies. Though fair warning, the food market stalls are only open on Wednesdays 9am–4pm and Saturdays from 10am–5pm.
Farmers have set out their stalls on this spot for hundreds of years. Nowadays the food market also hosts independent bakeries and street food stalls serving an impressive variety of cuisines. With Ethiopian, Hungarian, Venezuelan and more, the chances are you’ll sample something new.
Talking of street food, Bitten Street market in Oxford Castle Quarter has made a name for itself as one of the UK’s best street food markets since opening in 2014. The vendors, carefully curated by the folks at Bitten, gather on the first Saturday of the month. As of 2018, Bitten market has added arts and crafts and local produce to its repertoire.
Oxford Community Markets, an umbrella group of markets, are another shining example of local people making things happen. Among them, East Oxford Farmers’ and Community Market just off Cowley Road is a prime example. This charming cooperative has been filling East Oxford Primary School’s assembly hall, from 10am to 1pm every Saturday, for over a decade. The stallholders are proudly local to the Oxford area and are passionate about their locally sourced produce. Whether they’re selling fresh fruit and veg, homemade chutneys or home-baked bread and cakes, they’ll always serve you with a smile.
There are plenty of reasons for visiting Oxford. Whether it's the world-famous university, Westgate shopping sprees, world-class museums, or the waistband-busting food scene, you can take your pick from four wonderful Oxford hotels with parking. Each one is an excellent base for exploring this most-fascinating of cities.
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