Vaults and Garden
This central café has got it covered whatever the weather. If it’s raining, cosy up inside under the stunning vaulted ceilings of the University’s Old Congregation House with a hot chocolate; if the sun is shining head out into the garden, and enjoy your tea with incredible views of Radcliffe Camera. Vaults and Garden serves breakfast and lunch, as well as a good selection of cakes and scone, but it’s the little extras – like offering picnic blankets in the summer and hot water bottles in the winter – that makes this place so special.
The Natural Bread Company
If the smell of freshly baked bread doesn’t draw you into the café, the display of tempting cakes and pastries will! The Natural Bread Company is an artisan bakery in the heart of Oxford, with a small café inside. Here you can sample first-hand the delicious freshly made produce; whether that’s sourdough toast with your Full English or an afternoon pot of tea with a slice of homemade orange polenta cake. And of course it would be rude not to stock up on some warm loaves and pastries at the shop before you leave…!
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.
The Jam Factory
Located in the old Frank Cooper jam and marmalade factory, a beautiful early 20th-century brick building purpose-built for the company’s jam producing needs, The Jam Factory has since been converted into a contemporary restaurant, bar and art gallery. The venue is now dedicated to supporting artists and promoting the local cultural scene through exhibiting artworks, running classes and workshops, and offering a free space for live acts to perform. The bar, meanwhile, offers an extensive drinks menu, from craft beers and real ales, to a varied wine selection to suit everybody’s tastes, making The Jam Factory an excellent spot to relax over a few drinks in an unusual yet beautiful setting.
The Duke of Cambridge
Classy, elegant and old-fashioned, The Duke of Cambridge epitomises the classic cocktail bar and is the perfect destination for post-dinner drinks, or to simply unwind on a Friday evening in a beautiful setting. Stepping inside, guests are greeted by dramatic, glittering chandeliers, dark polished wooden floors and curved sofas set into the wall, perfect for relaxing and socialising. The drinks menu is extensive, ranging from classic favourites such as the Cosmopolitan and Sex on the Beach, to quirky twists on the Martini, including the Crème Brûlée, vanilla vodka and butterscotch schnapps shaken with cream. The Duke of Cambridge offers a generous Happy Hour seven days a week.
The Old Personage Afternoon Tea
Where in Oxford is best for afternoon tea?’ this is the question we sent out into the ether of local facebook groups and, for a special occasion, the answer was overwhelmingly in favour of The Old Parsonage. The nature and delightful sunshine as well as slate-coloured wooden panelling, intimate lighting, a quirky collection of portraits and stuffed fish (go figure) and two roaring open fires you can feel as though you have stepped into the Parson’s personal study.
A restaurant combined with a punt station, the Cherwell Boathouse boasts one of the best views in the city. This allows you to look out over the river with a glass from their extensive wine list, which has won ‘Wine List of the Year’ from the Good Food Guide. Owned by the Verdin family since 1968, when the restaurant was first opened, the menu matches British ingredients with Gallic flair. Delicious, unusual dishes on the menu include an artichoke crème caramel, fillet of beef with foie gras and a white chocolate and cardamom mousse. A perfect end to a day spent enjoying Oxford’s many treasures is to indulge in a meal in this ideal spot overlooking the historic pastime of punting.
Turl Street Kitchen
Not only does Turl Street Kitchen boast excellent quality food, meriting a place in the Good Food Guide, but it is housed in a building with a surprising history. Having begun life as lodgings for students of Exeter College in 1785, the space became a coffee house by 1820. In 1945, the Bahadur brothers opened the Taj Mahal restaurant on site, one of the first curry houses in the country. After a few years as the QI building and library, it is now home to a down-to-earth restaurant and café with a menu that changes daily, demonstrating their impressive commitment on sourcing local ingredients.
Opened in 2014 by Adam Tan, who formerly worked as front of house at Sojo, one of Oxford’s premier Chinese restaurants, Zheng is an inclusive affair. Named for Zheng He, the fabled explorer of the 15th century, the restaurant follows in his footsteps by including food from all over the Asian continent without skimping on quality. You can test your mettle against the intense heat of the Sichuanese ‘Grandmother’s Chilli’, savour the crunch of the Singaporean cereal prawns and enjoy the distinctive sweetness of Cantonese pork belly. Serving a Dim Sum menu on top of its impressive choice of dishes, Zheng is a must-visit restaurant for those wishing to sample Oxford’s up and coming culinary scene.
On walking into Atomic Burger you are greeted with a veritable explosion of popular culture, ideal for those who remember Saturday morning cartoons and MTV marathons. Atomic Burger’s décor is brash, fun and bold, just like their food. The burgers all have titles taken from popular culture, from the ‘Dolly Parton’ which comes with double patties and double bacon, to the ‘Boris Karloff,’ which is their take on the build-your-own. Each burger comes with a choice of sides, including their ‘sci fries’, traditional fries covered with a moreish rub made from chilli and garlic. Those with big appetites should also try one of their milkshakes, which come in alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions. The premises are small, so if you have trouble finding a table, try their sister restaurant Atomic Pizza further down Cowley Road, which also serves melt-in-the-mouth burgers.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons
A footpath lined with lavender winds its way up to a vine-covered manor house hotel and restaurant. Inside it’s even more fragrant: boasting two Michelin stars, this is a spot for special occasions – tasting menus are complex, delicate and very expensive. If things get really special, you can always book a five-star room upstairs.