Where to Eat in Oxford, England

From low-key Japanese fare enjoy around communal tables to British classics enjoyed from bubblegum-pink banquettes, Oxford's food offering is eclectic. Here's where to eat beneath the dreaming spires.

A lunch dish at Vaults & Gardens in Oxford city centre

restaurant

Vaults & Garden

Hidden in the vaults (literally) of a 13th-century church, this atmospheric lunch spot is hugely popular with health-conscious students. Pick up the likes of sweet potato curries, Tuscan beef stews and a wide range of colourful salads. The portions are generous and the food homemade and nourishing, with ingredients sourced from Oxfordshire allotments and cooperatives. Visiting in the afternoon? Don’t miss the delicious cream tea with scones and cakes, best enjoyed in the garden, overlooking the Radcliffe Camera.

Address

1 Radcliffe Sq, OX1 4AH

Edamame, in Oxford

restaurant

Edamame

The reputation of this tiny Japanese restaurant precedes it: expect to find a queue of eager lunchtime walk-ins at 11.50 daily. It doesn’t take bookings, so you’ll have to get here early if you want to be in with a chance of tasting Oxford’s most homely Japanese cooking. Sushi doesn’t make an appearance, apart from on Thursday nights. For the rest of the week, you’ll find traditional dishes like fragrant chicken karaage, pan-fried salmon batayaki, tofu stir-frys and octopus takoyaki pancakes.

Address

15 Holywell St, OX1 3SA

The Alice at The Randolph Hotel

restaurant

The Alice

The bubblegum-pink banquettes at The Alice, housed within The Randolph Hotel, might be divisive, but the cooking is not: who would turn their nose up at Colchester oysters with apple and jalapeños, after all, or game terrine with blackberries and brioche? Chef Chris Emery is renowned for serving up seasonal British dishes with unique twists, but you’ll find classics like fish and chips joyfully untouched. An after-dinner whisky in The Randolph’s atmospheric Morse Bar is a must.

Address

Beaumont St, OX1 2LN

Dishes on offer at Green Routes Cafe, Oxford

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Green Routes Café

Proof that collaborations can exceed the sum of their parts, Green Routes is a celebration of coffee and plants – or, to be specific, Oxford-roasted beans from Routes Coffee and vegan cooking from Greenbox Food Co. With weekly one-pots (featuring slow-roasted vine tomato marinara and pesto orzo), three-course Sunday “Jazz Roasts” and a £5 bap-and-coffee deal, Green Routes packs a punch from its humble east Oxford address. The real bonus is that brunch is served seven days a week, so you can start the day right with a cup of the house blend and a (vegan) New York salt-“beef” bagel. Those after a sweet hit need look no further than the chocolate orange and salted pretzel pancakes.

Address

39 Magdalen Rd, OX4 1RB

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Arbequina

With its crumbling “Pharmacy” shop signage and simple tapas menu, Arbequina keeps its cards close to its chest. But, with a team that comprises Ben Whyles and Rufus Thurston of the city’s lauded Oli’s Thai, Arbequina is bound to exceed even high expectations. Plates are both classic (patatas bravas) and punchy (pork belly with crackling and mojo verde), with thoughtful sourcing of ingredients – olive oil and spices come from local Maroc Deli. For a luxurious lunchtime spent perched atop a banquette or a sultry evening spent lounging in a bay window, Arbequina is your place. Our pick? Rustled up from behind the vintage stainless-steel counter, in all its unctuous, golden glory, is the best tortilla this side of San Sebastián.

Address

72-74 Cowley Rd, OX4 1JB

The dining room at Gee's in Oxford

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Gee’s

For all the newcomers taking root across the city, it makes no sense to overlook the beloved classics. With its famous greenhouse – an oasis of vintage tiles and olive trees – Gee’s is a delightful spot at any time of day or year. And, with a major extension coming this spring, there’ll soon be even more reason to bring a crowd. Start with a house daiquiri and sharing pizzettas, then dive into the Oxford-meets-the-Med menu – a parade of buttery Orkney scallops, duck ragù fettuccine and burrata with beets.

Address

61 Banbury Rd, OX2 6PE