Travel | Posted 19 Apr 2016

Oxford is one of the most beautiful and architecturally iconic cities in the United Kingdom. The combination of University buildings, churches, and monuments imbue the city with history, a history that dates back to the Saxon period. The city is often known as the “City of dreaming spires” – a phrase coined by 19th Century poet and oxford alumnus Matthew Arnold.

As well as great architecture and history, Oxford also has its fair share of fantastic restaurants, ranging from Michelin-starred haute cuisine to pop-up markets and cafes. Here we take a tour of restaurants that combine both the famous views of Oxford with its amazing food.

If you are planning a trip to Oxford, take a look at some of our top recommendations on things to see and do.

The Cherwell Boathouse


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A charming Edwardian boathouse – and as you can see in the photo above, yes it is a working boathouse – however with an upscale but friendly restaurant inside The boathouse has been in operation for over one hundred years and from Mid-March to Mid-October you can hire a punt to enjoy the river at a cost of £18 an hour or £90 a day at weekends (or for slightly less during the week).

On the menu is a range of hearty dishes including classic English mains like braised shoulder of lamb, blade of Oxfordshire beef and roast chicken. Their feasting menu offers two courses for £20.50 or three courses for £26.25. There is also the choice of canapés, buffet and barbeque menus, and an extensive wine list. In the summer the riverside deck is open, letting diners enjoy the food while taking in the gentle, tranquil flow of the river Cherwell.

Vaults and Garden Café


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Set in the very heart of Oxford, the University Church of St Mary the Virgin is home to the Vaults & Garden café. The surrounding landscape features the University Church gardens, the Radcliffe Camera (an 18th Century building designed to host the science library) and Brasenose College. The café has a focus on fresh, organic food and the promotion of healthy living and sustainability.

The café offers healthy options for breakfast, lunch and tea time treats. Some of their current menu items include Sri Lankan chicken curry, organic beef bourguignon, Wychwood venison, or vegetarian options, such as spiced chick pea tagine or goat’s cheese and lentil tart. Prices are in the eight-to-ten pound range. Afternoon tea is £3.95 for two and comes with a choice of scones or cakes, starting at £2.80.

The Trout


Trout Inn by the Thames at Godstow by Rod Allday / CCBY (image size has been modified)

A few miles from Oxford city centre, on the banks of the Thames river, stands the 17th Century pub – The Trout Inn. As you can see from the picture above, views of the river from the Inn’s beer garden offer an idyllic waterside setting. In keeping with the city’s reputation as an academic beacon, The Trout Inn has literary ties, having featured in the novel Brideshead Revisted and in the Inspector Morse series.

The food is typical gastropub fare – lunch includes hearty sandwiches, burgers, ham and eggs, steaks and a selection of fish dishes. A fixed price lunch menu is available Monday to Friday, setting you back £12.50 for two courses or £15.50 for three. Sunday sees a traditional roasts offered alongside the usual mains, with beef, pork loin, chicken lamb, and a vegetarian option. 

Ashmolean Dining Room

Dining Room

Ashmolean Museum Oxford Rooftop Dining Room Terrace 2014 by Sarah Casey / CCBY (image size has been modified)

This roof-top restaurant was opened as part of huge refit to the Ashmolean Museum that took place in 2009. The dining room now looks out onto the city below, with a wall of glass opening onto a terrace, where you can dine outdoors while taking in the city centre views. The food is a mix of British and European cuisine and is open for lunch and afternoon tea every day.

The dining room is open for dinner Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the menu has a small selection of main dishes – all in the £15 range. They also offer a set dinner menu of 2 courses (£15.50) and 3 courses (£18.00) before 7.30pm and a similar offer for lunch throughout the week. Afternoon tea offers such delights as tarragon panna cotta and elderflower & blackberry jelly.

The Folly


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A unique location both close to the centre of Oxford and right by the side of the Thames. The Folly’s terrace floats next to the Folly Bridge, and also offers a pre-dinner cruise on an Edwardian river launch that disembarks adjacent to the restaurant. This location really emphasises the strengths of Oxford as a city, combining the amazing architecture, views of the river and seasonal, locally-sourced food.

The main menu offers one (£15.95), two (£22.95) or three (£28.95) courses, with main dishes currently including guinea fowl, fillet of bream, Cornish mussels and slow-cooked beef cheek, though the seasonal menu is subject to change depending on when you visit.

Bursting with culture, heritage, architecture, and fine food, this city is a must. Our Oxford hotel sits just north of the city, can be the perfect base for exploring the centre and attractions beyond (including Blenheim Palace)!

See what Oxford has to offer and book a city break.

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