Hardens Guide to the Best Restaurants in Oxford
Hardens guides have spent 32 years compiling reviews of the best Oxford restaurants. On Hardens.com you'll find details and reviews of 51 restaurants in Oxford and our unique survey based approach to rating and reviewing Oxford restaurants gives you the best insight into the top restaurants in every area and of every type of cuisine.
Featured Oxford Restaurants
1. Cherwell Boathouse British, Modern restaurant in Oxford Bardwell Road - OX2
“An idyllic setting on the River Cherwell” – “right on the water, watching comings and goings and the odd person going overboard on their rowing boats” – guarantees a memorable occasion at this “beautiful Oxford institution”, incorporated into a boathouse (run by the Verdin family since 1968). The food has always risked playing second fiddle here, and even though fans praise its “simple but perfect cooking”, there were a number of “very average” reports this year (“I have had worse, but prefer better”) or gripes about an excessive level of pricing. Some compensation can be found in “the best wine list in Oxford”… or “you can always hire a punt”.
2. Shoryu Ramen Japanese restaurant in Oxford The Westgate, Queen Street - OX1
“Genuine Japanese-style ramen and dumplings” from Japan Centre owner Tak Tokumine hit the spot with “generous portions, excellent flavours” and “very good service” at his expanding group based in the West End. There are now seven venues in London, plus Ichiba food hall in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush and offshoots in Oxford and Manchester. The summer 2022 launch of a branch in Kensington High Street was expected to be the first of several under a new franchising arrangement.
3. Chiang Mai Thai restaurant in Oxford Kemp Hall Passage, 130a High Street - OX1
Bang in the middle of Oxford – occupying an early seventeenth-century building where Raymond Blanc cut his teeth as a chef in the 70s – this solidly rated Thai outfit celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. “Very much eclipsed in the last decade by Oli’s Thai, but the latter’s closure leaves a gap which this old favourite partially fills”.
4. The Vaults and Garden Cafe British, Modern restaurant in Oxford University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Radcliffe Sq - OX1
“In the medieval vaults of the University Church, in the centre of Oxford and the university” – this sweet but also “busy and vibrant” self-service café serves “large portions of freshly-cooked daily specials at very reasonable prices, as well as soups and salads”. Great views of the Radcliffe Camera from the outside tables.
5. Quod British, Modern restaurant in Oxford 92-94 High St - OX1
The “modern brasserie” in the central Old Bank Hotel serves “interesting, well thought-out dishes with a bit of pizzazz” in a “nice room – not too formal but equally quite smart”. It’s “such a pleasant place to eat: the food is not fancy and overworked but properly and consistently cooked”, and “the prices are very reasonable”. “Service is pleasant and efficient without being particularly friendly – like the food, they get the job done.”
6. No.1 Ship Street British, Modern restaurant in Oxford 1 Ship Street - OX1
“Classic bistro food” – “delicious and beautifully presented, amid a good ambience” – makes this a handy venue for a meal, an easy walk from the Ashmolean Museum in the city centre; the set lunch is particularly good value.
7. Sticks'n'Sushi Japanese restaurant in Oxford Rooftop Terrace, 311 The Westgate, Castle Street - OX1
The “surprisingly delicious and wide-ranging menu” combines sushi with yakitori skewers (the so-called ‘sticks’) at this extremely popular Japanese-inspired group, whose “bustling” branches betray the Scandi style of their Copenhagen-based owners. It’s “a perfect choice if not everyone wants sushi” (even if it’s “expensive and portions are a bit on the small side”). A tenth branch is promised in late 2022 in Westfield W12.
8. Pizza Pilgrims Pizza restaurant in Oxford Westgate Roof Terrace - OX1
“Much better than the long-established, tired pizza chains!” – the Elliot brothers’ growing group is the most-mentioned of London’s more artisanal pizza multiples in our annual diners’ poll, inspiring joy with their “authentic Neapolitan preparation, with quality ingredients” and featuring “yummy crusts and interesting flavour combinations”. And you get “consistent quality irrespective of the branch visited” too, even if conditions can be “a little cramped and chaotic”.
9. Ashmolean Dining Room British, Modern restaurant in Oxford Beaumont St - OX1
“The beautiful roof terrace of the Ashmolean Museum” makes a “great location” for an “excellent afternoon tea” – with a glass-fronted indoor area for winter use and an open-air lounging space and bar in the summer. More generally though, it’s “a pity the food is overpriced and doesn’t live up to the setting”.
10. Sichuan Grand Chinese restaurant in Oxford The Old School, Gloucester Grn - OX1
“Brilliant cooking and a very buzzy atmosphere” attract a “significant Chinese clientele” to this “big restaurant in the lovely Old School on Gloucester Green”, in the middle of Oxford. It has a sister restaurant at Westfield Stratford in east London.
11. Pierre Victoire French restaurant in Oxford Little Clarendon St - OX1
This “old-school” Gallic bistro is “consistently good in every way, and still probably the best-value food within walking distance of the city centre”. It’s also “much better than the chain used to be” (having split off when that company went spectacularly bust 25 years ago).
12. Wilding British, Modern restaurant in Oxford 11 Little Clarendon Street - OX1
This “independent & affordable” restaurant, wine bar and vintner in Jericho makes a “very welcome addition to the Oxford food & drink scene”. With more than 400 vintages available, wine is very much the star of the show, backed up by “very knowledgeable staff” and a “friendly ambience”. There are also branches in Salisbury and Frome.
13. Al-Shami Lebanese restaurant in Oxford 25 Walton Cr - OX1
2021 Review: This Jericho veteran inspires remarkable loyalty from fans – “been coming since it opened 30 years ago and it’s still the best Lebanese I’ve found in the UK” – “and great value too”. Others find it “pleasant enough”, with a “wide range of nicely flavoured dishes”, but complain there’s “no excitement”.
14. The Porterhouse Steaks & grills restaurant in Oxford Mill Street - OX2
2021 Review: “First class steaks” and “excellent wine pairings” help win enthusiastic reviews for this large, attractively converted pub near the train station, which opened a couple of years ago.
15. Cuttlefish Fish & seafood restaurant in Oxford 36 St Clement’s Street - OX4
“Fresh fish cooked simply to perfection” is the siren call to this “great seafood spot on St Clement’s, in the heart of the city”. The menu runs the gamut from burgers and ‘posh fish fingers’ through to fresh Devon oysters, Canadian lobsters and seafood paella with black venus rice.
16. The Old Parsonage British, Modern restaurant in Oxford 1 Banbury Rd - OX2
This very “attractive hotel” just north of the city centre makes good use of a “lovely” seventeenth-century building with an ambience redolent of “Oxford academic power and money”. Foodwise, the ratings are dragged down by the odd reporter who feels its “bog-standard brasserie food needs more competition”. The best bet might be its “very nice traditional tea – especially when served in the courtyard garden”.
17. The Punter British, Modern restaurant in Oxford 7 South St - OX2
This “picturesque riverside venue” on Oxford’s Osney Island (which opened in 1871 as The Waterman) is notable for its “laid-back but beautifully presented vegetarian food, full of flavours from a varied and interesting menu”. “I’m not a vegetarian myself but most definitely hope to be back”. Top Tip – “the whipped goats’ cheese”.
18. Branca Italian restaurant in Oxford 111 Walton St - OX2
“You really feel like you’re in a continental bistro” at this “good-value and ever-reliable venue” in Jericho which has been popular for two decades. There is extra outdoor seating nowadays, which adds further to the Mediterranean atmosphere, and this year will see the opening of five bedrooms.
19. Arbequina Spanish restaurant in Oxford 74 Cowley Rd - OX4
“The best tapas ever” insist aficionados of the “short and interesting menu” at this “exceptional” former chemist’s shop. “Yes, it’s a little pricier than average, but let’s face it – this is by no means run-of-the-mill tapas!”. Top Menu Tips – “stunning aubergine, crispy chickpea and the baked cauliflower dishes”.
20. The Coconut Tree International restaurant in Oxford 76 Saint Clement's Street - OX4
“The food is exceptional and very different to what you’ll find elsewhere” at this fast-growing chain (nine and counting) of “cheerful” Sri Lankan venues – whose “absolute bargain prices (£35 for the three of us)”, “fantastic vegan options” and gluggable cocktails make it a particular “hit with students”. Top Tip – “sri-tato is genuinely wonderful”.
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