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places to eat in Oxford

Oxford — June 2012

Some of the places in Oxford we've eaten in and recommend.

For Lebanese, our favourite is Al-Shami, in Jericho.

Our favourite Italian restaurant is La Cucina, in St Clements.

Oxford has a lot of Chinese restaurants and we've tried a good few of them. Nothing stands out as exceptional, but our current favourites are probably the Oriental Condor (on Friedeswide Square opposite the Said Business School) and Koi (on George St), and for Szechuan food My Szechuan (in Gloucester Green). The yum cha (called dim sum here) is generally disappointing - there are several places where it's ok, but nowhere that comes close to Sydney or Hong Kong yum cha.

For Thai my favourite is the cheap and cheerful Angrid Thai, in Gloucester Green, and for Malay/Indonesian there's Makan La (on St Michael's), where I eat most Fridays with people from an Oxford Linux Users' Group.

For Japanese, Edamame (on Holywell St) has great food, but is quite pricey and only opens a few days a week.

For coffee, my favourite is the Missing Bean (on Turl St), though getting a table there can be impossible in term time.

For cheap and hearty vegetarian, the Magic Cafe (around the corner from us, on Magadelen Rd) is hard to beat, though a bit like a creche at times. The Gardener's Arms, in Jericho, is a good vegetarian pub.

Some places stand out for their ambience. The Vaults and Garden (under St Mary's Church) is a favourite place to take visitors in between sight-seeing. My favourite bookshop, the Albion Beatnik, does decent plunger coffee, and the Cafe Nero in Blackwells is ok too.

There are quite a lot of gastropubs around: the Magdalen Arms is one of our favourites, and not just because it's so close to us.

There are plenty of good Indian/South Asian restaurants. Our favourite is probably the Everest Nepalese, but we've been happy with all the Indian restaurants on Cowley Rd we've tried.

Any recommendations?


  1. You and Camilla seem to eat out often, do you do much cooking at home ?

    Chinese chop suey, Greek milk bar, hamburger and fish and chips joints used to be the staple dining scene. Now, a hundred flowers blossom ( an old saying); there are Japanese, kebab, Indian, Thai, Chinese regional, roast chicken etc.etc, There is just so much variety.

    It is not surprising you found the yum cha restaurants in Oxford sub-standard. A good dim sim chef commands high wages. I don't think Oxford has the volume to justify hiring a chef and his assistants. Some restaurants simply buy their frozen dim sims wholesale from a food processing factory , and pass them off as house speciality. This is what I observed at some of the food courts in shopping centres. It is a poor substitute for genuine individually prepared delicacies with each restaurant tries to differentiate itself from the others..

    Yum cha, literally means sipping, or drinking tea, is a part of Cantonese food culture. I notice the Americans also refer to yum cha as dim sum. Stick to yum cha, which is true Cantonese.

    Comment by DL — June 2012
  2. Yes, the big yum cha places in Chatswood must seat more than a thousand people on a weekend lunchtime, they can afford the best chefs! Nowhere in Oxford would get even a tenth the number of customers.

    London is definitely better - we were impressed by the Royal China Club (on Baker St) - but still not on the same scale.

    Comment by danny — June 2012
  3. The Royal China Club in your link mentioned seafood. This is hard to beat, combing seafood with dim sims.

    Two Saturdays ago (June 2,) I entertained a couple from Auckland. The wife befriended me on the net, and we shared many meals together. We had lunch at Chatswood on Sunday 3, a busy suburban hub you know well. The husband was fond of crustacean namely crab, mud crab. Mud crabs are not available in New Zealand, only blue swimmers. I ordered one, weighing in at 1.3kg. It was done with shallot and ginger, so very juicy, succulent, and delicious. It was reasonably priced as it is in season, and on special.

    I think mud crabs are off the menu for you. The nearest tropical mangrove from the UK, where crustacean flourish, must be a fair way off. Eat your heart out.

    Comment by DL — June 2012
  4. Danny,

    I am rubbing it in because you're asking for it.

    Last Sunday(17th), the family had yum cha brunch at Chatswood. Crabs were still on special. As well as dim sims, I also ordered two crabs for my party of six people. They crabs were cooked in cheese and butter. This is a hybrid of East and West cooking, nouveau cuisine Cantonese style. Dairy produce is rarely if ever used in Chinese cookery.

    Seen here are the crabs on a bed of e-fu noodles. The rich sauce would also go well with crusty bread except Chinese restaurants don't serve them. It is a delightful meal. To hell with the calorie counts.

    I hope this would learn ya, not to spend too much time in the culinary desert Oxfordshire.

    Comment by DL — June 2012
  5. Oops, my upload skill is not up to the task. I'll make the correction when my child is available to help me. Please delets the links, unless you can extract the photos(If anyone can, you can.)

    Comment by DL — June 2012
  6. I've fixed the html code - one of the photos doesn't seem to be there any more, but the other one is working now.

    Oxford is nearly as far from the sea as it's possible to get, so perhaps expecting great seafood is unreasonable, but the gastropubs and the "modern European" restaurants mostly do quite decent fish meals. I haven't tried crab anywhere here yet, though!

    Comment by danny — June 2012

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