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When you Google search the best restaurants in Oxford, you’re largely greeted with recycled lists of the same 10 places. As a lifelong local, I wanted to share some hidden gems and budget eats as well as the usual classics.
If you’re wondering where to eat in Oxford, there are so many great options. Oxford Covered Market doles out creative cheap eats, more and more Asian eateries are opening their doors, and the quirky Cowley Road is easy on chain restaurants and brimming with culture from the Caribbean to Moroccan.
You won’t be short of options whether you’re visiting Oxford as a day trip or weekend trip.
Much of the best food in Oxford is surprisingly affordable which is good news for those visiting on a budget!
Looking for something specific? Check out my other Oxford food guides:
Where to eat in Oxford
Oxford is a small city but there are a few areas of town you should earmark based on their quirky nature or reputation for top Oxford restaurants and cafes.
The only place in Oxford I’d tell you to avoid is probably George Street and Cornmarket because they’re overrun with chain restaurants. The food isn’t great and you also won’t be supporting any local businesses. While those two areas aren’t my favourites, you shouldn’t avoid the city centre altogether as there some great Oxford restaurants and cafes around. Also check out…
Jericho: One area I’d point you towards is Jericho in North Oxford. As well as some great cocktail bars, there are lots of independently-owned restaurants here that have been here for years. You can walk there in 10 minutes from the city centre.
Read next: Where to eat and drink in Jericho, Oxford
Cowley Road: An up-and-coming part of Oxford that many visitors miss is the Cowley Road known for its ethnic eats from Lebanese to Thai and Caribbean. This is a personal favourite area to eat in Oxford, especially since the prices are cheaper than the city centre and Jericho. It takes 20 minutes to walk to the Cowley Road from Oxford city centre or you can jump on a bus and arrive in a few minutes.
Read next: Where to eat on Cowley Road, Oxford
Best restaurants in Oxford
Since you can see most of Oxford on foot, you’ll quickly work up an appetite during your trip. Luckily you’re never far from top quality, affordable cuisine.
In no particular order, here are some of the best restaurants in Oxford:
Rickety Press / Rusty Bicycle
There are two branches of this Oxford restaurant under different names but both the Jericho-based Rickety Press and Rusty Bicycle offer the same menu. For tasty food in informal settings, this is one of the best places to eat in Oxford for a casual lunch or dinner.
Both restaurants offer a short but sweet menu of excellent wood-fired pizzas and oozy, delicious burgers. My favourite pizza is the Chorizo Picante with chorizo and red chilli.
I can also vouch for the burgers: the Moo & Blue beef patty ladened with bacon chipotle jam, gooey gorgonzola
Come mornings and weekends, both restaurants serve delicious American-style breakfasts like pancakes and chicken & waffles. They also serve a range of teas and coffees, plus their craft ales are known to be excellent.
I like the cosy interior of both these Oxford restaurants; the Rickety Press feels more like a restaurant/bar while the Rusty Bicycle has more of a pub feel.
Prices: Reasonable with pizzas and burgers between £6-10.
Veggie friendly: There are a few cheese-less veggie pizzas and a pulled jackfruit burger that I’m keen to try.
Address: 67 Cranham Street (Jericho) for the Rickety Press and 28 Magdalen Road for the Rusty Bicycle. If you’re looking for restaurants in Oxford city centre, the Rickety Press is closest to town.
Edamame, Holywell Street
There’s fantastic Asian food in Oxford including this cosy restaurant serving authentic Japanese food. Run by a married couple, this restaurant in central Oxford has been serving homecooked meals for over 20 years.
Tiny Edamame restaurant on Turl Street is a real hidden gem that you probably wouldn’t spot walking by. With a small, cosy feel and shared tables, there’s often a queue out the door but I recommend waiting it out for some of the best food in Oxford.
I visited on a weekday lunchtime and tried the delicious sushi bowl for £10 dish while my friend had a rich, steaming bowl of katsu curry. For the amount of high-quality sashimi in my sushi bowl, I was really impressed. I’ll be back to experience the Thursday sushi night.
It’s worth checking the website before visiting as some of the menus only run at certain times. Currently, lunch is served every day of the week apart from Mondays and Tuesdays, dinner is only served on Fridays and Saturdays, and sushi is set to Thursday nights.
Prices: Main dishes between £8-10. Sushi costs £2-3 per two pieces.
Vegan friendly? Not overly, although many of the dishes can be made with tofu in place of the meat.
Address: 15 Holywell Street.
Atomic Burger, Cowley Road
An Oxford restaurant that can’t be forgotten is Atomic Burger. Down on the Cowley Road, this long-standing restaurant has been a local favourite for decades. It’s well worth a trip just to see the quirky interior with a giant Spiderman crawling across the ceiling. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped inside a comic book!
In classic American diner-style, it’s all about the burgers and heavy on quirk-factor. You build your own burger, choosing between four types of bun, either a beef, chicken or veggie burger then your choice of toppings. Must-try combos include the Cordell (BBQ pulled pork and cheese), the Frito Bandito (salsa, guac, nachos and sour cream) and the Elizabeth Shue (camembert, prosciutto and red onion).
Prices: Burgers start at £12 and include fries and a whole load of toppings. Prices go up to £17 but for a double-stacked patty with 5+ toppings, who’s complaining?
Vegan friendly? Very. As well as veggie patties, there are several meat-free topping choices such as the Cactus Jack (pulled jackfruit, vegan cheese and onions) and the Rocket Man (vegan garlic mayo and cheese, mushrooms and rocket).
Address: 92 Cowley Road.
Spiced Roots, Cowley Road
Caribbean cuisine is the name of the game at Spiced Roots. I first visited in 2017 when it was new on the Oxford restaurant scene. Nowadays, Spiced Roots is well-established and known for its authentic food and creative rum-themed cocktails.
The Caribbean curries are delicious. You can choose between goat, king prawn and pumpkin, all of which include a side of chickpeas and a roti. Other dishes include tamarind lamb with papaya and mint chutney; Guyanese pepper pot beef; and whole roasted snapper with okra.
With starters and sides like salt fish fritters and plantain, it’s a dining experience unlike any other in Oxford. But the highlight could be the rum cocktails! From classic rum punch to cashew apple daiquiri, Trinidad sours, banana republic, pina coladas and mojitos, they serve all your classics as well as lots of inventive drinks you won’t have tried before.
Prices: It’s on the higher end since few of the main dishes are less than £20 and cocktails coming in around £10 each. It’s definitely ‘treat’ budget but worth every penny.
Vegan friendly? You’ll be limited to a few dishes but these are undoubtedly delicious using coconut, pumpkin and okra rather than meat replacements.
Address: 64 Cowley Road.
Oli’s Thai Oxford, Magdalen Road
You can’t talk about food in Oxford without mentioning Oli’s Thai and you also can’t talk waiting lists without acknowledging their three-
Oli’s Thai serve authentic Thai food in cosy settings. They have a short-but-sweet menu which is my favourite type because you know the ingredients and fresh and every dish is a classic. The confit duck Penang is genuinely my favourite Thai meal I’ve had outside of Thailand. The meat was so soft and tender. The apple, cashew, chilli and mint side salad was also delicious.
If you don’t want to book three months in advance, turn up promptly at 5pm and squeeze in at the bar. It’ll be worth it: Oli’s Thai is by far the best Thai food in Oxford and maybe England!
Prices: Mains are between £10-14 and the sides are around £4. Not bad as I imagine they could charge much more.
Vegan friendly? Baring in mind the whole menu is only eight dishes long, it’s not a bad offering. Choose between the aubergine curry or the tofu with lemongrass and chilli.
Address: 38 Magdalen Road.
The Folly, Abingdon Road
If riverside dining appeals, another tempting restaurant in Oxford is The Folly. On an island beside the Thames, it also offers outdoor dining and boating opportunities.
Expect upmarket British/European dining with classic (mainly meaty) dishes with gourmet details. For £59 you can opt for a six-course tasting menu, then there’s afternoon tea for £22 with scones, cakes, finger sandwich and tea.
Make sure to book in advance; the Folly is a popular spot thanks to its reputation and ambient setting.
Prices: Mains from £20.
Address: 1 Folly Bridge, Oxford OX1 4JU.
Vegan friendly? Expect 2 options for every 4 meat ones.
Gee’s Restaurant & Bar, Park Town
Gee’s always comes up in reviews of the best restaurants in Oxford. With so much good press, I checked it out and can confirm the hype is warranted.
This rustic restaurant set inside a Victorian greenhouse serves Mediterranean-inspired food. Choose from starters including wood-fired octopus with chickpeas and chilli, and main dishes like woodfired guinea fowl, seafood linguine, aubergine parmigiana and Aberdeen Angus ribeye steak.
Prices: On the higher end with most mains around the £20 mark and starters about £10. For an affordable meal, visit between 12pm and 6pm on weekdays for the express lunch menu which is £15.95 for two courses.
Vegan friendly? There are on average two vegan dishes on the menu at a time. The express lunch menu when we visited included a vegetarian option but not a vegan one. Not the best!
Address: 61A Banbury Road.
Zheng is not only the top Chinese-Malaysian restaurant in Oxford but all of the country, as hailed by food critic, Giles Coron. After loving Malay food in Malaysia, I was sad not to find much in the UK.
Luckily, Zheng has cured my cravings and then some with their authentic, flavoursome meals. I’ve yet to try the Chinese dishes but the dim sum looks great.
We opted for the chef’s choice meal and were served cereal prawns, an oddly delicious dish in a sweet and salty light batter, and a whole sea bass flavoured with spicy sambal sauce (a favourite in Malaysia).
Other authentic Malay dishes I would recommend include the rendang curries, char keow teau (flat stir-fry noodles with king prawns) and nasi lemak, the Malaysian national dish made with sambal, rice, anchovies, peanut and cucumber. As you can guess, choosing is tough at Zheng!
Prices: The chef’s meal is a treat at £20-30pp, but mains start from £7.50 when dining from the menu.
Vegan friendly? The curries, rendang and satay dishes can all be made with tofu and there’s also a veggie dim sum option.
Address: 82 Walton Street.
White Rabbit, Gloucester Green
White Rabbit is possibly the best restaurant in Oxford for pizza despite the high competition. The Alice in Wonderland-inspired eatery is creaky, quirky and everything a British pub should be. Although pizza isn’t typical British pub food, they’re delicious and cooked in a real woodfire pizza oven.
When it comes to pizza toppings, you’re spoiled for choice. Highlights include the Diavolo with mozzarella, pepperoni, peppers, anchovies and chillis, as well as the Zola with gorgonzola, pears and pancetta. I’m curious about the ‘Mad Hatter’ which is a chef’s choice pizza made from whatever they think is good.
You order at the bar and service is quick.
As well as pizzas, White Rabbit serve a few salads, desserts and paninis at lunchtime. Being a pub, there are endless beers, ales and wines to choose from. As a summertime bonus, White Rabbit has one of the best pub gardens in Oxford!
Price: Most of the pizza choices are around the £10 mark.
Vegan friendly? There are about 5 vegan pizzas and plenty of veggie ones.
Address: 21 Friars Entry.
Coconut Tree, St Clements
The Coconut Tree is another restaurant in Oxford that I visited in its early days and have loved watching flourish. It’s a little far out of town in St Clements but you can easily hop on a bus to town or unlock a hire bicycle.
The Coconut Tree serve Sri Lankan food and if you don’t what that is, you need to visit the Coconut Tree and find out! The dishes are ordered tapas style which is a great way to try lots of different things especially if you’re with a group.
Highlights include the hoppers, bowl-shaped pancakes made from coconut milk and filled with sambal, coconut and an optional fried egg. I also loved the kottu: fried roti chopped up with spices, leeks and carrot and your choice of meat, fish or cheese. The coconut sambal served with chilli is the perfect side dish.
The cocktails are astonishing with all sorts of Sri Lankan-influenced and world cocktails with utmost attention to detail.
Prices: Dishes are between £3.50-9 but because you’ll order a few, it’s easy for the price to shoot up. You can order the chef’s choice meal for £20.
Vegan friendly? Extremely. 13/20 of the dishes on the menu are vegan.
Address: 76 St Clement’s Street.
GLUT, George Street
If I had to summarise GLUT in three words it would be just amazing burgers. This restaurant on Oxford’s George Street sat empty for a while after several businesses came and went. It looks like the curse is over now GLUT are using the venue to serve some of the best burgers in Oxford.
For years, we’ve been lacking an independent burger restaurant in Oxford city centre. GLUT has definitely filled that spot, serving what they call ‘sinfully good burgers’. Choose either a hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger, falafel or plant (Beyond Meat) burger and select to upgrade them to a ‘dirty burger’ which includes double cheese, pickles and burger sauce.
The side dishes are great; we loved the buffalo cauliflower wings. They were out of deep-fried pickles but I’d be curious to try them, as well as the ‘crockpots’ which are layered meat or veggie pots with meat or garlic. These are £5 so I’m not sure if they’re a main or side.
Prices: Burgers are between £7-9.50 which doesn’t include fries. We paid £35 people for two including two burgers, one fries, a side and two Cokes.
Vegan friendly? With a choice of falafel or a Beyond Meat patty, there are a few options for veggies. I’d really recommend the cauliflower wings, too.
Address: 71 George Street.
Shin Japanese Restaurant, Gloucester Green
This entry might be far down the list but it’s truly one of the best Asian restaurants in Oxford. Shin Japanese serve authentic dishes like ramen, sushi, katsu curries, hotpots, Japanese BBQs and bento boxes.
I ordered the shokado bento box which came with teriyaki salmon, gyoza, takoyaki, mini sausages, seaweed, sushi and sashimi. For £16.95, it was mind-blowingly good!
My sister had the vegan sashimi which was so convincing we almost had to double-check it wasn’t the real deal. Apparently, it’s made with yam. The poke bowls (made with either sashimi or vegan sashimi) look fantastic, too.
For next time, I have my eye on the lobster ramen…
Prices: £10-20 for mains. The higher-priced dishes are worth it.
Vegan friendly? Very
Address: 92, Oxford, OX1 2BU.
Mowgli Street Food, Westgate Centre
The only thing I love more than the delicious Indian street food at Mowgli is the ambient setting. Perch in a swinging chair, surrounded by trees decked with fairy lights as you peruse the menu and sip a cocktail (the rose and lychee martini is highly recommended).
They serve all kinds of authentic meaty and veggie Indian dishes. It’s not your average English-Indian food so why not be adventurous and order something you’ve never tried before? The yoghurt chat bombs are delicious, although very messy unless you eat them in one bite!
I had the bunny chow, a hearty loaf of bread stuffed with juicy curry. This dish was invented by the Indian community in Durban, South Africa and brings back great memories of my travels. The angry bird chicken wings marinated in tandoori spices, ginger and garlic are also excellent.
Prices: Starters from £4.50; cocktails and main dishes from £7.50. Not bad at all!
Vegan friendly? Very. They have a whole vegan menu with 15+ dishes as well as a gluten-free menu.
Address: Unit 302, Westgate, Oxford, OX1 1PG.
Chiang Mai Kitchen, High Street
This Thai restaurant in Oxford had been on my radar for years and I finally got around to visiting in early 2022. Chiang Mai Kitchen is a cosy spot with white tablecloths and authentic Thai details like statues and artwork. Upstairs, there are lots of 2 and 4-person tables and downstairs there’s a larger dining room which I believe can be booked for groups.
For starters, my friend and I ordered spring rolls and spicy papaya salad and for mains, I had panang curry and she had pad Thai. Both were rich, heaty and seasoned just how I remembered in Thailand. Even though I was stuffed, I had to order the mango sticky rice. My favourite Thai dessert!
They even have regional drinks like Thai tea, Chang beer and Thai wines (as well as other wines from around the world). So authentic!
Prices: We paid £35 per person for two courses, drinks and a shared dessert.
Vegan friendly? Very. I was stunned by how long the veggie menu was.
Address: 130A High St, Oxford OX1 4DH.
Pierre Victoire, Little Clarendon Street
Pierre Victoire is one of the best French restaurants in Oxford. While the menu changes regularly to incorporate the freshest ingredients, you’ll find several signature dishes like moules marinières, escargot, tartiflette and crème brûlée. The low lighting and romantic table settings for two make this the perfect place for cosy dates.
I visited for the delicious cheese fondue which was served with sausages, bread, mushrooms, pickles and potatoes. We then moved onto the equally decadent chocolate fondue with marshmallows to dip.
The lunch and dinner fixed menus are also worth visiting for: you’ll enjoy dishes like calamari, steaks and indulgent puddings. Just really tasty French food in romantic settings!
Price: Very reasonable for French food in Oxford when you dine from the fixed menus. Two courses for £25 or three for £30.
Vegan friendly? Not really.
Address: 9 Little Clarendon Street.
Big Society, Cowley Road
I love this relaxed restaurant and bar on Cowley Road. There’s plenty of open space, huge wooden tables, ping pong tables, fun wall art and cocktails in jam jars (I’m a fan of the cucumber-infused Gin Gin).
As jam jar cocktails and ping pong tables would indicate, Big Society attracts a young crowd, but the food will please whatever age you are.
In the daytime, it’s a relaxed restaurant suitable for families but after 6pm is for over 18s only and turns into a lively bar later on.
It’s an American classic menu comprising wings, juicy burgers (including the pulled pork variety), hotdogs, fried chicken, ‘slaws and overflowing chilli chip combos. Don’t miss the banoffee pie!
Prices: Everything under £10.
Vegan friendly? Not overly although they do offer a veggie burger.
Address: 95 Cowley Road.
Banana Tree, George Street
Banana Tree Oxford is one of just two branches outside of London. Although I usually avoid the chain restaurants of George Street, this is the Oxford restaurant I always make an exception for. They serve a mixture of Asian dishes rather than one cuisine which is another thing that I usually avoid. Despite all this, Banana Tree just works!
During my first trip I opted for the Malaysian laksa noodle soup which was super rich and flavoursome in a coconut broth. Also on point is the Vietnamese bun bo salad bowl (vermicelli noodles, peanuts, thinly sliced greens, a sesame rice cracker and chilli dip) and the Indonesian rendang curry (slow-cooked beef in a rich, nutty sauce). To summarise, it’s that good that I’m working my way through the menu.
Prices: Most mains are around £10 or you can pair them with rice, a corn cake and giant cracker for an extra £3.95.
Vegan friendly? Banana Tree serve some of the best food in Oxford for vegans with a whole separate menu for meat-free dishes. These include stir-frys, noodle soups, wok noodles, curries and seven choices of starter.
Address: 63 George Street.
Cheap restaurants in Oxford
Visiting Oxford on a budget? Perhaps money’s too tight for a sit-down restaurant in Oxford or maybe you’re in a rush and want a no-frills meal on the go. Some of the best food in Oxford is some of the cheapest, in my humble opinion.
As well as the Covered Market, there are cheap and cheerful cafes dotted all around Oxford serving a mix of world cuisines. I would suggest…
Dosa Park, Frideswide Square
Despite the modest exterior, this is the best Indian restaurant in Oxford
Prices have jumped up slightly in recent years but you won’t find anything on the menu for more than £12.
Address: 25 Park End Street.
Alpha Bar, the Covered Market
At this popular takeaway bar in the Covered Market, even the healthiest of lunches are seriously tasty.
You can get a small salad box (which is actually massive) with ingredients including meat, fish, cheese, falafel, sides and various toppings. The small box is £4.50 if you go veggie or £5 including meat. A large box will set you back £7 but debatably feed a family of four for a week.
My favourite combination is stuffed vine leaves, chickpeas, braised greens, sun-dried tomato pesto, cheese and seeds.
Address: Covered Market, 89 Market Street.
Pieminister, Covered Market
I’d been meaning to try Pieminister for ages and it didn’t disappoint. If you want a meal to keep you full for the rest of the day, nothing says hearty like traditional English pie.
While my ordered tower of mushy peas, steak and stilton pie and mashed potato might look tidy now upon its pool of gravy, it only took 5 seconds to turn into a messy pile of deliciousness and – I won’t lie – only about 3 minutes for me to devour the whole thing. It only came to £8.50 including both sides.
Address: Covered Market, 89 Market Street.
Bbuona, Gloucester Green
This authentic Italian pizza restaurant in Oxford is great for a quick eat. You order at the till where it’s hard to choose between so many freshly made pizzas (starting from £3.50) and the colourful counter of cakes and baked goods.
Since the pizzas are freshly made on-site each day, they’re prepared as early as breakfast. Bbuona continue to serve pizzas throughout the day and night which you can buy by the slice or as half or whole pizzas. They also serve gelato and coffee.
If the atmospheric interior wasn’t enticing enough, maybe the £6 Aperol Spritz cocktails will seal the deal!
Don’t miss: the cannoli, a biscuit tube filled with sweet ricotta and pistachio cream studded with chocolate chips. These are famous in Sicily and I can see why.
Address: 102 Gloucester Green.
Georgina’s, Covered Market
Georgina’s serves some of the best cheap food in Oxford in comfy, cosy settings. It’s owned by Brothers Cafe next door and while the food is great at both, I personally prefer the quirky vibe in Georgina’s (imagine fun posters and menus on colourful chalkboards).
2021 update – Georgina’s used to serve nachos, salads and hot chocolates but they’ve recently started serving Greek mezze instead. I’ve yet to try it but I hear good things.
Address: Covered Market, 89 Market Street.
Thanks for reading my Oxford restaurant guide
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Check out my other Oxford posts:
- The perfect Oxford day trip
- 32 free things to do in Oxford
- How to spend a weekend in Oxford
- Top 20 Instagrammable spots in Oxford
- The best Oxford colleges to visit
- Harry Potter filming locations in Oxford
- AND how to travel the UK on a budget
See you next time for more adventures,
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