I have lived around Oxford for about five years. I can’t say I’ve ever come to love the city like many do, but you can easily get a good meal here, and there are lots of interesting little places to pick up tasty tidbits. With that in mind, I decided to write up a suggested itinerary for a gastronomic walking tour, with stops at some of my favourite places.
Before continuing, I should clarify that my sphere of knowledge is limited to those parts near my office, the bus station and the houses of friends, so this isn’t a comprehensive assessment of all the delights to be found within the ring road. However I hope that there are enough ideas here to get you started.
Start Point: Oxford Station
Location: Vitaburst, Oxford Station
Category: Takeaway (drinks)
The emphasis here is on healthy fruity drinks, with lots of interesting combinations of ingredients. My boyfriend was a devoted drinker when he used to commute, and there’s nothing like a virtuous start to the day.
Head out the station, and along Hythe Bridge Street towards the city centre.
Location: Lung Wah Chong, Hythe Bridge Street
I like browsing round this small but comprehensively-stocked Chinese supermarket. They have a good range of products, and if they haven’t sold out, they also sell freshly-made egg tarts, sponge cake and the like by the counter.
Continue up Hythe Bridge Street and then onto George Street. Turn left off George Street into Gloucester Green.
Stop 3 (if you are in Oxford on the first or third Thursday of the month)
Location: Oxford Farmers Market, Gloucester Green
There is some excellent produce here and I highly recommend a stop if you are in town on the right day. At varying times I have had home-made goats’ cheese cheesecake, saffron buns, tasty soup and the most delicious doughnuts from Pippins.
Head to the side of Gloucester Green to find…
Location: Combibos, Gloucester Green
To my unending irritation, I cannot manage to like coffee. Or tea for that matter. However my boyfriend assures me the coffee here is excellent, and I can testify to the breakfasts and the steamed milk with syrup.
Head back out of Gloucester Green onto George Street, and continue along it until you reach a crossroads. Turn left up St Giles.
Stop 5 (if you have never seen a British supermarket before)
Location: Two supermarkets, St Giles
I am being deliberately vague as there are currently two supermarkets almost side by side and both are fairly typical examples. Being city centre ones they are much smaller than their out-of-town counterparts, but should still give you a flavour of what Oxford residents like to buy.
Drop back down St Giles and head straight on to the pedestrianised Cornmarket Street. Head halfway down, then take a left.
Location: Covered Market
If I was richer and less lazy, I would buy as much of my food shopping here as possible. All kinds of brilliant fresh produce reside in individual shops under one roof. Ingredients aside, I suggest getting a thick hot chocolate from Chocology and pairing it with a freshly-baked Ben’s Cookie.
Drop out of a south exit onto the High Street.
Location: Hotel Chocolat, High Street
I know it’s a big ol’ chain, but they do have some great stuff in here. I like the little individual bars with unusual flavours and the pricier pure chocolate bars.
Nip back up the High Street and down St Aldates.
Location: G&D’s, St Aldates
Eating ice-cream at the French legend Berthillon kind of ruined me for other ice-cream shops. That said, I’m perfectly content with a scoop of Turkish Delight ice-cream, or one of the other fun flavours they feature in this much-loved local café.
Shortcut through Blue Boar Street and Bear Lane to reach King Edward Street.
Location: The Mission, King Edward Street
One of two outlets in the city, they offer a limited but delicious selection of burritos, fajitas and tacos. You get to pick your ingredients and salsas – I always go for the carnitas tacos as I like the purity of the meat and vegetation, unweighed down by beans and rice.
Location: Olives, High Street
Teeny tiny European delicatessen. I was able to get a rillettes baguette from here and that’s enough for me!
Location: Mr Simm’s Olde Sweet Shoppe, High Street
A wonderful old-school-styled sweet shop with Oxford prices. My only visit was rushed, but I could easily have come out laden with enough sweets to send me hyper for days. I have an inexplicable fondness for those artificial-tasting pink foam shrimps, and it was met here admirably.
As you reach the end of the High Street, you come to the Plain roundabout. Head down Cowley Road. The next few stops are all pretty close together. There are a number of other delis dotted around the ones listed, but these are ones I have purchased from on multiple occasions.
Location: Meli, Cowley Road
A pocket-sized Greek delicatessen with lots of ready-to-eat items as well as specialist ingredients. I love their tzatziki, which is far superior to the supermarket version of liquid yoghurt with cucumber chunks. They added some tables and chairs a while ago, so you can now eat in (though I haven’t done so).
Location: Tahmid Stores, Cowley Road
A veritable treasure-trove of Eastern food. Exotic fresh produce, masses for the store cupboard and all at very reasonable prices. I like the (pre-packaged) range of breads at the rear of the store, particularly the naan bread which is excellent for dipping when toasted up in the oven.
Location: Il Principe, Cowley Road
An Italian deli which offers some great treats and solid staples. I have had some very meaty sausages and comfortingly stodgy risotto balls from here. They also do takeaway, which I haven’t tried but sounds pretty good (pizza with scamorza!).
Cut through to Iffley Road via a side street, and trundle down to a well-deserved dinner (reservations worthwhile).
Location: The Magdalen Arms, Iffley Road
Category: Pub Restaurant
Lauded by fancy critics and locals, I’ve only been once and did enjoy it though it was a Sunday lunch so didn’t show off their full range. Besides if you’ve trekked this far, you may as well give it a whirl, or there are lots of places to sample on Cowley Road if you haven’t been foresighted enough to book or fancy something from a different cultural background.
Buses run back from here into town.