The Oxfordshire countryside is often better associated with culinary ambition – old, crooked pubs and sweeping hotels that dish out the county’s finest seasonal dishes. But if you happen to be wandering through the city’s streets when the sun is out, and you fancy somewhere to escape the hustle of the city, soak up the sun, and have a bite to eat – all at the same time – here’s our pick of the best places for alfresco dining in Oxford city centre. From rooftop cafes to fine-dining restaurants and everything in between.
Dine on the terrace in the summer and enjoy terrific views of the spires of Oxford from the Rooftop Restaurant at the Ashmolean. Feast on seasonal modern European dishes with British flavours or take afternoon tea with a classic selection of finger sandwiches, mini cake bites, and freshly baked scones. Enjoy a Sunday roast or free jazz most Thursday evenings. In the evenings, you’ll find the entrance to the restaurant on St Giles.
The Cherwell Boathouse Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant, with an AA Rosette, that was started in an authentic Victorian working Boathouse, alongside the punt station (established in 1904). Dine next to a particularly tranquil spot on the banks of the River Cherwell – swans, punts, sunshine and all. Alongside an award-winning wine list, the restaurant offers a modern English food menu which includes Cotswold chicken breast, poached halibut, and heritage beetroot tart fine.
Perched beside the River Thames, The Folly at No. 1 Folly Bridge in Oxford serves modern British cuisine from fresh seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s terrace floats on the waters of the River Thames as she runs gently under Folly Bridge. Our restaurant provides simply served, excellently cooked dishes crafted from the fresh seasonal ingredients. The a la Carte menu features goat’s curd, scallops, arancini, fishcakes, duck breast, pork belly, and braised beef.
The Parsonage Grill, and its hotel the Old Parsonage Hotel, are a somewhat swanky affair. The 17th-century Old Parsonage on Banbury Road combines original charm & character. Plus it’s where the socialites of Oxford hang out in town. The restaurant is less formal than its sister outfit Quod, though, and focuses on afternoon teas and all-day dining. The menu features smoked haddock & cod fishcakes, roasted bone marrow and a goats cheese soufflé.
Promising some of the best pub food in Oxford, The Head of The River on St Aldgates invites you to enjoy superb contemporary British dishes – and a few traditional classics – prepared and cooked fresh to order. Situated a stone’s throw away from Christ Church, this agreeable institution is often at its busiest in the summer, thanks to its splendidly situated outdoor terrace on the mouth of the Thames (or the Isis, using the local parlance).
Since opening in 1988, Quod Restaurant & Bar has become an Oxford institution, attracting everyone from students to young professionals to families. A smart bistro-style spot occupying the ground floor of a former bank, Quod is quite the crowd-pleaser, equally fitting for Sunday lunch with the family, cocktails with friends or a relaxed date night. The menu features grills, pizzas, fish and salad dishes, with afternoon tea available every day and a stellar roast on Sundays.
With a mix of fine and contemporary restaurants, the roof terrace at Westgate Oxford offers unique views of Oxford’s dreaming spires. If you’re looking for places to eat and soak up the sun in the centre of Oxford, then look no further. Cocktail bar The Alchemist, Indian restaurant Cinnamon Kitchen, cafe chain The Breakfast Club, Neapolitan pizzeria group Pizza Pilgrims and Venetian restaurant Polpo all take pride of place in the centre’s rooftop terrace.