Where to eat (well) in Oxford

It's inevitable. I tell someone that I am interested in food, and their next question is, without fail, "Oh, so where is good to eat in Oxford, then?" Now, it's not that I could ever get bored of discussing food with people, but rattling off the same litany of restaurants time and time again does get a little bit tedious, particularly as I know they're going to forget all the names and locations straight away, and carry on eating at Pizza Express for the rest of their student days. So from now on, I shall direct them here. These are, in my opinion, some of the best places to eat in Oxford. I've attempted to vaguely group them by cuisine.

La Cucina - 39-40 St Clements Street
Probably my favourite Italian since Dante. The interior is relaxed and cosy, the staff are great and the food is excellent. It's not particularly expensive - no more so than your average chain Italian - but the dishes are better and more inventive. They do a lovely pasta with duck sauce (as well as classics like bolognaise and carbonara), great pizza (the goat's cheese and roasted vegetable is really good, as is the parmesan and parma ham with rocket), and a really good range of starters - the goat's cheese salad with roast pepper and balsamic is delicious, and the baked mushrooms stuffed with smoked cheese are sublime. There are also a good range of antipasti and breads to choose from (the foccaccia is really good). My favourite thing about the restaurant is that, if you sit in the back room, you can watch them making pizza in the open kitchen. It really does feel like a family-run trattoria in the heart of Italy.

Marios - 103 Cowley Road
A bit of an Oxford institution. If you haven't been, you haven't enjoyed probably the best pizza outside Italy. It's a cosy little place, run by Italians, with a proper pizza oven, and you can tell. What I particularly love about Marios pizzas is how generous they are with their toppings. I was once outraged when, upon ordering a leek, roasted vegetable and blue cheese pizza in an Italian chain restaurant, I was presented with a small piece of dough topped with a thin layer of tomato sauce, three blobs of cheese, and three pieces of dried up leek. The mark up on pizza in these restaurants is about 800%, and it's not as if leeks are going to break the bank. It's similar with a lot of chain restaurants - they're just so stingy with their toppings. Not so with Marios. When you order, for example, the 'Pizza Mario', ten minutes later a gigantic flying saucer of cheese and tomato will appear in front of you, groaning under the weight of spicy sausage, ham, artichokes, olives and anchovies. You're given proper pizza knives to eat it with, and it's probably about five times the size of your head. This is how pizza should be. Another absolute gem is the pizza topped with bresaola (cured beef) and gorgonzola. Sounds a bit of an odd combination, but it is incredible. Mind you, they're all good, and you can make your own topping if you don't fancy a combination on the (extensive) menu. As well as that, they do very good pasta (spaghetti with clams is delicious) and selections of cheese and meat antipasti. But to be honest, you won't need them - it's all about the pizza. They also do takeaway.

Olives - 42 High Street
The only place worth going for a brilliant baguette. Olives is a tiny independent sandwich bar run by Frenchman Christophe, and will satisfy any gourmet or hungry student with its array of delicious sandwich fillings. The Olives 'favourite' baguette is a combination of buffalo mozzarella, sun dried tomatoes and parma ham with rocket. It's not cheap at a fiver, but neither is it your everyday baguette - this is something special. The focus of the shop is its deli counter, home to all sorts of enticing charcuterie, breads, pates (they once had a lobster terrine on offer) and cheeses. You can have a sandwich made up for you incorporating any combination of these, though there are pre-existing combinations on the blackboard on the wall behind the counter. A personal favourite is the goat's cheese with roasted vegetables, onion marmalade, and rocket. When you choose a filling, you can choose (for free) from three of the following: onion marmalade, rocket, cucumber, tomatoes, roasted veg, chutney, and a few other things that I've forgotten. Baguettes are fairly good value, too, ranging from about £2.50 to the £5 extravaganza that is the aforementioned Olives 'Favourite'. Olives if not a one-trick pony, though: it also sells excellent real Italian ice cream in the summer, very good coffee, pastries, a range of panini and soup, and the Olives 'baguette of the week', which has included the amazing combination of roasted pork, thyme-roasted onions, brie and plum chutney, or roast beef with horseradish and blue cheese. There's a small selection of deli-style items on sale as well, like jars of duck confit, a chocolate absinthe cake (delicious), various chutneys and sauces, and pasta and bread. Oh, and as you'd expect, they also sell olives.

The High Table - 71-3 High Street
I want to call this a hidden gem, but it's not exactly hidden, being smack bang in the middle of Oxford's busy High Street. For some reason, I hardly ever see it more than half-full. This is a shame, because the entire dining experience really is excellent. The interior is beautifully decorated and feels a lot more luxurious and expensive than the menu would suggest. Upon ordering, you're given a basket of wonderful bread (several varieties - the walnut one is particularly good) along with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. This alone makes it worth a visit. However, even better is their amazing value set lunch and dinner menu (12-7pm). You can have two courses for £10.95, usually with three options to choose from for each course. You don't get given small portions or inadequate food for that price, either. I've had an amazing beef burger with thick cut chips, a beautiful roast rump of lamb, some exquisite haddock, sausages and mash, and a very good pea and mint risotto. The food is always stunning, like something you'd find in a Michelin-starred restaurant. They do an interesting array of ice cream flavours for dessert, too (basil and strawberry, rum and sultana, apricot, white chocolate, pineapple, lychee...) along with delicious classics like lemon tart or spiced poached pears. The a la carte is a bit more expensive, but again is good value for money - there are a range of soups, pastas, salads, and grills. Prices range from £4-6 for starters, £9-16 for mains, and desserts for around a fiver. Again, I can't understand why this place isn't always full - the food is beautiful and the service excellent. You feel like you're in a posh London restaurant, but for a fraction of the price, and it's a great place to take parents or friends for special occasions (I went there on the day I finished my finals, which is perhaps why I have such fond memories of it). It deserves more custom. Maybe I'll regret publicising it on here one day...

Door 74 - 74 Cowley Road
I don’t know whether it’s the name, the small and cosy interior, or the splendid cooking, but I couldn’t escape the feeling that while eating at Door 74 I was sitting in somebody’s living room, somebody who would disappear back to the kitchen every now and then and return bearing delicious dishes they had prepared earlier. Perhaps it was the lovely rustic presentation of the food, the generous portions and the comforting nature of it all. This felt like good, old-fashioned home cooking, rather than pretentious restaurant food with ludicrous garnishes and tiny servings. The interior is on the small side, but nicely decorated. Everything exudes calm and relaxation, from the single waiter who managed to pay attentive care to all the tables, the fairy lights on the dark purple walls, to the small menu that suggests carefully chosen ingredients and flavour combinations.

The starters are just big enough to whet the appetite without making you doubt your capacity for dessert. My aubergine and lamb wraps were very satisfying; the aubergine was rich and smoky and the spiced lamb delicious. My guest’s asparagus with egg mimosa was beautiful: the asparagus was perfectly cooked and seasoned. Main courses were a feast for both the eyes and the tastebuds. I ordered the marinated chicken with panzanella salad. Far from being bland as chicken often is, this was zesty and tender. However, it was the accompanying salad that really made the dish: big chunks of toasted ciabatta, ripe tomatoes, cucumber, caperberries, olives and red onion in a lovely tangy dressing that soaked into the bread. It was colourful, full of flavour and a superb lively accompaniment to the chicken. The potato cake filled with mushrooms, pine nuts and halloumi cheese was an excellent meat-free option. Eyeing the next table, the risotto and whole baked fish also looked amazing, and I had to fight hard to resist the urge to ask for a taste.

There was a limited choice of four desserts, which usually suggests high-quality options, and did not disappoint. My lemon meringue ice cream served with fresh mango was simple but wonderful. It was pretty as a picture and full of tangy fruit flavours that ended the meal nicely. The chocolate semifreddo with vanilla ice cream was served hot from the oven. A chocoholic’s dream, it was smooth and very rich: no insipid milk chocolate here. Definitely a winner in terms of both food and atmosphere, Door 74 guarantees a thoroughly enjoyable dining experience. 

Fishers - 36-7 St Clements Street
A seafood restaurant, as you'd expect from the name, Fishers' menu changes daily depending on what the restaurant receives directly from fishermen and markets throughout the country. A particular highlight is the seafood platter (hot or cold versions available), placed ceremoniously in the table and accompanied by a bizarre array of silver implements for extracting the various bits of seafood from their exoskeletons. When I went, I had prawns, langoustines, clams and smoked salmon, garnished with parsley and lemon and a pot of tangy mayonnaise. The bucket of bread to go with it is wonderful - dark and nutty, it's a perfect match for the sweet seafood. It's a good conversation starter, as well, if you're there on a date that's going a bit awkwardly - nothing like snapping the heads of defenceless crustacea to get the romance going. The main courses share a common theme: fish as the centrepiece, minimally adorned to let its quality shine. I've had a very good turbot, with mash and mushroom cream sauce, and a lovely lobster thermidor. For dessert they offer gastropub-style classics like sticky toffee pudding, and a nod to the classic fish and chip shop dessert, banana fritters with toffee ice cream. Decor is fun and nautically themed, and service is friendly but can be on the slow side as it's often busy. Seafood of this standard, however, is something to enjoy lingering over. It's on the expensive side (£10-18 for mains), but they do several cheaper set menus, and it's definitely a place to come to treat yourself or a fellow seafood-lover.

Moya - 97 St Clements Street
This is normally the first place I mention when asked where to eat in Oxford. It's brilliant. Definitely a hidden gem, it's not that noticeable when you first walk past. It's half restaurant, half cocktail bar (try the 'brain haemorrhage' or the 'choc-chip mint cookie'), and the dining area is quite small. The food more than makes up for that though, both in flavour and in portion size. It's Eastern European, which is interesting in itself because you don't find much of that around. I was definitely a convert after my first visit there, and can't stop going back. Traditional dishes such as goulash and dumplings are on offer, as well as a selection of tempting options for the piscatorially inclined such as trout, black prawns, sea bass, fishcakes, and – once – a special of cod cheeks. The specials board changes regularly, but the à la carte is so packed with inviting options that this may only complicate matters of decision-making. The “devil’s toast” starter has become one of Moya’s specialities; they also serve it as a bar snack. A crisp slice of sourdough toast topped with smoked sausage, onion, tomatoes, peppers, chillies and grilled goat’s cheese, it is a truly delightful combination of smoky and tangy flavours. The fasirka, a spiced venison and pork cake served with horseradish and a fruity relish, is rich and savoury, nicely offset by the sweetness of the fruit. Other options include vegetarian dumplings and a Slovak potato salad. Prices are around £5 for starters, and although they may seem small, once the sizeable main courses materialise all will become clear. The segedin, a creamy pork and sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) goulash, is lightly spiced with nutmeg, paprika and caraway. The acid cabbage provides an unusual foil to the rich, spiced meat, and the dish is served with knedla – steam cooked bread dumplings, which mop up every drop of the delicious juices. The traditional goulash – tender beef in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce, fragrant with paprika – is also delightful, the meat so tender you could eat it with a spoon. Moya use home-milled sweet paprika for an authentic taste, and it provides a lovely fragrant note in many of their dishes. Lighter main courses include salads (black prawn or sausage) and a vegetarian bean goulash. Most mains cost around £9-12, but you certainly get your money’s worth.

Although the mains may pose a challenge for some appetites, ensure you leave room for dessert (£4-5). Far more exciting than your usual chocolate fondant or crème brulée, you can choose from an unusual selection of ice creams and sorbet – think cappuccino, almond and amaretto, dark cherry or apricot – as well as traditional offerings: a Slovak fruit dumpling, Tatras apple cake, or Bublanina (bubble cake), a light sponge studded with seasonal fresh berries. The dumpling haunts my dreams to this day. It's light and filled with apricot, a tart contrast to the dough, and covered in a sublime poppy seed and butter sauce that adds a little crunch. Seriously, you must try it - it sounds bizarre, but it's incredible. The apple cake utilises that unbeatable combination of apple, sultanas, walnut and cinnamon to great effect, encased in a flaky pastry and served with a rich vanilla ice cream. After dinner coffee is accompanied by little sugared biscuits, a nice touch, though perhaps geared more towards the eye than the appetite – after three courses at Moya, you won’t be hungry again for a long time. I can't stress enough how great this place is.

Pierre Victoire - 9 Little Clarendon Street
A proper French bistro in the heart of Oxford, Pierre Victoire serves well-presented, good value French dishes where the emphasis is on flavour and quality. They do a range of set menus which makes dining there not only great fun but also great value. I went on my birthday, and for £20 had moules mariniere, venison, and a trio of ice cream. Their menu is imaginative, with a range of delightful starters such as a goat's cheese soufflé with sautéed apples, the obligatory moules, pigeon breast salad, paté, and other French classics. Mains are usually based around a single ingredient, such as a fillet of salmon, a good steak, or a beautiful grilled sea bass. The desserts are - as you'd expect - delicious, with offerings like chocolate and orange cheesecake or lemon tart, as well as a more simple selection of ice cream for those who have overindulged on the previous courses. The service is friendly and there's a great atmosphere because it's such a popular venue; I'd recommend it heartily for something a little bit more interesting than your average chain restaurant. (I'm not even going to try and compare it to Chez Gerard, which I loathe and detest with a passion).

Al Andalus Tapas Bar - 21 Little Clarendon Street
My best tapas experiences have always involved being on holiday with my family in Andalucia; a quartet of non-Spanish speakers, subsisting off our ability to point at interesting-looking dishes in various bars. To this very day I am saddened by the fact that many of the delicious dishes I have sampled over the years remain unidentifiable due to my lack of Spanish knowledge. This is just one of the reasons why Al Andalus, the tapas bar on Little Clarendon Street, proved such an exciting prospect when a friend suggested we sample its wares – some of the plates that appeared on our table were almost identical to those enjoyed on holidays past, and now I actually know that it was marinated octopus that I took such a liking to in Seville. One of the other beautiful things about tapas is the sharing, and Al-Andalus caters well for people such as myself who find the prospect of sharing rather nerve-wracking – what if the last piece of tortilla disappears before you have a chance to sample it, busy as you are tucking into patatas bravas with spicy tomato sauce? Luckily, the provision of side plates means you can grab a bit of everything before it disappears. And you will want to. The food is excellent: portions are surprisingly large (you would be unlikely to finish more than three plates of tapas each) and everything is packed full of flavour (due, I suspect, to liberal amounts of fine Spanish olive oil). Classics such as patatas bravas and tortilla were excellent; though with the exciting array of plates on offer you may want to attempt something a little more adventurous, such as the deep-fried goats’ cheese with honey; a sublime combination. If that isn’t enough to supply a goats’ cheese fix, the milhojas de queso de cabra (goats’ cheese baked with potato and serrano ham) will definitely do so. The calamares romana were on the right side of crispy, with a lovely seafood flavour still shining through from the squid. A seafood addict, I also ordered the marinated seafood salad: octopus legs and mussels marinated in Spanish vinaigrette, which was a fresh-tasting foil to the abundance of potato, cheese and ham adorning our table. For ardent carnivores and fans of hearty food, the montaditos de lorno y queso, pork loin marinated in paprika and olive oil and served on tomato bread with melted cheese, is as good as it gets: a hamburger with a twist. Just make sure you have a napkin at hand. The all-round favourite at our table, however, was the delightful datiles con bacon: dates stuffed with blue cheese, wrapped in bacon and grilled. An interesting combination, but try it and you will not be disappointed: the sharp creaminess of the blue cheese and the sweetness of the chewy dates cuts through the saltiness of the bacon, and the result is pure gastronomic heaven. You can even get them with beef on a skewer, if the bacon isn’t enough red meat.

Al-Andalus also offer main courses; several grilled meat dishes, and the classic paella. Unfortunately, we were all far too full to even attempt a main, let alone dessert; though from what I could spy at the adjacent table, the desserts are definitely worth a try. As is the sangria, available by the glass or in litres in authentic-looking earthenware jugs that reminded me of a memorable (or not so, as the case may be) episode in a bar in Barcelona. All in all, a perfect destination both for large groups (they also offer a set menu for parties of seven or more) or diner a deux. It is also very good value, with plates of tapas ranging from £3.50 to £5.50; a couple could share five and probably not need dessert. However, do be careful to check your order – we were brought several plates of bread and tortilla that we hadn’t ordered; assuming (perhaps naively) that they were complimentary, we tucked in with relish and were then charged for all of them, whilst some of our ordered dishes seemed to have been forgotten by the kitchen. Though, the meal was so enjoyable that I will ascribe this to the fact that the restaurant was busy and that we did order about twenty different dishes between us, so I’ll let them off. 

The Rose - 51 High Street

When deciding to embark upon that most venerable of English institutions, afternoon tea, one perhaps immediately turns to the alluring surroundings of the Grand Cafe or the central, shining classiness of Quod’s interior. This, however, may be a mistake. Walk a little further down the High Street and you will stumble upon The Rose, who claim to serve the finest scones in Oxford. Unfortunately I have not sampled every scone in Oxford, but I have had my fair share, and The Rose wins in every respect.

Not only do they make their scones, breads and cakes from scratch using organically produced cereals, the Rose also prepare two to six batches of scones every day, to ensure they are always freshly baked for eager customers. Add to this local clotted cream from Jersey cows’ milk and jam with at least 50% berries, and you have a winning formula that tastes superb. The interior is small and cosy, with muted white and pink decor and a distracting cake counter. The Rose offer three afternoon teas: the Light Afternoon Tea consists of toasted teacakes, jam and butter, and a pot of tea. Go one step further for the Classic Cream Tea and you will be rewarded with fresh, warm, crumbly scones, clotted cream, jam, and tea. However, the ultimate treat is the Cream Tea Special, featuring the mandatory pot of tea, finger sandwiches, a scone, clotted cream, jam, and a choice of cake. Which brings me on to the cakes. Usually the same selection – lemon, coffee and mascarpone, carrot and walnut, flourless chocolate and almond, or apple pie – the Rose’s cakes are sublime and worth the rather extravagant price tag (around £3.50-5 a slice). I do have authority to say that, having tried all of them. The apple pie in particular is a feat of engineering, comprising about five layers of carefully tessellated apple within a thin shortcrust pastry case – almost enough to enable you to argue that it’s healthy, packed as it is full of so much fruit. The slices may not look as enormous as they will later feel in your stomach (and that can only be a good thing). The Rose also boasts a comprehensive tea menu from which you can choose to accompany your afternoon extravaganza, detailing the origin, fusion times and recommended accompaniment for each tea. My particular favourite is the pungent, smoky Lapsang Souchong, made by smoking the leaves over pine fires; if that is too much of an acquired taste, classics such as Darjeeling, Ceylon and Oolong are also excellent partners for a feast of baked delights. As well as this array of teas, the coffee is also very good.

But, lest you be thinking the Rose is no more than a nice tea room, I can inform you that they also do breakfasts (ranging from ‘traditional English’ to continental) and very good lunches. Think of the sort of hearty, homely food you’d like to come home to during the vacation, and that may give you an idea. The menu changes several times a week, but usually features a soup of the day, a selection of sandwiches (standards such as ham, cheese and tuna, but also Croque Monsieurs and specials such as the delightful Vegetarian Sandwich – goats’ cheese and caramelised onions on foccaccia – or the Sandwich au Bedat – panchetta, smoked salmon and mango chutney, which works a lot better than you might expect), omelettes, salads and hot dishes. The salmon fishcakes accompanied by a sweet tomato and chilli jam (all jams are also available to buy) were delectable, not overpowered by potato, and had a lovely home-made appearance. Other excellent dishes I have sampled include a mozzarella, fig and parma ham salad dressed with lemon oil (a good capitalisation on the fact that fresh figs and milky white cheese are one of nature’s greatest gifts), and a dish of muffins topped with poached egg, spinach, roasted tomatoes, beetroot and a pesto dressing which was flavoursome and satisfying yet light enough to allow for an exquisite piece of carrot and walnut cake to follow; its creamy filling and icing are enough to make one want to renounce any other food forever. The organic burger with cucumber pickle is also, apparently, very good.

Not a destination you’d choose for your regular lunchtime purchase or sugar fix, The Rose is something a little bit special for an occasion (even if it’s just the family visiting for the day). Although it may be more expensive than you’d expect, once you’ve sampled the food you will understand that you’re most definitely paying for quality. 

Manos - 105 Walton Street
Deli and cafe by day, restaurant by night, the common denominator in all Manos’s guises is excellent Greek food, simply cooked, and an atmosphere of conviviality that conjures up a little corner of Greece in the heart of Oxford. Situated on a corner of Walton Street, Manos’s bright white exterior and cheerful blue and white awning already convey a touch of Greek sunshine. Step inside and this becomes more pronounced, with the photos of Greek landscapes on the wall and an outside courtyard, perfect for continental-style al fresco dining (though the large umbrella covering the tables is a nod to its British location). The layout is that of a deli proud to showcase its products; most food is displayed in a glass counter for customers to deliberate over, and blackboards on the walls announce the day’s specials as well as current offers.

Manos is first and foremost concerned with producing excellent Greek food. You are at liberty to order from the counter as and when something takes your fancy, or wait for table service. The tables upstairs in the deli provide a casual cafe feel even in the evening, where proceedings are less about formal service and more about great food and company. There is a larger dining room downstairs for a more restaurant-style experience, featuring Grecian-themed art. The staff are helpful and patiently put up with customer attempts to read the Greek titles of menu items, as well as advising those with dietary requirements about menu options. There is a sense of real care for the quality of food produced at Manos, and a real love of good cooking.

There is no set format for dining: you can point at something in the deli counter that takes your fancy, or order from the menu. The food is often simple but bursting with fresh flavours; lemon, oregano, garlic, tomato. The best way to try as many of the mouthwatering starters as possible is to order a mezze platter, consisting of small portions of four starters of your choice, served with a basket of warm pitta bread. Surprisingly filling, at £4.95 it is excellent value. Choose from a selection of dips such as tzatziki, hummous and taramasalata, or Greek classics like dolmathes (stuffed vine leaves), marinated red peppers stuffed with feta cheese and chickpea salad with parsley and lemon. There is also a selection of olives including feta-stuffed, kalamata, and lemon and dill. A far cry from the tiny olives you can buy in jars, these are enormous, glossy, and delicious. Most single starters cost between £3 and £5.

Ensure you leave room for Manos’s hearty main courses, all of which are served with a (sometimes unnecessary, considering their size) side of hummous, Greek salad or olives. There is a good range of vegetarian options, including a spinach and feta filo pastry pie, a delicious combination of crispy pastry and tangy, creamy filling, and gigantes plaki, butter beans baked in a tomato and herb sauce. Also available are classics such as imam bayeldi (baked aubergine), Moussaka, and arni me kritharaki, spiced lamb so tender you could eat it with a spoon, served with kritharaki pasta. One of the stars of the menu is the chicken souvlaki, a gigantic flatbread filled with moist marinated chicken (or falafel for vegetarians), hummous, tzatziki and Greek salad. At £5.95 it is perhaps the cheapest route to a full stomach in Oxford. Most main courses are available as smaller portions, enabling you to try a couple. Prices range from around £7-12, or around £4 for smaller portions. All dishes are available to take away, and Manos also offer meal deal combinations of salads, pasta and drinks for lunch on the go.

The display of desserts in the deli counter is a smart move; having eyed them covetously on your way in, you will make a point of leaving room for at least one syrup-drenched pastry. Traditional baklava is available in flavours such as almond or pistachio (ranging from 90p to £3 depending on size), as well as apple strudel and a variety of home baked cakes that are guaranteed to make you hungry all over again.
Manos also provide an outside catering service for parties and events.

They serve a range of freshly pressed juices with inventive titles, designed to refresh and rejuvenate – try the orange and ginger. They also offer a range of hot drinks to accompany that all-important pastry: a variety of teas and coffees, and the unusual Greek coffee (for some, an acquired taste). 

Al-Shami - 25 Walton Crescent
Located at the end of a residential street off Walton Street, this taste of Lebanon in Oxford is easy to miss. Don't. If you've never had Lebanese food before, you're in for a treat. I went there because Lebanese food is very similar to Syrian food, and I was craving some of the wonderful taste sensations I experienced there last August. It didn't disappoint - I could locate pretty much all of them on the menu, and they were just as good as I recalled. They serve an extensive menu of mezze (small dishes to share), plus lots of main courses (mainly grilled meat or fish). I'd recommend going in a group and ordering whatever takes your fancy, then diving in when it arrives, splendid looking and beautifully presented, at your table. Some highlights are the moutabel (smoked aubergine purée, an incredibly moreish and wonderful dip), the mohammara (red pepper, walnut and pomegranate dip - vibrant red and equally vibrant in mysterious flavours), the foul (a mixed bean dip with lots of garlic and olive oil - very Mediterranean-tasting), fatayer (spinach pasties with pine nuts), falafel (deep-fried spiced chickpea patties - crunchy and wonderful), kellage halloum (essentially a halloumi cheese toasty - salty and creamy on the inside, crunchy on the outside), kibbeh maqlia (lemon-shaped deep fried patties of ground lamb, bulgur wheat and nuts), and the kafta kebab (ground lamb shaped into sticks and grilled). Most dishes are served with a big basket of delicious flatbread, perfect for scooping up morsels of dip and sauce, and it's a great place to go to try something a little bit different. The baklava they serve for dessert is also amazing, but baklava normally is.

The Anchor - 2 Hayfield Road
One of the best gastropubs in Oxford, the Anchor is the perfect destination both for Sunday lunch and for any lunch. Or dinner, for that matter. The inside feels like a proper country pub, yet it's only about 15 minutes' walk outside the centre of town. Their normal menu looked very inviting when I was there, but it was a Sunday, so we were presented with the Sunday lunch menu, with a choice of starters, mains (mostly roasts) and desserts. The starters, such as chorizo and chicken terrine with quince and pickled walnuts, or cured duck salad with chicory and a poached duck egg, are enough to make you consider forgoing the mains altogether, but don't. The venison sausages with beetroot mash and mustard jus are simply incredible, the sweetness of the beetroot mash contrasting perfectly with the rich, salty sauce and meaty sausages. The roasts are incredibly generous, with the meat presented separately from a huge platter of roasted vegetables. There's a choice of lamb, pork or beef. Other options include spiced smoked haddock fishcakes with a lime and coriander mayonnaise and chips, or a vegetarian spinach and cheese tart. You can look at their menu online - if it doesn't make you hungry no matter when you last ate, I'd be surprised.

But I must add that the main reason to go to the Anchor is for their treacle tart. I dithered for about twenty minutes between sticky toffee pudding and the aforementioned tart, and was so glad I opted for the latter. It is a feat of brilliance, just the right level of sweetness with a dense, sticky filling. It comes with ginger cream, though I asked for ice cream - either would set off this exquisite dessert perfectly. The only problem is I wanted another slice (though the portion was quite generous - I am just greedy when it comes to sugary concoctions). That said, the sticky toffee pudding and the chocolate fudge brownie both looked amazing - the latter is about the size of your face, which can only be a good thing where chocolate is concerned.

The Royal Oak - 42-44 Woodstock Road
Another good gastropub, the Royal Oak is closer to the centre of town and can get quite busy at times, but also feels like a classic, cosy country pub. They offer an extensive menu, with classic pub dishes like fish cakes, fish and chips, cottage pie, burger with cheese and bacon, steak, roast lamb and gammon hock. What I like about the menu is that it adds a twist to these dishes, even if it's just a high-quality ingredient or an unusual flavour - beef brisket cottage pie with celeriac and horseradish mash, or fishcakes with horseradish cream, or steak with rosemary chips. They also do interesting and slightly more unusual dishes such as seared pigeon with bacon, mushroom and potato salad, or mackerel with beetroot, dill and potato. There's a limited range of starters - soup, prawn cocktails, potted pork with chutney - but the main courses are really the stars of the show. On Sundays they do roasts like chicken with bread sauce, which comes with a huge helping of veg and a Yorkshire pudding, and is really delicious. Desserts are, again, pub classics like sticky toffee pudding, cheesecake, crumble, lemon tart and chocolate brownie. The sticky toffee pudding is a thing of joy. It's a generous helping, warm and fluffy in the middle with the most wonderfully rich, sugary, caramelly sauce, and a scoop of ice cream to hold the whole thing together. The cheesecake is also delicious and again a generous portion. This is a perfect venue for lunch or dinner on a chilly evening, and they also serve hot mulled cider or wine in the winter.

Edamame - 15 Holywell Street
I'm not sure this needs any publicity from me, as it's in most travel guides to Oxford and has a queue several yards out of the door most nights, but Edamame is as good as Japanese food (in England) gets. Often full of Japanese people (always a good sign) it's family run and absolutely tiny, hence the queues. However, they move quickly and the food is worth waiting for. You share tables with total strangers, which isn't as weird as it sounds, and the food is speedy and satisfying. The lunch menu features complete dishes, like marinated salmon, noodle soup, stir-fried noodles or chicken katsu curry (which all come with delicious and satisfying miso soup), whereas the dinner menu is more about choosing a variety of meat, veg or fish dishes and some sort of carbohydrate to go alongside. The marinated pork is very good, as is the stir-fried squid. At lunchtime, I love the chicken yakisoba noodles, or the ramen soups. The eponymous edamame beans are also a must - order them to nibble on while your food arrives, popping them out of their green pods. It's not a place to linger over dinner, as you can often see a queue of hungry diners out of the window waiting for you to vacate your table, but for a taste sensation it's excellent. The sushi on Thursday nights is also exquisite, and great value for money, and they usually offer a range of specials written on the walls.

Also worth mentioning are The Big Bang on Walton Street for the best sausage and mash experience you'll find anywhere; Paddyfields on Hythe Bridge Street for great Chinese in a lovely setting, and the Old Parsonage on Banbury Road for refined cuisine in stunning surroundings.

Feel free to comment if you have any more recommendations, or disagree with me...