Well, the shiny new revamped Westgate Centre is due to reopen on Tuesday 24th October, which at the time of writing is exactly two weeks away. Being closed since early 2016 has affected the city and it’s economy pretty drastically so we’re hoping that an updated centre will breathe new life into our city, just in time for Christmas. Having said that, I’m not a fan of shopping and I’m far more excited by the incoming food offerings, bars and the activities that are going to be right here very soon. After all, food offerings in the previous Westgate incarnation weren’t particularly inspiring – there was a shortlived cafe in the back of Whittards, a Millie’s Cookies, a cafe on the first floor of what was Virgin record store and then Mark One where the cool but broke teens spent many hours over a hot chocolate! If you remember Allders or Lewis’s then there was a cafe in there or just outside the centre was Fenwicks or even the much missed Don Millers with their vinegary cones of chips and sugar encrusted doughnuts. But that is all about to change…
Assuming you don’t want to spend your precious time scrolling through approximately 100 shops and like us, just want to know “WHAT CAN I EAT???!?” we’ve done the hard work for you and produced a Bitten go-to list!
The Alchemist, a “molecular mixology” cocktail bar that will be serving morning coffee, lunch and dinner. They claim to take the utmost care in sourcing and using the finest ingredients so we’ll be popping in to try out their espresso martinis and gin range.
Benito’s Hat – Mexican food and drink small chain, Oxford is their first branch outside of London.
Caffe Concerto – rather grand patisserie with salads and baguettes to alleviate the sweetness. Also with cocktails!
Cinnamon Kitchen – we’re quite excited about this one! Another one opening its first location outside of London, Cinnamon Kitchen brings Vivek Singh’s modern Indian cuisine with British influences. They’ll be focusing on seasonal, quality ingredients to create their trademark Indian flavours. We’re particularly excited about Chukka -spiced 35 day dry-aged Hereford rump steak and chargrilled sea bass in a banana leaf parcel.
If you’d like to try Cinnamon Kitchen before their official opening on 1st November, you can pre-book for their soft launch with a stonking 50% off food from 24th – 31st October. Simply email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
Comptoir Libanais – starting off with Lebanese breakfasts, through to hot and cold mezze, grills, pizzas and my favourite, baklava. All available to eat in or take away they describe their food as fresh, healthy, honest and affordable. Read our review here.
Dirty Bones – this induces a Homer style groan from me. NYC inspired cocktails alongside comfort food with a twist, chicken and waffles, cheeseburger dumplings, burnt onion and ale beef short rib. Definitely a brunch venue!
KuPP is a new one to us but one that is guaranteed to top up your hygge. Nordic inspired cafe, bar and dining in a rooftop location (possibly overlooking that slightly odd glass tunnel thing but hey ho). Gravadlax, hot dogs, meatballs and you can buy it in their store to take home too! It’ll be an Instagram hotspot!
Le Pain Quotidien – lunchtime experts with crusty baguettes and fresh soups and salads.
Nando’s – gotta go for a cheeky one! Chicken, chicken and some veggie dishes.
Ned’s Noodle Bar – started in London in 2000 and the first franchise outlet opened in Shoreditch but not as hipster as you might think. Bringing the number one noodles in a box to Oxford
Pho – however you pronounce this Vietnamese street food (it’s fur btw!) we do love us some broth with noodles and a load of fresh, spicy ingredients. They will be doing curries, salads, noodles and beers too if you’re not so keen on slurping.
They’re running a slightly different offer for their launch! You could win FREE PHO FOR A YEAR! There will be three cards hidden around Oxford on Monday 23rd October. Sign up to their website http://www.phocafe.co.uk/locations/oxford/ and you’ll be sent clues that morning as to the cards secret locations. There will be more clues throughout the day on their social media too. Simply be the first person to show up at one of the locations and you win!
Pizza Pilgrims – WE LOVE THESE GUYS! From when they were a dinky little street food trader in Soho through to their popping up at the last Bitten Street, their pizzas are sublime. Wood fired, smoky, soft, crispy dough with the very best toppings. The nduja was SO GOOD we had another one…
Pret a Manger – we all know Pret and their fresh, natural, proper sandwiches.
Rola Wala – Indian street food with a twist. Choose your base, sourdough naan, grain bowl or cauliflower and kale bowl then chuck on all the toppings! Charred chicken, naga lamb, vegan daal, chickpeas, saagwala. Just beware that garlic breath if you’re heading back to work!
Shawa – is schwarma, slices of chargrilled chicken or lamb in wraps. AKA a posh kebab. Also do veggie options such as grilled halloumi (love that squeak!) and falafel with tabbouleh.
Shoryu – VERY excited for this one. Traditional hakata tonkotsu ramen with a stock base that takes 12 hours at a rolling boil to get that opaqueness. And their gyoza are amazing!
Sticks N Sushi – a TWENTY page menu of more sushi than you can shake a stick at! From beef tataki, mackerel nigiri, tuna tartare, teriyaki sticks, pork ribs and huge sharing platters this looks amazing. And there’s dessert where if you can’t choose, you can have a tasting platter of all of them! Read our preview.
The Breakfast Club – banging brunches apparently. Pancakes, waffles, avocado, huevos rancheros, croque monsieur. I’m sold! Love too that they support Age UK by offering an OAP breakfast fry up for just £4 including tea. So grab your grannies and grandads and take them out for a treat – they’ll love it and love spending time with you. Brunch continues all day, adding American comfort food to the menu in the evening along with cocktails and prosecco. Banging indeed.
The Breakfast Club are running a soft launch this weekend – you could win tickets to be one of the few to get in there before anyone else. For a 50% off preview lunch simply go to http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com/whats-on/
Tommi’s Burger Joint – simple but quality burgers, this is their first location outside of London. Not just London either but the coolest parts. Stripped back to basics burgers, all cooked medium with an array of toppings to customise exactly how you like it.
Victor’s “A contemporary American dining experience inspired by the East Coast’s definitive take on international cuisine.” Expect sushi, American style salads, lobster roll, a decent range of steaks, oysters and a raw bar. Most excited by ahi tuna so fingers crossed that makes it to the Oxford menu!
WOW! So after all this, what would be our top tips to go to first? Shoryu, Pizza Pilgrims, Cinnamon Kitchen and The Breakfast Club definitely are on our list first but pretty much all of these need a visit. It’ll be interesting to see how many of these end up on our Bitten Top Ten – there’s a lot of competition.
Finally, with our Indie Compendium hat on – whilst all this is new and exciting, please don’t forget our already established bars, cafes and restaurants in and around Oxford. The Westgate will be like a new toy on Christmas morning, and we’re excited about all the new visitors and returners coming into our city but don’t forget your much-loved favourites who are still around.
Let us know where you go and what you love!