A tasty wrap of the latest Oxford food & drink news
It is ALL going off in Oxford right now, new places opening, old favourites closing, a national critic smashing a local restaurant… It’s been busy at Bitten HQ too, as I’ve taken over the reins in full with a trusty team of brilliant writers.
There have been a lot of changes and plenty more planned – so stay tuned for more content, more help deciding where to eat, and more focus on the amazing food and drink in and around the area and the people behind it.
But in the meantime, I’ll crack on with the news.
Opening & Closing
A new independent wine specialist is set to open in North Oxford this Friday – initial details here and more to come from Bitten, but you can follow Grape Minds on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram to watch details unfold.
Speaking of booze, an old haunt of mine – Eurobar – has reopened as a fancy new cocktail bar. OXO Bar, as it’s now called, is a far cry from the pre-clubbing drinks venue I visited many moons ago. Nice new comfy booths to sit in, decadent cocktails, and a DJ throwing out some tunes. A much more grown-up place to be and very good cocktails to boot. We sampled a fair few on a recent visit, including a particularly pleasant espresso martini, a highly praised old fashioned and a well-regarded caipirinha, from someone I know is a stickler for both!
Portabello closed it’s doors last month, it reopened under new management and is now rebranded as Pompette. I went for a preview to meet new Chef Patron, Pascal Wiedmann and wife Laura, who have taken over the restaurant together. High up on my ‘to visit’ list!
Staying in Summertown, Saffron was also taken over by new management and rebranded, this one to The Bicycle Shed. The new venue is sister venue to George Street Social and is vegetarian and vegan focused, while still catering for omnivores and pescatarians to a lesser degree. Check out the full preview.
Previously Cafe Coco, Bamboo under Royal Oxford Hotel closed just after my September news roundup. According to the person I spoke with the restaurant was already being advertised to let, we’ll let you know when we find out what it’s becoming next. It’s still shut at the moment, with the hotel running a breakfast service plus tea and coffee in the afternoon.
Taco Bandits finished their stint at Magdalen Road early, and have since been replaced by The Handle Bar at 39 Magdalen Road, run by the team behind The Handle Bar on St Michael’s Street, Le Bar underneath, and BRICK at Modern Art Oxford.
St Clements is having a tough run, with Cous Cous Cafe closing a matter of months ago, and Qumins following soon after. There’s still plenty left to enjoy in St Clements – Pan Pan, La Cucina, Rachel’s Asian bakery, Coconut Tree and Cuttlefish to name a few, we also visited Be At One for some tasty cocktails recently. And who’s tried Rick’s vegetarian cafe yet?
There has been a lot of activity on Cowley Road of late, and I’m yet to cover it all, but Za’atar Bake has now opened in place of Beetroot Cafe. I had a very tasty lamb, roasted vegetable and pomegranate fatayer from them recently and will definitely return for more.
A new Brazilian grocery store is opening next to Joe Austin Florist, and what used to be Buongiorno e Buonasera on Cowley Road is reopening as Nefistanbul. I had a quick nosey at the interior on my way past recently, and it’s clearly undergone huge changes. According to a workman on site, the new restaurant is owned by the same person who owns Bodrum Kebab.
If you’re a fan of The Rusty Bicycle and The Rickety Press then hold tight, they may have another coming your way. Small pub chain Dodo Pub Co, who owns both the Rusty and Rickety, are set to take over The Somerset Pub in Marston. Leo Johnson, co-owner of the Dodo Pub Co. said: “We have had our offer accepted for the purchase of the Somerset and are in the process of agreeing terms. We are extremely hopeful that we will be successful.”
Getting a Makeover
The George Inn over towards Banbury reopened after a major refurbishment and with the addition of nine en-suite guest rooms. Bitten went for a good old nosey around and will be back to review the food very soon.
Thame’s The Thatch also had a bit of a nip and tuck, in the form of a bright new interior. Warm damson meets leather, plaid, and indigo velvets. The dining area also features hand-painted ‘Walled Garden’ Rapture and Wright wall-coverings. I popped along to review the updated pub in time for Christmas, details on the blog soon.
Smoke and Thyme are collaborating with Tap Social to create a Fried Chicken & Beer Tasting Night. The collaboration promises three kinds of crispy, succulent fried chicken, plus three refreshing Tap Social Beers and unlimited sides for £25. The event takes place on 7th December at 7.30pm and tickets are available here.
Waddesdon Manor Christmas Fair returns once again, with a line up of 86 hand-selected exhibitors housed in charming wooden chalets. The event will be set against a backdrop of a magical light and sound show, 20ft Christmas tree and a floodlit North Front of the Manor. The lineup of stalls includes some of our favourite street food traders – OMG, Smoke Yard Kitchen and Kurbside Kitchen. Other stalls Bitten will be heading straight for include Cotswold Distillery, Hitchcox Cider, Boarstall Meats, Gibson’s Organic Liqueurs and TOAD. Some traders vary week by week, and ground entrance fees apply. The event runs from 10th November to 6th December, Wed-Sun, 11am-6pm. Full event details here.
With November being Vegan Month, Cinnamon Kitchen launched a delicious tasting vegan menu. Featuring an innovative selection of vibrant, plant-based dishes on offer, vegans and non-vegans alike can indulge in a four-course menu (£35 per person) whilst enjoying views of the iconic Oxford Spires. Kick off with a pre-starter of chutney potatoes in a semolina shell with tangy mint water, followed by grilled aubergine with sesame tamarind and peanut, or chargrilled fruit chaat in gem cups. For mains, tuck into tandoori mushroom, green mango and coriander sauce with steamed rice, or a garlic tempered green pea ‘kichri’ with broccoli and cauliflower floret pickle. For sides, enjoy Punjabi chickpea curry and tandoori roti, then top it all off with saffron poached pear filled with dried fruit and a citrus lemon-thandai sorbet.
Yemaya’s Kitchen, who I went to visit recently, is hosting a special Christmas supper club. The supper club runs on 7th and 8th December, showcasing Rebecca Barrett – an ambitious and creative chef with a passion for local produce, fresh ingredients and British Artisan flavours. Tickets cost £45 each and include 4 courses plus an optional wine pairing. Full details can be found on Eventbrite.
You’ll have to be super quick with this one – The Handle Bar at 39 Magdalen Road is hosting a farm to table supper club TOMORROW, on 29th November. A feast of high welfare produce, fish and beef, the menu includes line caught sea bream ceviche and local grass-reared beef in all its glorious cuts! Enjoy platters of topside, silverside and other various steak cuts and fillets. Local producer Ben from Turley Farm will do an introduction to his farming methods and happy cows, then enjoy Binsey orchard apple tart for pudding. There will also be a glass of organic accompanying wine with starters and mains. Tickets cost £40 and because of the short time left to book, you will need to email email@example.com by about lunchtime tomorrow to secure a space.
On 14th December, the lovely Silvie on Iffley Road will be hosting a special Christmas celebration evening. Tickets cost £40 each and include a multi-course festive feast showing how SILVIE cooks up the best of the season and what local producers have to offer plus welcome cocktail. Perfect for friends, loved ones or work friends, their bar will be open on the evening (alcoholic, soft & hot) with a wine pairing menu also available. Tickets available via Eventbrite here.
Skogen Kitchen has launched a new Friday Night Bistro. Expect your favourite Scandi lunchtime dishes from their normal menu plus a changing weekly special. With a fantastic wine list from Oxford Wine Company and their neighbours Sandy’s Piano Bar, you are guaranteed a great night out. Bookings now being taken by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.