School is FINALLY out for summer, and this temperature has me all giddy. Whether you want to beat the heat or soak up that sunshine we’ve got a bunch of tasty things to do and places to visit this summer.
Dining Al Fresco
Let’s be realistic, no one wants a cosy nook by the fireplace at this time of year. Oxford has a great selection of parks and meadows to picnic in. And, while I’m not really that much of an outdoorsy type myself (gasp), I’ve ventured out into some great picnic locations with friends this year.
Shotover Country Park, South Park, Port Meadow and Christ Church Meadow are my current favourites. If you are packing up a picnic and heading out the door, make sure you’ve got a great picnic blanket to sit on – like this bright flamingo picnic blanket by Eco Chic at Boswell’s Oxford.
If you’d rather someone else do the catering, Oxford has a great selection of pub gardens and restaurant terraces too.
The Fishes in North Hinksey, The Perch in Binsey, Jacob’s Inn in Wolvercote, The Trout also in Wolvercote, Abingdon Arms in Beckley, The Victoria Arms in Old Marston and Isis Farmhouse at Iffley Lock have by far the best big pub gardens, with beautiful settings and space for kids to run around while you sip casually on those chilled drinks.
Top Pick – The Abingdon Arms
If you’re not fussed about greenery, Folly Bridge and Head of the River pub both have terraces overlooking The Thames in St Aldates, Cherwell Boathouse also, but further up in North Oxford. 1855 has a small but lovely terrace for sipping on chilled wines while taking in Oxford’s old prison and castle.
I can’t discuss restaurant terraces without mentioning The Varsity Club with its stunning views over Oxford, and Ashmolean Dining Room, which has a huge wall of windows that open up, bringing the outside in. And, of course, Oxford Westgate’s huge roof terrace full of eateries – my favourites being Sticks N Sushi, Cinnamon Kitchen, Dirty Bones (review incoming) and Breakfast Club. Pizza Pilgrims also have a tiny terrace out the back of the restaurant to enjoy their awesome pizzas.
Oxford is a welcoming city for families, with plenty of city parks and open spaces, the restaurant scene can be tricky to navigate without hitting several chains (get your copy of Indie Oxford Compendium to find all the great indie restaurants!), but there’s plenty of choice for dining with the kiddos.
Top Pick – The Bear & Ragged Staff
My kids go mad for Middle Eastern mezze, so Comptoir Libanais and Pickled Walnut are favourites, with bright colours to look at and plenty of space to relax in, both restaurants offer extensive menus of ‘picky bits’ as we call it in our house, without breaking the bank. The Oxford Blue (review incoming) has recently reopened as a ‘pizza, pots and pints’ pub, with tasty comfort foods like beef brisket lasagne (drool) and very good pizza – there’s currently a two for one pizza deal on Mondays that would be great for families.
Who could do their kid out of a trip to Atomic Burger – just sitting at a table, taking in all the comic book heroes plastering the room, elicited a good half hour of ooh’s and ahh’s from my two. Meaning zero need for colouring books, tablets, or any form of innovative Mummy game to distract them till the food arrived.
Top Pick – Brasserie Blanc
The Punter on Osney Island and The Anchor in North Jericho both serve up homely plates of food that aren’t overly heavy on the salt, so a good one for family meals with little ones. The Bear & Ragged Staff in Cumnor and Brasserie Blanc are excellent family-friendly venues for those looking for somewhere elegant to dine, while The Breakfast Club at Oxford Westgate and BRICK at Modern Art Oxford both offer plenty of choice for little to big ones. One of my favourites for just me and the boys is La Cucina in St Clements, the light and airy setting is a perfect retreat after a run around South Park, with breadsticks to nibble on while they wait for big plates of bolognese and pizza.
Summer isn’t just for kids, so for those of you looking for some clocking off cocktails and grown-up gafs, we know just the places.
Pint Shop has long been a favourite of mine, and their newly refurbished downstairs cocktail bar, Under The Shop, won’t disappoint. With its moody dark walls and plush vintage furniture, it’ll have you sipping on grown-up cocktails all night long. The Coconut Tree in St Clements is very family friendly, but it’s a firm favourite date night venue for me and Mr T (we ain’t no fools), with spicy tapas-sized treats to share and cocktails to slurp on you’ll be catching all the feels and planning a coconut themed wedding in no time.
Top Pick – Under The Shop
Likewise, with Sticks N Sushi, kids are very welcome but there’s a certain adult vibe to it – not that type, head back out of the gutter, please. The menu here is as it is on the tin – meat on sticks plus sushi, not cheap but well worth the investment. The sparkling sake here is delicious too. For some serious cocktail menu porn, check out The Alchemist at Westgate Oxford or Be At One in St Clements.
Arbequina and Kazbar are your Cowley Road go-to’s for tapas, the former an elegant Spanish restaurant with flavour aplenty, the latter a heady mix of flavoursome food and potent cocktails. Both will have you whispering te amo by the end of the night.
We’ve visited The Porterhouse by Oxford train station several times as a family, but we prefer it as adult only. Another brilliant date night venue that’s good for much more, including brunch, the steak-led food here is top notch. It’s not cheap, but then you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to good quality meat. Check out their awesome meat fridge while you’re there too, then wonder where you’ll get the 10k from so you can buy the must-have for yourself.
Top Pick – Porterhouse
Tap Social in Botley have had a cracking year of events at their taproom and brewery, from live music and street food to beer yoga, they’ve always got loads planned. Follow their Facebook page for details of upcoming events.
Mrs Bun the Baker held a cooking demonstration at our Oxford Food & Drink Festival, and she’s running a Children’s Cookery Class at Millett’s Farm on 21st August, with more events to come. Parents will be pleased to hear the end of the school holidays ties in nicely with a Gin Tasting event at Oxford Castle! The Gin To My Tonic is hosting the ‘Tasting Takeover’ on 1st September.
Top Pick – Happy Cakes
Native Feasts pop-up supper club has been popping up all over the place, with various dining themes. They have two dates left for their Japanese themed ‘Feasts of the Setting Sun’ popup at College Farm in Long Crendon. Sandy Lane Farm has also been organising some interesting foodie events, and have a Pop-up Seasonal Supper taking place on 16th August.
Newly opened Nordic cafe Skogen Kitchen have a Customer Tasting Evening on 9th August, with tickets just £5.83 you’d be mad to miss that one. I popped in to meet new owner Clare last week – full preview to follow!
Beat The Heat
In this heat you can only go one of two ways – spice it up or ice it down. For cranking up the heat, The Coconut Tree in St Clements has to make another appearance (see below for free food), the spicy cuttlefish dish in particular. Taberu sushi and Japanese on Cowley Road is one of the only places I use multiple times a month. Their spicy noodle soup is everything. Their sister venue – Pan Pan – also has some pretty awesome spicy favourites, lie their chilli fried tofu, all crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.
Top Pick – Shoryu Ramen
If you want to cool things down a notch or twenty, my go-to for ice cream in central Oxford is always iScream in the Covered Market, with their limited selection of uber high-quality gelato, sorbetto and ‘kid in a sweet shop’ display of chocolates. If you ask nicely, Graham might have something seasonal under the counter.
If I’m in East Oxford, it’s Sundaes Gelato. It doesn’t always feel like the best quality, but there is a HUGE selection of gelato flavours and desserts, plenty of seating, and the kids flipping love it. The service is pretty patchy in this eight-chain parlour too, but you’ll forget that all the while the kids are happy.
And Finally… Free Food!
Hopper your way to The Coconut Tree – Free Hoppers to share.
Go and enjoy award-winning recently opened Sri Lankan Bar & Restaurant in Oxford Award. Experience an explosion of flavours in their vegetables, meats & fish along with sweet and fiery Cocotails… a naturally abundant vegan & vegetarian cuisine, all served tapas style.
Simply book a table at www.thecoconut-tree.com and quote: #HopperTastingBittenOxford when welcomed to your table and receive a free Hopper (one Hopper per person, maximum of 4 hoppers per table booking).
T’s & C’s – HopperTastingBittenOxford cannot be used with any other offer at The Coconut Tree. Offer ends 30th September 2018. Management reserve the right to change or withdraw offers at any time.
Find them at: 76 St Clement’s Street, Oxford, OX4 1AH, don’t forget to book a table!
Follow them: FB @thecoconuttreeoxford / Instagram @thecoconuttreeuk / Twitter @coconuttreeuk www.thecoconut-tree.com