Yikes! It’s already over halfway through November and Father Christmas is dusting off his boots, ready for the night shift from hell. With just over five weeks (gulp) till the big day, here’s a roundup of the best places to book those last minute Christmas parties and New Year celebrations.
We’ve even got a bunch of great gifts and top wine picks for the festive season for all you lovely people.
Christmas Parties & New Year’s Eve
Brasserie Blanc is open as normal on Christmas Eve and is currently fully booked for lunch on Christmas Day, however, it is worth emailing them at email@example.com if you’re interested in booking for the big day, as a few tables are yet to confirm. The brasserie is still taking party bookings and has a tasty sounding menu available, priced at £32.50 for a three-course feast with a French twist. Alternatives to traditional turkey (which they do also offer), include Thai beef cheek, duck cassoulet, seared hake, or wild mushroom and truffle risotto. The restaurant will be offering a New Year’s Eve party menu, which includes four-courses for £49.50 per person. Menus available here.
Ashmolean Dining Room is still taking party bookings, with a Christmas menu that includes prosecco on arrival, followed by beetroot and gin gravlax, duck terrine or truffled parsnip and hazelnut soup. Mains consist of apricot and pork stuffed turkey roulade with all the trimmings, pumpkin gnocchi or roast cod with veg and beurre blanc sauce. Lemon posset, mulled wine cheesecake (yum) or sticky toffee pud bring up the rear, with mince pies to finish. Two courses will set you back £30, £35 for three. The restaurant is shut on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, opening as usual on 2nd January. For party bookings of 5 people or more, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Newly opened Bicycle Shed in Summertown is open on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve till 11pm, but shut on Christmas Day. They have a special Christmas menu offering 2-courses for £21 and 3 for £27, plus a great private dining space at the back of the restaurant for parties. Check out the pics in our recent preview of The Bicycle Shed.
Magdalen Arms on Iffley Road is still taking party bookings for the next couple of weeks, with flexibility on menu choices AND will be open for dinner on New Year’s Eve from 10am till 12.30pm’ish. Pop into the pub or call them on 01865 243159 to book. Opening hours over the festive period are: closed 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th December, re-opening for dinner at 5pm on 28th. They will also be closed 1st & 2nd January 2019, re-opening for dinner on 3rd January.
The White Hart in Wytham – probably my favourite local pub for consistently excellent food, if I had to choose just one – is open Christmas Eve for lunch & dinner, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for à la carte lunch from 12-3.45pm. The pub still has scope to take party bookings, no minimum number and you book for up to 70 people if you want the whole pub! Check out the party menu here.
East Oxford fave The Chester is taking bookings, for both NYE and the run-up to Christmas. They’re open for drinks only on Christmas Eve, then back open on 27th December. Call them on 01865 790438 to book.
Bedecked with a fresh new Michelin star, The Oxford Kitchen is offering two three-course Christmas party menus from 1st to 24th December, priced £60 and £70 per person respectively. A festive tasting menu is also available for parties of 8 or more at £85 per person. Menus are available on their website.
No more sprouts!
If you’re totes fed up of turkey and sprouts, there are plenty of international choices to choose from.
The seemingly perma-busy Antep Kitchen on Cowley Road is open for their normal trading hours of 12-11pm all through the festive period, serving up Turkish kebabs and more in a stylish setting, complete with formally dressed waiting staff and an open grill.
Big Society is closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day but keeping those doors open on NYE till 2am AND they’re taking party bookings for up to 40 people – no festive menu though, just the usual lip-smacking offering of fried chicken, burgers, hot dogs and fries. Call 01865 792755 to book.
Zheng, Jericho’s rather excellent Asian restaurant is closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, opening Boxing Day and NYE with hours TBC. For parties – the max capacity of the restaurant is 50 and you can select from either a set menu or the normal menu. Our recommendation here is to set a rough budget and tell the waiting staff what you do or don’t like, plus any allergies, then let them do the rest; they’ll send out plate after plate of delicious dishes for the table to share. Bliss.
Cinnamon Kitchen is open as usual, apart from Christmas Day, and is able to take party bookings within the main restaurant or for up to 60-70, or in a private area for 6. They have three ‘events menus‘ available, ranging from £35 per person to £65 for groups of over 10 people. Having eaten there a few times, this one comes highly recommended!
One of my current favourites The Coconut Tree is open on Christmas Eve till 7pm, with the kitchen open till 6pm. It’s shut on Christmas Day but back open on Boxing Day for some post-crimbo spice. On NYE the Sri-Lankan restaurant is open all day till midnight, with the kitchen closing at 10pm, back to usual on New Year’s Day. This one would be a fab one for a party – there is no min or max for group bookings, but the VIP area available seats up to about 20-30, you can either select from the normal menu, or pay £20/30 per head and they’ll just bring you out a big selection of dishes from the menu for you to chow down on. A great place for vegan and gluten-free food.
Out of Oxford
The lovely Abingdon Arms in Beckley is open from 12-10pm on Christmas Eve, with food served from 12-2.30pm and 6-7/8pm. On Christmas Day it’s bar only from 12-2 – perfect for that pre-lunch drink. Boxing Day is also bar only, from12-5. From 27-30th December the pub is open normal hours of 12-11pm. On NYE the bar is open all day from 12-11pm, later if busy, with food served 12-3pm and 6-9pm, offering a special nye menu with no pre-booking. The Beckley local is back open from 12-5pm on New Year’s Day, closed 2nd and 3rd, then business as usual from 4th Jan.
The Pointer in Brill is open on Christmas Eve for lunch from 12-2pm & dinner from 6.30-8.30pm. On Boxing Day they’re serving lunch from 12-3pm, lunch is available from 12-2pm on New Year’s Eve, then a whopping 8-course tasting menu is available in the evening, sitting down at 8pm with live music and the bar open through to midnight. On New Year’s Day the pub is open for lunch only, from 12-3pm, then closed for two weeks for building works. Festive party menus are available for groups of 10 or more, with a 2-course lunch for £29, or 3-course lunch or dinner for £34. Both party menus include coffee/tea & mince pies. Pop next door to their butchers for some goodies to take home.
If you’d really like to celebrate in style, The Pointer is offering some cracking overnight packages. The Twixmas Package checks in on 28th December and out on 30th December. The package costs £540 for two people and includes one double room for 2 nights b&b, three-course à la carte on 28th and 29th, and a morning with Executive Chef James learning butchery skills, followed by lunch. The New Year Package costs £700 for two people and includes: one double room for 2 nights b&b on 30th and 31st December, 3-course dinner for two on 30th, 8-course New Year’s Eve tasting menu for two, plus a bottle of champagne.
The Killingworth Castle in Wootten offers some seriously tasty food in a cosy gastropub setting with rural Oxfordshire countryside as a backdrop. The pub is closed on New Year’s Eve but open from 12-2om on Christmas Day for drinks, with normal trading hours on Christmas Eve. They are still taking plenty of party bookings, all the way up till Christmas Eve, prices start at £24 per person and menus can be found here. house 9-11.
Christmas Foodie Gift Guide
I’ve been testing out a new knife sharpener at home that is about the size of a tangerine and suctions onto your worktop. Turns out, it’s better than I expected and really handy for having on hand in the kitchen. I have a set of Global knives which I use regularly – and often forget to sharpen! Having something so small on the counter means I don’t forget and it’s mega easy to use, with excellent results so far. The AnySharp Pro is available to buy online from Amazon for £19.99 in a range of colours.
Fairtrade at St. Michaels has some lovely, and ethical, tableware in their shop on Cornmarket Street. Serve up your festive treats in handmade and decorated bowls and plates, alongside quirky serving ware and cute decorations.
I popped in to meet Fudge Kitchen recently on Broad Street (details on the blog this week) and found these rather perfect fudge making kits, ideal for the foodie friend who likes to make their own goodies, or someone with kids that like to get into the kitchen. Kits cost £30 and include a Fudge Kitchen apron, sugar thermometer, 2 fudge making tool, instruction booklet, and ingredients to make 3 batches of fudge. The tubs of liquid fudge (hell yeah) cost £4.50 each – I’m currently working my way through a stem ginger one!
Yemaya’s Kitchen in Wheatley can put together bespoke hampers, of anything from wine and local beers, to fruit juices, crackers, recipe or art books, tea, coffees, cakes and more.
A Rosie Life has some lovely gift and homewares available to order from the website, including these rather cool tea towels by Stuart Gardiner. The towels cost £10 each and there are also whiskey, gin and wine versions available! Order them from A Rosie Life here.
Charge your glasses!
Recently I met up with the guys behind Grape Minds, a new independent wine shop coming to North Oxford. They know how important drinks are to making the most of festive fun, so they’ve put together this handy list of Christmas crackers for you to enjoy.
Delivery is free on all six-bottle orders from Grape Minds, and if you quote this Bitten article, you get a free bottle with your first £50+ purchase from them!
Prosecco: Antonio Borga DOC Millesmato
Single Bottle £14.99 | As part of a case: £12.99
This Prosecco was so great when we tried it, we decided to import it ourselves! Lovely delicate bubbles, this is a great way to kick start any celebration over the festive period.
Champagne: Chassenay D’Arce Brut NV
Single Bottle: £29.99 | As part of a case: £26.99
Our favourite champagne; golden yellow in colour with rich honey and fruit aromas. This is the classy Champagne to wake up to on Christmas morning.
Pa Road Sauvignon Blanc 2017
Single Bottle: £14.99 | As part of a case: £11.99
Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc at its absolute best. The current Chief Vintner, Liam McElhinney, is the genius behind some of the world’s most iconic Sauvignon Blancs such as Saint Clair and The Ned, and his skill here is evident. Fresh gooseberry and tropical fruit make this an absolute must-have in the fridge this Christmas.
Domaine de Cardon Mercurey Blanc Premier Cru
Single Bottle: £35 | As part of a case: £30
One of Burgundy’s most underrated wine growing appellations. Mercurey produces amazing reds and whites, and this is the perfect white accompaniment to your Christmas meal. Rich golden fruit flavour will match your turkey whilst an amazing crispness keeps this wine fresh and begging you to go back for another glass. Graeme has already chosen it as his Christmas Day wine, and so should you!
Sancerre Rouge, Berthier
Single Bottle: £19.99 | As part of a case: £17.99
Pinot Noir is a temperamental grape to grow, difficult to get right and consequently expensive. Some of the world’s very best wines are Pinots, and while Sancerre is better known for its whites, this red Sancerre, made entirely from Pinot Noir, is a stunning wine. Soft, with ripe red berry flavours and subtle smokiness, this is perfect with any poultry and our go-to recommendation for a red with Christmas dinner.
Gran Aracuria Carménère, Chile
Single Bottle: £13.99 | As part of a case: £10.99
Carménère is a much-underrated grape variety and a favourite at Grape Minds. Similar to Merlot but with a little more body, this is perfect as you unwind on the sofa over the festive period. Lovely blueberry and plum fruit flavours give way to a rich chocolatey finish. Absolutely sumptuous!
The new year is a time for celebration, to remember the year past and to look forward to 2019. Here are their top tips for a New Year’s Party to remember:
- Everyone loves a glass of bubbly on NYE, but if you have a houseful you don’t want to be serving Champagne all evening! Cavas Hill Cava is made in the Champagne method and shares a big body, fine bubbles and sophisticated biscuity flavours with its French cousin. But at £10.99 a bottle (as part of a case) it’s a delicious way to keep the celebrations going all night without breaking the bank.
- As the clock strikes 12, it’s time to break out the good stuff. Lyme Bay from Devon make fantastic quality sparkling wine and their classic cuvee from £30 is a steal!
- White for the evening? Look no further than the Calazul Albarino, a white from the Rias Baixas region of northern Spain. A well-balanced wine with lovely notes of fresh peach and lemon, sip this all night for £10.99 (as part of a case).
- Your red should be light enough for people to drink on its own, but with enough flavour to entertain the palate all evening. Try a Nero/Merlot blend from Sicily from Gergenti at £11.99. Lovely red cherry fruit makes it perfect alone, or even better with a mouthful of your favourite cheese!
- Finally, Grape Minds are there for your catering needs. Hire wine glasses, flutes and chiller bins for free, and they will deliver the whole shebang free of charge as well!