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Will be staying at the Randolph for few days and am looking for recommendations for lunches (dinner is covered)--all within walking distance. Thanks!Q

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  1. Chiang Mai is my favorite place in Oxford (and my favorite Thai restaurant in the UK). Off High St. 5-10 min walk from the Randolph.

    2 Replies
    1. re: D Hound

      Chiang Mai is great. You will almost certainly have to book for dinner but lunch shd be fine.

      The one thing I'd say is it's quite a dark place to have lunch - it's a beautiful wooden-beamed C17th(?) town house. If atmosphere is important to you, maybe try somewhere else.

      You could try getting a picnic from the wonderful places in the back of the Covered Market (cheeses, hams, pies...). Ben's Cookies in the Covered Market are a treat too (gooey, American-style cookies, freshly baked and not too sweet; sadly they don't feel quite as special now there's a branch in London too).

      Is that Japanese place round the back of New College still open? If so, go there. Hopefully another poster can remember the name and give more up-to-date guidance on whether it's still around.

      1. re: abpstigand

        i think the upstairs rooms of chiang mai are quite light and okay for lunch.

    2. Nobody's mentioned Jamie Olivers new Italian restaurant. It has had very good reviews, not expenisive and they don't take bookings. It would be my first choice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: PhilD

        Jamie's Italian is wonderful. I spent the summer studying in Oxford and it quickly became a favorite- it was consistent, delicious, and reasonably priced! The Japanese restaurant across the street from New College is still there and also wonderful but it keeps some odd hours (closed Mon. and Tues. during the summer) so you may have to check it out.

      2. Would definitely second (or third!) the Chang Mai recommendations.

        The Japanese that abpstigand was talking about is Edamame on Hollywell street - v. good value japanese food. always full so worth going early and tends to be relatively reliable during term time. There is also excellent Japanese up in Cowley at Gashi gashi but is a longish walk from the Randolph, out over Magdalen Bridge.

        Its worth walking down to Little Clarendon Street or further into Jericho for lunch as well. Little Clarendon Street has great icecream at G&Ds and Pierre Victoire has well priced set menu at lunchtime and is good basic French brasserie cooking. Frevds is round the corner opposite the Oxford University Press, in a converted chapel, and has good pizza. lots of other little restaurants around there as well.

        Although the Cherwell Boathouse isn't within walking distance of the Randolph, is not a long bus/cab ride and is charming.

        1 Reply
        1. re: puffin_26

          Edamame's been recommended to me by quite a few of my friends who studied at Oxford. It was still open when I was in the area last week, though I will agree that it keeps some fairly odd hours. It's open for lunch from Tues to Sat (I think) and dinner on Thurs to Sat only.

          G&D's does serve some truly wonderful ice-cream. The People's Choice flavour last week was mojito, which tasted a little like mango sorbet to me, but the chocolate and Oxford Blues (blueberry) were incredible.

        2. Haven't been for a little while but Lebanese Al Shami at the bottom of Walton Crescent used to be excellent.

          1 Reply
          1. re: serafinab

            I used to love Al Shami but the last few times I visited (in 2006) it had declined precipitously.

            I second the recommendations for Chang Mai. Can't really do the same for Edamame (the 'Japanese place round the back of New College'), Gashi Gashi, G&Ds or Le Petit Blanc. (I discovered that there's actually such a thing as bland ice cream at G&D!).

            Frevd is worth a visit for the setting -- a nineteenth century Greek Revival chapel -- though the food is forgettable at best:


            The Malmaison Brasserie is also noteworthy for its setting (a hotel in a restored Victorian prison) and the food is actually reasonably good, if undistinguished. (If you go, definitely check out the hotel atrium!)

          2. If you don't mind travelling out of town go to Allium in Fairford - incredible.

            Chiang Mai is better for it's decor that it's food - the building itself is great.

            Le Petit Blanc is ok. Try the little greek place over the road - it looked really tempting and they were just starting to do food.

            There's quite a good Indian in Summertown but the name escapes me.

            17 Replies
            1. re: wleigh123

              I agree with wleigh123, I checked out this board before I went to Oxford last Tue. We decided to lunch at Chiang Mai. It's a beautiful restaurant & we could speak to the waiter in Thai. But the food was pretty average.

              Our starter of "miang gai" is Chiang Mai's own unique creation, blending the use of betel leaves (from "miang kham") but topped with cooked minced pork (a la "khao tang na tang") instead of toasted peanuts/toasted coconut shreds/tamarind-molasses dressing.

              Fish sauce was also conspicuously missing from everything.

              We ordered a roast duck in green curry (off the menu) which they kindly prepared for us. It came with little globes of "ma khreau phuong' (pea eggplant0 which lent a nice authentic touch, but the dish was otherwise quite tasteless.

              The salmon with lime-chilli dressing was good although we thought, from the description on the menu, that it would be something like "pla sam rod" (crisp-fried fish with spicy-sweet chilli sauce) - our fault really. We should have double-checked with the waiter.

              My fave Thai restaurant in the UK is still Patara in Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge. It's about as close to what one'll find in Bangkok.

              1. re: klyeoh

                I had lunch here last weekend and it was excellent. We are very well travelled thai hounds and this was up amongst the better places we have been outside Asia. A nice treat considering the mediocrity of most eateries in Oxford.

                Fish sauce was definitely not lacking from our dishes.

                1. re: mr_gimlet

                  Have you tried the "new" Jamie Oliver's Italian? I didn't have a chance but would love to try it the next time I'm in Oxford.

                  1. re: klyeoh

                    As a native I can offer you this:
                    - Oxford is barren of good restaurants
                    - Chang Mai is about the best, but in reality it is a bog-standard thai - there is nothing special about the place
                    - Avoid Jamies like the plague - most of the food is frozen and I have heard numerous reports of shoddy food (including wood chips in meat!) - it is after all, a chain and I thought Chow readers would be above this style of restaurant
                    - Go no where else - if you like food, Oxford city centre is not the place to go

                    On the positive, get a cab to a good country gastro pub - The Nut Tree in Murcot is good; of course there is Le Manoir....

                    1. re: jrrugby

                      How shocking - about Jamie's, that is.

                      Yes, I do love Le Manoir Aux Quat'Saison - it's simply magical.

                      1. re: klyeoh

                        A reliable source told me that Jamie's new Italian in Kingston is also terrible. I hope he steps up his game!

                        1. re: zuriga1

                          It's a chain, they are all the same. And don't be fooled, Jamie really has no running of the restaurant.

                          1. re: jrrugby

                            Yes, I'm sure he is laughing all the way to the bank.

                            I have nothing against chains as long as the food is of high quality and consistent. I think they have a worse reputation in the UK than in the States, where there are a few good ones... but only a few.

                            1. re: jrrugby

                              I am not a great fan of Jamie's Italian having tried it twice. However, given the dire state of many UK high streets it is a cut above much of the competition, and a lot better than 90% of pubs especially those who rely on Brake Bros cuisine!

                              From my experience the food does seem to be freshly cooked on the premise. OK they may use frozen ingredients, this isn't the same as using frozen pre-prepped meals like the aforementioned pubs.

                              Jamie may not be cooking/managing the restaurants (after all he was never really a chef) but I understood he was active in the business and is involved in developing it and running it.

                              As you say Oxford City centre is dire - maybe Jamie's is the best of a bad lot. I myself would grab that cab.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Jamie's Italian place mark:

                                Jamie's Italian (Oxford)
                                26 George St, Oxford, MA 01540

                                1. re: PhilD

                                  I was a bit surprised last week to have a really decent pasta salad at a Carluccio's last week. I'd never set foot in one (no particular reason why not), and I really enjoyed my lunch. Out of curiosity, I will try Jaime's, which is nearby, one of these weeks.

                                  1. re: zuriga1

                                    Consistency - that's what differentiates a good restaurant from an also-ran.

                                    1. re: klyeoh

                                      Consistency is an absolute must for a chain. For me, mostly what I want from a good restaurant is great-tasting food, chain or otherwise.

                                      1. re: zuriga1

                                        Carluccio's place mark:

                                        Castle St, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 1, GB

                                        1. re: klyeoh

                                          Thanks, but I live quite a distance from Oxford and can eat at a more local Carluccio's if the mood hits. :-) I sometimes shop in Kingston and there may be 2 or 3 in that area, including one in a Bentall's. To be honest, I usually like my own Italian cooking better than what I can get in most restaurants in the UK. I was spoiled by Little Italy in NYC or trips to Italy itself.

                                          1. re: zuriga1

                                            I've never found any good Italian cuisine in Oxford (or Oxfordshire for that matter). Carluccio's is okay for provisions and they have okay-ish Italian `cafeteria' food. Their (pre-packaged) cookies are great.

                    2. re: klyeoh

                      Chiang Mai place mark:

                      Chiang Mai Kitchen Ltd
                      130 High St, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4, GB

                  2. I'm jumping in here: I will be accompanying my spouse soon on a week-long trip to Oxford for his job. He will be days and evenings at meetings and related events, so I will be with our 6 year old the whole time (yes, I m crazy). We can't cook where we are staying and of course MY expenses will not be reimbursed, so I really need suggestions for places I can go with our child for dinner (early) which are inexpensive and within easy walking distance of the city centre (no car). Also, where can I buy good things for a picnic reasonably cheaply? We will probably do picnic lunches, if the weather cooperates. Thank you.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: Kat

                      All the usual UK chains will be in or around Oxford... Pizza Express is popular. You can buy good picnic things at any supermarket.....Waitrose, Sainsbury's... all sell good luncheon meats and breads/rolls etc.

                      Have fun exploring and you can hop on a bus (public transport here is good) and see some of the lovely towns nearby Oxford. I particularly like Goring which is on a canal and it's a nice place to walk.

                      Think of your trip as a good 'bonding' experience. :-)

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        Thank you for the advice. I remember Pizza Express from when I lived in London in the late 80's. Pizza was decent. I haven't been to the UK for 9 years, so I am looking forward to it.

                        1. re: zuriga1

                          Unless things have changed recently, the nearest Waitrose to Oxford is Witney or Abingdon, both about 10 miles away. There's a Sainsbury's in the Westgate Centre which might suffice. Carluccios would be my first choice for picnics. There's also a place in the Covered Market (I can't remember the name, but they're in the middle aisle towards the back entrance if I remember correctly) that does great Scotch eggs, pork pies and onion bhajees (NB: closes at 5 pm).

                          Pizza Express is okay and in a nice building in the Golden Cross (next to the Covered Market). Also decent for take-away is Pret a Manger and the Cornish Pasty Shop, both on Cornmarket. near Carfax.

                          What part of Oxford you will be in will of course change what's `walking distance'. City centre is best (I recommend the Malmaison or The Old Bank, if you have a choice). There are some okay places if you're staying up towards Summertown, less so if you're staying out towards Headington.

                          1. re: Peripatetic

                            @ peripatetic-Things have changed recently-there are 2 new waitrose outlets,both relatively close to Oxford city centre.One is in Summertown,the other in Headington.

                            1. re: ib959

                              Interesting! I checked their branch finder before posting, and those weren't listed. I just checked again and they're _still_ not listed. Guess they're slow to update it . . .

                              1. re: Peripatetic

                                Yes,you are quite right,the website is very slow on updates indeed.However,as i have shopped at both,i am sure they are in existence! Essentially,Waitrose bought the 2 Somerfield shop sites that existed there.Neither shop offers the fullest range of Waitrose produce,but are perfectly servicable.

                                1. re: ib959

                                  As I sit working from Summertown I can assure you that there is no Waitrose here!!!!

                        2. re: Kat

                          The best thing to do is head to the covered market right in the city centre. More info


                          Some highlights

                          -Alpha do great salads to take on picnics
                          -Moo Moos - they have a huge range of milkshakes.
                          -Ben cookies - best cookies in Ox.

                          There's also loads of delis and places to buy fresh fruit.

                          Additionally on the high street there's a shop called Olives which has decent rillettes and pate. If you get a sandwich from here ask for some onion marmalade.

                          1. re: alexnaz

                            Thanks for the link! I checked it out and it looks good. I've read good things about Ben's cookies as well so that will be a go.