With Valentine’s Day on the horizon and Mother’s Day following not long after, finding the region’s finest restaurants, pubs, and bars has never been more essential, but with so much choice and tables booking up fast, finding a place that’s sure to put a smile on your loved one’s face isn’t the easiest task. From authentic Chinese restaurants to traditional, Michelin-starred pubs, a visit to one of the pubs and restaurants that feature on this list never fails to impress.
Situated just a short, scenic stroll from Bicester Village, The Lion at Wendlebury extends a warm and cosy welcome to locals and visitors alike with its homely, traditional décor complete with log-burning fire and comfy seating. Epitomising everything that’s enchanting about English country dining, whether you’re sitting in the bar and enjoying a tipple from the extensive range of ale, beer, wine and spirits available or you’re craving an intimate evening meal, The Lion at Wendlebury is always a roaring success with guests; truly one of Oxford’s rare gems.
Using seasonal, locally sourced produce delivered daily, stop by at breakfast and dig into the likes of an indulgent full English, a vegetarian full English, classic eggs Benedict or some sweet Belgian waffles, or visit in the evening and savour a truly unforgettable three-course feast. Begin with a sharing starter like the hearty garlic and rosemary Camembert or the split vegetarian mezze comprising marinated courgette, aubergine, onions, hummus, artichoke and smoked tomatoes, before moving onto mouth-watering mains like the king prawn and chorizo linguine packed full of flavour, the beer-battered haddock, the classic beer-fed beefburger, or the Thai vegetable curry which is always popular with vegans and vegetarians.
Standing out even amongst the many fantastic Indian, French, Spanish, Lebanese and Italian eateries situated on Walton Street in Oxford is the one-of-a-kind Zheng, which was described by The Times’ critic Giles Coren as being ‘possibly the best authentic Chinese-Malaysian in the country’. Despite only having been open for just a few years, the restaurant has received many glowing reviews from guests and has quickly risen through the restaurant ranks to become one of the country’s must-visit Chinese and East Asian restaurants.
When we visited the restaurant last year, we knew we were in for something exceptional as soon as we stepped through the doors. Vibrant and unique, the comprehensive and exciting menu offers Eastern cuisine that is guaranteed to please guests no matter their tastes. Whether you’d like to try Malaysian, Singaporean, Szechuan, Cantonese, or Shanghai dishes, you’ll be stunned by the exceptional culinary skill on display. We sampled an array of recommended dishes such as the succulent and delicious Malaysian chicken satay skewers, hot and spicy peppercorn king prawns that were rich with garlic and accompanied by a generous portion of boiled rice, and the chef’s famous chai pu tofu. Served with Chinese dried radish, chilli and spring onions, this was far and away the best tofu dish we had ever tasted.
The Nut Tree might look like your everyday modest and unassuming pub from the outside, but step inside and you’ll discover this unique establishment, situated in the picturesque and quaint country village of Murcott in Oxfordshire, is anything but. While this venue still boasts all the hallmarks of a cosy, traditional local, with its low beams, log-burning stoves, and bar fully stocked with well-kept real ale, The Nut Tree is also the proud holder of a Michelin star, and has been for over ten years. Despite this, a visit here is far from a pretentious affair thanks to proprietors Mike and Imogen North who are dedicated to ensuring dining at The Nut Tree is always a down-to-earth experience, albeit one that serves award-winning modern British cuisine.
Chef Mike and his team create everything in-house using as much free-range, organic and wild produce as possible. They also cultivate their own ingredients – pigs are often reared on-site and vegetables are grown in the pub’s garden. Updated frequently to showcase fresh produce at its peak, choose starters from the à la carte such as pave of house-smoked Lock Duart salmon with whipped horseradish cream, pickled cucumber and avruga caviar, mains like the sumptuous grilled fillet of aged Charolais beef served with pomme purée, wild mushrooms and red wine sauce, and desserts like the prune and Armagnac soufflé served with coffee ice cream.
Found in the pretty village of Sutton Courtenay in Oxfordshire and nestled on the bank of the River Thames, The Fish is famous in the region for its fantastic French cuisine, excellent wine list, friendly service, and charming setting. Combining the feel of a traditional British pub with unmistakably French features, there’s no finer place to catch up with friends over your favourite tipples or dig into unpretentious and authentic dishes expertly prepared and big on flavour.
Heading up the talented kitchen brigade is talented French chef Jean Phillippe, who impresses with a seasonally changing menu that takes advantage of the excellent produce available in the surrounding area. On the French-influenced menu, expect the likes of starters such as escargots in garlic parsley butter, mains like the mouth-watering herb-crusted rack of lamb served with ratatouille, mashed potato and rosemary jus, and desserts like the chocolate delice enhanced by custard and coffee ice cream. Other dishes you might find on the menu include tempura-battered lobster accompanied by sweet chilli sauce, French fries and salad, Scottish rib-eye steak with French fries, seasonal vegetables and peppercorn sauce, and iced nougat parfait with strawberry coulis.
Named one of England’s 50 great pubs by the Telegraph, a ‘foodie’s paradise’ by The Oxford Times, and winner of both Restaurant of the Year at The Oxfordshire Restaurant Awards and South East Restaurant of the Year at the Food Awards England, The White Hart, situated in picturesque Fyfield, never fails at turning a meal out into a truly memorable dining experience you’ll be raving about for months and months.
A favourite with locals and discerning diners from across the country, what was once a 15th-century chantry is now a stunning country restaurant. Owners Kay and Mark Chandler have created a flourishing restaurant that has held AA rosettes for culinary excellence for 14 years. What makes all the awards and accomplishments even more impressive is knowing that before buying The White Hart, Kay was a banking lawyer and Mark was a front-of-house manager. Thanks to a shared passion for fantastic food and service and Mark’s self-taught kitchen skills, The White Hart is now one of Oxfordshire’s must-visit venues. Mark’s signature slow-roasted local pork belly is a must-try, cooked overnight for 12 hours and served with foot-long crackling and fresh vegetables from the kitchen garden.