(updated 25 October 2014)
I love Oxford and although I work for a company based there, don’t let that fool you: the town is amazing, the people really quite kind, and the variety of restaurants truly outstanding. And like Cambridge, it is a wonderful respite from London yet easily reached via public transport.
One of my top 5 hotels in the world to stay at has got to be the Feathers Hotel (http://www.feathers.co.uk/) just outside of Oxford in Woodstock. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but once inside, you honestly won’t want to leave. Not only are you greeted by the calming smell of a fireplace, but the old homey wood paneling is breathtakingly stunning.
If you want to stay in “downtown” Oxford, there are a number of options, my favourite being The Old Bank Hotel (http://www.oldbank-hotel.co.uk/). I love the boutique feel of this hotel and the rooms are outstanding!
Another cool and chic find is the Mailmaison Oxford (http://www.malmaison.com/locations/oxford/?gclid=CPGmzaP-5rsCFVLxOgodcRsAeA). I’ve yet to actually stay here, but friends have, and they say that reuse of the old jail cells in to rooms is really quite stunning. There is a modern wing but if you’re going to stay here, splurge for the jail cell rooms! (And the restauran and outside bar are amazing and worth the trip alone!)
My favourite old school boutique hotel is the Old Parsonage Hotel (http://www.oldparsonage-hotel.co.uk/). There is just something that says home at this tony hotel. I’ve actually been tempted not to leave and rather stay in and read, write, eat, and drink.
A new hotel that I am literally salivating over and obsessed with trying is the Vanbrugh House Hotel (http://www.vanbrughhousehotel.co.uk/) in the heart of Oxford just off the main shopping street. The hotel is to be complimented on their photographer alone because their website has me hooked and I have only seen the hotel from the outside. Watch this space as I will be staying here and I will be posting on what I suspect is a hidden gem not much longer!
Shanghai 30s (http://www.shanghai30s.com/) is amazing! I loved the décor, the staff were amazing and did not interrupt my conversation and the food is, hands-down, outstanding! Truth be told: I didn’t finish my meal because I was talking so much and, as I walked home, I was kicking myself for not getting a take-away of meal… it would have been great cold, I am certain!
I may have truly fallen in love with a pub that actually is vegetarian only: The Gardner’s Arms (http://www.thegarden-oxford.co.uk/). The pub has a full bar which is fantastic and the fact that they offer veggie burgers, veggie dogs with veggie chili, and other wonderful treats made this an easy decision on 3 occasions when I was last in Oxford. It’s comfort food, at its best!
The Standard (http://www.standardoxford.com/) on Walton Street, not far from Oxford University Press was absolutely amazing! As a vegetarian, I seek out palak paneer and I must say, this restaurant had the best palak paneer ever. The “sauce” was perfect and not too greasy, the paneer cut in to perfectly sized pieces, and the spices sheer perfection. Truly, I would fly back to Oxford right now just to eat here again!
Outside of Oxford, in Headington (a short trip on the bus or a taxi), is the The Black Boy (http://www.theblackboy.uk.com/) which I went to years ago, loved, and can’t believe that I forgot about until now! I love this restaurant and pub: the pub part is great for a pint with friends but then, you pass the bar and there is lovely dining area that is chic, delicious, and not anything remotely like a pub. And the food? Outstanding and definitely memorable! Head the the Black Boy as soon as you can!