The unofficial OxStu OxFood freshers guide

So the results are in, the tears have been shed, the obligatory attractive triplets have been photographed in the local paper: it can only be A-level results. If you’re reading this it probably means you’ll be in Oxford next year, and naturally your mind has gone straight to the most important part of your university experience: food.

Luckily you’ve come to the right place: read on to discover the culinary delights (and “delights”) the next three (or four, or five, or if you’re really keen fifty) years have in store. And just to keep us on the straight and narrow, any experienced Oxford residents should feel free to share their views in the comments section.

One thing you have to get used to about Oxford is that where most Universities might have a canteen, you will probably have a sixteenth century dining hall decked with portraits of illustrious historical figures. Unfortunately the food doesn’t necessarily match the surroundings: one unnamed College is rumoured to have had ‘PLEASE! NO MORE COURGETTES!’ scrawled across its food suggestions book. Whether or not the message was written in courgette juice is something rumour neglects to mention.

The truth of the matter is that hall will very likely be where you have most of your meals for the next year, so you will get used to both the food and the decoration. However, you’ll soon be on a night out, and exposed to Oxford’s other inescapable culinary tradition…

Kebab Vans
Kebabs - an Oxford institutionTo many incoming Freshers, kebabs might not be something you have ever really experienced before. However your kebab virginity will be hard-pressed to last even two days into Freshers Week, as the walk back from the first club night takes you past one of Oxford’s many nocturnal dining establishments (also known as vans).

Oxford’s kebabs and chips (or falafels for our vegetarian friends) are known for their delicious taste and impeccable quality, so long as you eat them on a night out with their recommended accompaniment: copious alcohol. Under absolutely no circumstances consume them while its daylight, you might notice the remarkably shaped object from which your meat is scraped…

Fast Food
While Oxford’s city centre lacks a Subway (there are four in Oxford, and they’re constellated in a little square around Oxford Brookes), sandwich shops and baguette bars are an Oxford speciality. From the Oxford-based chain Mortons to the numerous similar options in the Covered Market, you’re never more than a few minutes away from some form of bread-based lunch.

The other Oxford fast food haven is the Mission – a Mexican-style restaurant that specialises in burritos. The food isn’t as cheap as a McDonalds, but the quality speaks for itself, and they have a Nandos-style range of spiciness options so there’s something for everyone.

Of course, while some people might buy into Oxford’s unique food scene, as a medium sized city it obviously plays host to most of the same major restaurant chains as can be found anywhere else. Take a walk down George Street (the road from the station to the town centre) and you’ll see most of them, ranging from the luxuries of a Jamie’s Italian through your everyday Nando’s to even a Wetherspoons. Perfect for those who want to know what they’re getting.

Fine Dining
All these options might be great for most occasions, but there are some situations where a little luxury is required.  Whether its a meal out with parents or a Valentines’ treat, Oxford has numerous options for those who want to splash out.  The obvious place to mention is Quod on the high street.  The food has a great reputation and the atmosphere is generally fantastic, while the menu is varied and the portions are generous too.

Elsewhere The Randolph boast two AA Rosettes and the famous Morse’s Bar for afterwards, and represents a far more traditional dining experience.  Its also one of many places in Oxford that offers a great afternoon tea.  Meanwhile if you can fork out for a taxi The Mole Inn in the wonderfully named Toot Baldon (a fifteen minute drive from the City Centre) holds a Michelin Bib Gourmand: designed to recognise outstanding food at affordable prices.

And finally…
But we couldn’t finish there, when Oxford has so many other quirky food-options to explore. For instance G&D’s is an Oxford chain of late-night ice cream parlours (the essay crises will come, there’s no point fighting it…), with a wide range of ice creams from the traditional to the terrifying: at one point last year they offered ‘Brie and Bacon’ flavour.

Also venture out onto the Cowley Road (where many second and third years live) and the food scene really gets going, with one definite highlight being Atomic Burger – a fifties themed American-style diner where you can design your own Burger, or take on their triple burger, triple spiced Godzilla challenge. There’s glory in victory, but be warned, if you fail you’re going on the Wall of Shame…  It’s a long way from the Randolph, but an equally crucial part of Oxford’s dining experience.

Think we’ve missed out a must-eat-at restaurant?  Let us know your views and reviews in the comments, or if you are a Fresher seeking further advice (there’s always one who’ll only eat pasta…) feel free to ask below.

[Photo: David Hawgood]