Dojo's guide to... Oxford
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We've partnered with coach company Snap to head to Oxford. It might not be the party capital of the UK (it’s only just the party capital of Oxfordshire) but this is a history-rich, aesthetically pleasing place rife with ornate spires, grandiose parks and over-worked students. Oscar Wilde, Stephen Hawking and Mr. Bean have lived it up in these ends - and now Dojo.
A word on Snap - they take unused luxury coaches, typically occupied by the great and the good, and put on super low-fare journeys to a host of UK cities. £4 to Oxford? Okay.
THINGS TO DO
Oxford Covered Market
Around since 1774, it’s fair to say this market has seen its fair share of commerce and we're not about to stop that trend. Narrow alleyways house 40 vendors selling that good honest local produce: from greengrocers and butchers to sandwich shops, florists and the famous Oxford Cheese Company. Slowly amble around and, if the queue isn’t too big, grab a cookie from Ben’s before you leave.
Pitt Rivers Museum
Augustus Pitt Rivers was a hoarder. One of the grandfather's of anthroplogy, this museum diplays his - and the University of Oxford's - archeological and anthropological collections. And boy are they impressive.
Beneath an incredible neo-gothic roof, this place is rammed full of absolutely all sorts of objects from a history of humanity. Ordered by type, we're talking weapons, musical instruments, animal skeletons, dance masks and tattoos. Pitt Rivers was fascinated by how different societies and countries solved common problems - this is a stimulating, essential stop off.
If you’ve got yourself a sunny day then you really ought to make for Port Meadow. Running along the bank of the River Thames, this vast green expanse is full of wildflowers, roaming horses and groups of pals taking picnics or swimming in the clear(ish) river. Bop north along the west bank and you’ll also find two excellent pubs: The Perch and The Trout Inn.
The weight of history might be heavy here - and for more of that, check out the prestigious Ashmolean - but to feel the sharpness of the cutting edge, head to Modern Art. Dedicated to visual culture, it's seen the likes of Marina Abramovic, Tracey Emin and Joseph Beuys display their work before. It’s not a huge space so fits the bill for that hour of culture you might feel you need - plus entry is free.
If you’re the type that likes to laugh, Oxford has just the thing for you. Jericho Comedy is a cult-classic; an evening when some excellent comedians head downstairs in Jericho Cafe and say funny things for a bit.
Their regular night is on Saturday but they also do offshoots for more refined and intellectual tastes, including Stand-up History and Stand-up Philosophy. Tickets are around £6 but it normally sells out so book in advance!
PLACES TO EAT & DRINK
Slap back in the middle of boho Jericho is Branca: a suitably relaxed Italian restaurant made for long lunches or wine-fuelled dinners. Also a deli and cafe, this chic spot has earnt its stripes through simple, honest Italian cooking in a stylish setting.
We’re talking stone baked pizzas, creamy risottos and imaginative pasta dishes - we had a wild boar tortellini that particularly hit the spot. It’s smart but not overly so; and does regular meal deals during the week to save on those precious bucks.
Turl Street Kitchen
We’re all for a restaurant with some heart and Turl Street’s beats loud. This is a heart-warming community lynchpin: a cosy, Georgian restaurant with rustic wooden furniture, stripped floors and a fine friendly atmosphere.
We’d tip coming in for a snack and coffee but if you wanna splash the dough, lunch is a serious affair with bits like smoked rainbow trout and confit dug leg on the menu. It’s also a charitable project, with plenty of their money and efforts funnelled to local social projects.
There's nothing quite like finding a snug and authentic family-run joint on a side street. This is the only restaurant in Oxford to get the seal of approval from the Japanese government: a small, busy nook where locals pack in (and queue outside) to tuck into fresh sushi, chicken karaage, satsumaage (pan-fried fish cakes) and takoyaki (octupus pieces in pancake balls). There are three rotating menus depending on when you roll in but one thing's constant: this is seriously delicious eating.
Sitting all regal just outside the city centre is The Magdalen Arms: a verified institution of a gastropub that's just made for rainy Sundays, which do occasionally occur in Oxford. With its deep claret walls, vintage lamps, 1920s posters and worn wooden furniture it's a half-bistro, half-country pub type deal. But the food. Wowoweewa. It's as close to fine dining as you could wish for without the stuffiness; the venison suet pie has had songs written about it.
Handle Bar Cafe
Discreetly going about its business above a bike shop in central Oxford, Handle Bar is a real treasure of a hangout. It's an all day eating and drinking affair here with breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner all ethically sourced and made with love. Bikes hang from the ceiling, light pours in from all angles and a tranquil mood prevails as Oxfordians catch up, plot and gossip.
Fancy a trip to Marrakesh during your trip to Oxford? Kazbar is a dose of funky escapism: a Moroccan/Spanish mash up that's done up like a souk and serves all the usual tapas favourites. The food is decent fare - highlight being the polpo a la Gallega - but if you come here you really ought to get a lil' loose and let things unfurl. The Marrakesh Express (cinnamon expresso with vodka and kahlua) should get you started as the music ramps up and things kick off. But not too late, this is Oxford.
Old Bookbinders Arms
This is the type of old-man pub you ought to be seeking when you come to Oxford. Family-run and community-led, it’s got those low ceilings and that impossibly dark wood; with walls adorned in thousands of ale coasters, boxing gloves, a scalextrik track, odd shoes and bowler hats. In a word, it’s cosy. The ales are nice. To us, it befits the merry sinking of a few pints when you've got a group of pals with you.