Valentine’s Day in Oxford: $$$ Edition
This article was published in Cherwell as part of my food column on 14 Feb 2023.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and whether this is your first Valentine’s with that special someone, or you’re celebrating your single, thriving status, be prepared for some of the best food Oxford has to offer. On top of the date night restaurants introduced in my previous column, here are some other fancy restaurants that will almost certainly break the bank, hence why they have been sadly relegated to the once-a-year, only-on-Valentine’s list.
Parsonage Grill, Oxford
Location: Old Parsonage Hotel, St Giles
Offering ‘modern British dishes with a light touch’ with locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, Parsonage Grill serves some of the most delectable (and expensive) food in Oxford, ranging from ‘twice-baked goat’s cheese & thyme soufflé’ to ‘confit duck leg, roasted celeriac & juniper berry sauce’. The restaurant is lavishly decorated with plush velvet chairs and sleek navy walls, and its gorgeous terrace is simply delightful in the daytime, though chattering in the freezing cold at night is probably less romantic.
Location: The Randolph Hotel
A British brasserie at the ‘heart of historic Oxford’, The Alice is a jaw-droppingly stunning restaurant - pink sofas, velvet cushions, crystal chandeliers, patterned wallpaper and high ceilings make this restaurant a feast for the eyes. Its wide-ranging a la carte selection includes warm smoked eel with pork crackling, citrus cured salmon, 35-day dry aged flat iron steak, and duck with grilled clementine and onion pommes anna, with its dessert menu similarly creative and succulent. Come for an exquisite meal, then grab an Alice in Wonderland-themed cocktail in their gorgeously-decorated bar.
No. 1 Ship Street
Location: Ship Street
Located in central Oxford and boasting a ‘sophisticated ambiance’, No. 1 Ship Street was voted as Oxfordshire’s Best Restaurant in 2022 and 2020 for good reason. Serving rock oysters, devilled lambs kidneys and a surf & turf for two with whole lobsters, the food is eye-wateringly expensive, but mouth-wateringly good. The decor is cosy and perhaps less extravagant than you would expect, but its incredibly central location puts it above many others on this list, especially if you have other Valentine’s Day plans at the movies, the rink or a cheeky Blackwell’s trip.
Location: Folly Bridge, St Aldate’s
Perched beside the River Thames and adorned with glittery fairy lights and tasteful chandeliers, The Folly serves modern British cuisine including mushroom and stilton arancini, salt cod mousse, 24-hour braised beef shin and balsamic glazed aubergine. The views are simply stunning, and what’s more romantic than gazing into your lover or best friend’s eyes next to the serene river, wine in hand? For an extra-memorable meal, you can combine it with their pre-dinner river cruise, but only if you identify as middle-aged.
Location: North Oxford (past Hugh’s and LMH, unfortunately)
Following the previous theme of dining on the river, Cherwell Boathouse provides an ‘understated but upscale’ European feasting experience with an innovative menu including pressed wild mushroom lasagna with walnut purée, truffle and dashi, caramelised plaice with celeriac and capers, and smoked duck toastie with confit egg yolk, onion relish and mushroom ketchup. Despite its dreaded OX2 postcode, the food is slightly less expensive than the others on this list, and its relatively remote location is perfect if you’re worried about an unwelcome, awkward encounter with your ex.