Friday, 30 December 2011

My mission: 3 months to go

When I began my Girl Eats Oxford project in April 2011, the idea of eating in and reviewing one Oxford establishment per week seemed doable. Daunting, but also doable. In many ways, my first naive thought was right: it's certainly possible to dine out once every 7 days, but finding the time to review is sometimes tougher. This isn't the real challenge, though. The problem is that by the end of March I'll only have scratched the surface of Oxford's restaurant scene.

This came as something of a surprise. As the city is frequently labelled a 'culinary desert', I had an ill-considered idea that it would be possible to review the majority of the restaurants worth visiting in 12 months. How wrong I was. Nine months in, I've eaten at around 40 different establishments - with much better results than you'd expect of a gastronomic wasteland. So far, so good. But the list of recommendations still to visit numbers over 40.

Will I continue my project for another year? I thought I'd let you decide: if you're keen to keep reading, please leave a comment below or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook. Whatever happens, I've decided to celebrate the end of the year with a dinner at the top-scoring restaurant of the project. So far, the only perfect 10 has been awarded to The Ball Green Door supper club, but with the chef currently away and its future uncertain, there's everything to play for. Please keep your suggestions coming, as comments, emails, Tweets or Facebook posts. And if you'd like to join me for dinner at the end of March, please email me your details.

The Ball Green Door may have scooped the top score so far, but I've discovered plenty of other favourites. For the most part, my top picks from my six-month anniversary still apply: Santorini, Al Shami and the Magic Cafe remain some of my most enjoyable experiences. Since September, I've also had excellent experiences at Oxfork, La Cucina and No1 Folly Bridge.

Who knows what else I'll discover in the final 3 months of my mission? For January, I'll be focusing on budget eats, with the results revealed on BBC Radio Oxford on 10 February. Following reader suggestions, I'll also be trying out more cafes, date-friendly restaurants and family-friendly spots. As ever, if you have any suggestions for me, let me know!

Thanks for reading and happy new year.


  1. Well, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it! Seriously, if you think you can handle another year of it, I'd say go for it! You're singlehandedly turning Oxford into a top foodie destination, I think the city should reward you handsomely! :)

  2. If it keeps bringing you joy then YES!!! Go for it! I love reading your reviews. :-) They always make me very hungry and wish I could dash off to Oxford. :-) xo

  3. Own it, Kate. I love reading your reviews... and they have definitely led me to move Oxford way to the top of my travel wish list!

  4. Wish I knew about this blog before I went to Oxford a couple of weeks ago - would have come in very handy!
    Flora x

  5. With over 40 eateries left to visit, I think it would be a crime for you not to continue. Good luck for the coming year, and I look forward to reading another great review soon! :)

  6. Really enjoying your reviews, Kate. You have my vote to keep on trudging through the "desert"! Nick

  7. Thanks very much for all the lovely comments! So glad that you're enjoying reading my reviews. Continuing into a second year is looking likely... Thanks for reading.

  8. Please do carry on! Looking forward to reading your review of Bodrum (!) when it appears.

    More seriously, all the restaurant happenings with new openings, supper clubs etc in Oxford would be completely opaque to me without your tip-offs. Is there any chance you could supplement your reviews with the odd news piece about openings/refreshs and special events? Don't want to burden you as I'm sure you're v busy in the rest of your life too, but would be super useful.

    Requests for reviews: when you're celebrating (as it's not cheap!), suggest the Chaing Mai, which is outstanding - exquisite Thai food (it's really worrying when you see tourists pausing on the High deliberating between the Chaing Mai and the other, new and far inferior, Thai place next door. Afraid far too often I stop and make sure they choose the right door to wander into...)

    Arbat, the Russian place on the Cowley Road, is very unusual and a perfect winter haunt for filling delicacies. Door 74's lunch menu is massively good value, and it's doing the gastro-pub thing we lack so much in Oxford really well in a cafe setting.

    Anyway - enough of my opinions. Good luck with the quest!

  9. Thanks very much for your comment Antonia!

    I really appreciate your feedback and suggestions. I'm glad you find the blog so useful, and I think it's a great idea to do some posts on new openings, as often it's a while before I get chance to visit. I'll be discussing new openings on my radio show this year, but I'll definitely add some to the blog too.
    The Bodrum review is going up tomorrow! Chiang Mai is definitely on my list - I like your strategy, I'm sure you've helped many a tourist! I've wondered about Arbat but not sure how much they have for pescetarians - I'll have a look at the menu.
    Thanks again and hope you keep enjoying the blog.

  10. Will be interested in any review of the Chiang Mai. My experience & information from others is that it is variable and sometimes it is not the great experience that you expect.

    Re Door 74 - I like the food there a great deal so I second it as a recommendation for somewhere to go, but surely 'doing the gastro-pub thing we lack so much in Oxford' is not accurate nowadays? We have the Madgalen Arms, the Rickety Press, the Rusty Bicycle, the Fishes in New Hinksey, and others.

  11. Please do keep reviewing! I second the request for some more budget-friendly places and cafes.


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