Hidden away in the north of the city, is one of Oxford’s foodie gems. This charming boathouse restaurant situated next to the river Cherwell, is a relaxing spot to enjoy a fine lunch or summer Afternoon Tea followed by ‘messing about on the river’.
- Dine in the boathouse restaurant
- Have Afternoon Tea
- Go punting
- Order a picnic
The Cherwell Boathouse Restaurant
The Cherwell Boathouse restaurant is the sort of place a tourist would never stumble across. You have to be ‘in the know’. Established in 1904 and hidden down a lane, the waterside restaurant is open year-round. Its terrace Tea Hut Bar and Café is open in the summer when its eighty handmade punts are available for hire.
Enjoy a ‘Sparkling’ Lunch by the River Cherwell
The best time to come is in the summer when you can eat lunch outside overlooking the river. In winter, ask for a window seat when you book so you can glance across at the icy white beauty of the river and the skeletal trees on the bank. Kick off lunch with a glass of English sparkling wine from the Gusborne vineyard in Kent, it’s wonderful. When the other choice by the glass is Pol Roger, Winston Churchill’s favourite Champagne, you know it’s in good company.
Taste Local Specialities
Enjoy dishes such as pear, shallot and goat’s cheese tart tartin followed by brill with squid tempura and seasonal vegetables. For a taste of Oxfordshire, order a glass of white wine from the nearby Bothy vineyard. Desserts are what really stand out here though. Apple parfait served with mini doughnuts and chocolate-coated honeycomb is sublime. And, it you don’t have much room left, who can resist sticky toffee pudding ice cream or a local cheese called Blue Monday? It’s produced by ex Blur bassist turned cheese-maker, Alex James, organiser of the The Big Feastival in the Cotswolds.
Afternoon Tea by the River
The Tea Hut is open from mid-April when the punting season kicks off, to mid-September serving light lunches. Afternoon Tea includes homemade scones with clotted cream and jam and a selection of cakes. How about indulging in a jug of Pimm’s, a traditional summer’s drink mixed with fresh mint and slices of fruit? The drink was created by James Pimm, a shellfish monger from Kent who opened his famous Pimm’s Oyster Bar in London in 1823. Using gin, quinine and his own secret mixture of herbs, he created the drink as a digestive aid.
Go Punting With a Picnic
Punting is a quintessentially Oxford pleasure. It’s an acquired skill so it can be just as much fun watching it from the terrace. Punt upstream and drop in at the Vicky Arms pub or drift downstream past the university colleges. The Boathouse offers two delightfully-named picnics –‘The Wind in the Willows‘ or ‘Three Men in a Boat’ for larger groups (which must be booked in advance), they’re perfect for taking on your punting trip.
- If you don’t fancy punting, rowing boats and canoes are also available for hire
- On Sundays, there’s an excellent Farmers’ Market in nearby Summertown. It’s a good place to buy picnic food
- Walk off lunch by taking a stroll around University Parks which is just down the road
- The Folly restaurant offers picnic boat cruises and dine and cruise events
Pour Pimm’s into a glass half-filled with ice, top up with lemonade and add slices of orange, lemon, cucumber and strawberry followed by a sprig of fresh mint.
WHERE TO STAY IN OXFORD
Old Bank Hotel
Situated in the heart of historical Oxford, The Old Bank offers luxury rooms and a buzzy brasserie.
Rooms from £189 a night.
I’m very welcome to go punting. If you think you might get hooked on boating, you can always buy me a life jacket.