Did you forget to spoil your Valentine? Daisy Cropper suggests the most seductive places to take a foodie date in the city of dreamy spires if you’re looking for forgiveness
This 17th century riverside pub is as fairytale as you can find in Oxford. The gardens are home to gigantic, shady willows, a scattering of wild herbs and fruits ready for picking. Local rumour has it that Lewis Carroll based the 'Treacle Well' at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party on a 'miracle' well in the nearby churchyard, and certainly this was said to be a regular haunt of the writer - the Alice memorabilia and eccentric decorations inside will soon have you convinced.
Aside from glorious settings and a riotous history, The Perch has one more draw: fantastic food. The French owner Johnny Mignon has developed a menu with such skill and with many great flavours that, no matter what you pick, couples will be in for a culinary treat.
Both a long-standing Oxford favourite and one of the most romantic settings for dinner, Gee's is not to be missed on a loved-up trip to Oxford. The setting is enough to make your heart melt: located inside a stunning Victorian glass atrium and adorned with twinkling lights and blazing candles.
Fussy foodies, however, should check their online menu before booking - while the menu is certainly creative it can be limited. There are often some original but odd pairings: like gorgonzola and pumpkin. For a classic meal try Sunday lunch by feasting on rib of beef or a golden-roasted chicken to share. Alternatively, set yourself up for a hard day's sightseeing with their hearty weekend brunch options or, after your busy day touring the city, reward yourself with a late-afternoon cocktail.
This is your place if you want to dine in style with a view of Oxford's beautiful, honey-coloured skyline. The Ashmolean Dining Room - located in Oxford's main and most popular museum - is one of the few classy, atmospheric restaurants in the heart of the city.
Couples can choose from light meals, shared platters or set menus with the dishes on offer described as: 'modern cuisine meets British tradition'. Ingredients are seasonal and sourced from local suppliers - for a full range try the wild mushroom salad, braised lamb shank and finish with winter Eton mess.
The restaurant is airy, modern and spacious, creating a grown-up location for a romantic meal.
The roof terrace has both tables for those eating and deckchairs for people just stopping by for afternoon tea. The dining room is open for lunch every day and on Friday and Saturday evenings until 10pm - stop by for dinner or a cocktail (the gin coolers are a great way to start the evening).
The Vaults & Garden Café provides the perfect pit-stop for those couples who are always on the go. The café is located inside an old congregation house and dates back to the 1300s. This history, coupled with chunky high beams, hearty food and chatty customers, gives this place plenty of atmosphere.
Choose from healthy light lunches or grab coffee and cake. The menu changes daily but recent favourites include Dorset hake fillet with puy lentils, radicchio, wild garlic and lemon caper aioli; spiced chickpea tagine and goat's cheese gratin. Food is piled high on your plates - come here with an appetite.
If you want to feel a little escapism while on your city break, Kazbar is the place to be. This Spanish/Moroccan combo will lift you straight from rainy England to the backstreets of North Africa's souks and back again. Enjoy the exotic atmosphere with mood lighting, colourful interiors and fragrant tapas.
There's something for every couple to share too - from the old favourites (olives, hummus, chickpeas, apricots and falafels) to the more unusual plates (including gigantes beans and black pig cheek). Leave enough room for the churros and baklava accompanied by dipping chocolate…
For when the weather perks up…
You could spend days at Blenheim Palace and still not get close to uncovering all its hidden secrets. Get lost in its labyrinth of a hedge maze - the second largest in the world - or take a secluded, heart-thumping hike through the extensive grounds landscaped by 18th century architect Capability Brown. Alternatively, for a more relaxed afternoon, rent a row boat on the impressive lake and recite poetry to one another (Bridget Jones style).
If the weather isn't promising (likely, this is England), take in the grandeur of the main estate and pretend to be Lord and Lady of the manor for a day. Although not romantic in any sense, there's an interesting exhibition on Winston Churchill (the world-famous leader was born here) and how the estate was run during the First World War (open from 15 Feb-21 Apr 2014).
When you're hungry, there's an impressive range of food options on offer, from a luxurious three-course meal in the elegant Orangery to afternoon tea in the Water Terrace Café. Be sure to leave room for the homemade cakes - the Victoria sponge with fresh strawberries is a must.
Right now, it's completely underwater thanks to a very wet winter. However, come the summer months, Port Meadow istheplace in Oxford to take a picnic date. Walk with wild horses, take a dip in the cool river (if you're daring!), or simply sit back and unwind in the 30-hectare meadow.
If you're a keen birder (wild ones with wings, that is) widgeon, teal, shoveler, Gadwall, pintail, common shelduck, ruff, redshank, dunlin, lapwing, snipe and golden plover also call the meadow home at various times of year.
There's enough space here to fly a kite, take a long walk or picnic in peace - and it's only a 15-minute walk from the city's centre. The views back to the city are worth the walk alone.
Close by Port Meadow, Medley Manor Farm is another unmissable location for a classic summer date. Crammed full with pick-your-own seasonal fruits and veg you can forage for gooseberries, strawberries, blackcurrants and more. Oh, and you can gorge on tangy, homemade raspberry ice cream too.
Pick your fill then head on over to Port Meadow or the Perch for a fruity, summer feast.
Daisy Cropper is a Regional Author for UK travel website Cool Places, covering the best places to visit in Oxford and the Cotswolds. Follow her adventures on Twitter @daisy_cropper
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