I moved to Oxford from Devon five years and five weeks ago.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of things I have experienced or enjoyed, it is more of a compilation of the places that have become mainstays in my way of life here. This post is not just aimed at students, or new residents, I'm still discovering this wonderful city myself and I encourage you to do the same.
Vintage, kitsch and craft:
Darn it & Stitch:
A relatively new shop, filling the gap left behind by the demise of King's Fabrics, selling a small but perfectly formed selection of haberdashery items, beautiful fabrics, knitting patterns, buttons and the like. They also offer workshops in knitting, crochet and patchwork and sell ready made examples of the kind of things you can create there.
Address: Blue Boar St. (off St. Aldates) Web: http://darnitandstitch.com Twitter: @Darnitandstitch
Another newbie, next to The Magdalen Arms on Iffley Road, the lovely people at Comma have a beautiful selection of vintage and kitsch homewares, pretty craft books, fantastic notepaper, wrapping paper postcards and hand printed cards all with fun or vintage style designs. Perfect shop for a gift or a little treat for yourself!
Address: 247 Iffley Road Web: http://www.oxfordcomma.co.uk/ Twitter: @commashop
An established art supplies shop selling just about everything you could ever want as an amateur or semi-pro artist or craftsperson. The staff are incredibly helpful and knowledgable and are always happy to help if you cant find what you're looking for. The shop also has regular exhibitions of paintings upstairs.
Address: Broad St. Web: http://www.broadcanvas-shoponline.co.uk/
Food, ingredients and lunches:
Inside the Covered Market, like many of my food recommendations, this small salad bar serves a varied range of delicious and flavoursome salads to suit all diets as well as sandwiches and toasties. Vegetables are sourced from the wonderful Worton Organic Farm, all teas and coffees are fairtrade and they source their cheeses from The Oxford Cheese company. I recommend the marinated tofu and the carrot and seaweed salad.
Address: Avenue 3, The Covered Market
A brilliant butchers, they sell a huge range of sausages, including gluten free and vegetarian varieties as well as a massive selection of pies, cold cuts and other delights. They also supply The Big Bang in Jericho, for all you sausage and mash fans.
Address: 93-95 The Covered Market
M. Feller, Son & Daughter:
A fine example of a butchers, specialising in local and organic meat and seasonal game. Suppliers to The Magdalen Arms and other fine food establishments. The service is always full of butcher banter and backed up with fine knowledge. Check out the displays over Christmas, although I wouldn't recommend this for the weak stomached or vegetarians among us.
Address: 54-55 The Covered Market Web: http://www.mfeller.co.uk/
East Oxford Farmers' Market
A great market, with a commitment to providing seasonal and local goods. The emphasis is on organic too, and with milk, veal, lamb, bacon, pork, bread, vegetables, cakes suitable for all diets and craft all sourced from within 30 miles of Oxford, you'd be mad not to do your weekly shop there. Prices are generally quite fair and there is also a wonderful cafe, serving seasonal eats and treats as well as tea and coffee. The market takes place every Saturday in a primary school behind Tesco. Sign up for the mailing list to find out what's going to be there each week.
Address: East Oxford Primary School (behind Tesco) Web: http://www.eastoxfordmarket.org.uk/
Eating without chains:
I first experienced the sushi here last week and have been kicking myself since then that it's taken me so long to get there. The sashimi was fantastically fresh and the sushi looked and tasted marvellous. Service was speedy and polite and my dining companion and I especially liked that you got to choose your own cute sake cups. It's very small, and there can be queues, so get there early and be prepared to share a table with other diners. Sushi is served every Thursday and can be ordered as takeaway too.
Address: 15 Holywell St. Web: http://www.edamame.freeserve.co.uk/
I like to think of this place as my staple restaurant. The standard of food is reliable, reasonably priced and well cooked, the menu never changes and although I never have an amazing time there, I always have a good time. Serving burgers, pizza and the odd delicious special, this place is perfect for a swanky hangover meal with friends. Go there when you're feeling too lazy to cook and want some standard grub.
Address: 111 Walton St. Web: http://www.branca-restaurants.com/
Formerly a run down, old man's drinking lair, since it's sensitive facelift this pub has really come into it's own. With the addition of traditional and tasty home-cooked food, homemade breads, marvellous well-kept ales and a friendly and warm atmosphere it's the perfect place for a lunchtime work session, using their reliable WIFI. Or just an evening glass of wine or two, or three...
Address: 28 Magdalen Road Twitter: @rustybicycle
The Magdalen Arms:
Firstly, let me admit to a bit of bias, as I do work as a chef here. Secondly, let me say that I was before my employment and still am, a regular customer here. Open just a year, The Magdalen Arms has already gotten much acclaim from the national press, not just for the food, but the friendly, 'unfussy' service and relaxed atmosphere too. The food is simple and flavourful, relying on seasonal, local and super-fresh ingredients, cooked sympathetically. The menu changes twice daily and always has something a little out of the ordinary. A place to go with friends, with parents, with work, for a drink and a snack, for dinner or lunch or just a cup of coffee and a slice of tart.
Address: 243 Iffley Road Phone: 01865 243159
Boozing off the beaten track:
The Fir Tree:
Great little boozer with extended weekend opening and fine roast dinners on Sundays. Run by the same people as the Port Mahon (which I have yet to go to in it's new incarnation) the atmosphere is lovely and although small, there are plenty of hidey holes for you and your friends, the outside has heaters and twinkly lights. Always a small but well kept selection of ales and just enough crazy locals to remind you that you're still in East Oxford. Many a brilliant night has been spent here.
Address: 163 Iffley Road Phone: 01865 245290 Web: http://www.thefirtree.com/
Great music and polite service by dashing barpersons. Not a great selection of lagers or ales, but for students there are deals on shots and pints on certain days of the week, the garden (now shut until April 1st) is one to remember for the summer, being very large and not out on the road like most places in East Oxford. A bit of a hub for local, up and coming musical and creative lovvies.
Address: 21 Rectory Road Phone: 01865 248011
Some would argue that this should be in the food section, but since I have had a better time there drinking rather than eating, I will put it here. A short cycle from the town centre takes you out into the countryside, and The Perch welcomes you with a wonderful fire and comfy armchairs. The staff are polite and knowledgable. I love sitting outside all year round, the garden, with its huge willow tree a shelter from sun and rain. Rather busy with Mums and tinies in the Summer, in the winter it's gloriously deserted.
Address: Binsey Lane (off Botley Road) Phone: 01865 728891 Web: http://www.the-perch.co.uk
The Half Moon:
A fab Irish pub, with music nights on various nights of the week, it's not often you go to a pub where the bar staff call for silence as one of the punters sings an Irish ditty. Always full and lively, even on a Sunday evening, there is often a small band quietly playing folk for what seems like their own enjoyment, but adds to the friendly atmosphere no end. Although you'll most probably end up sharing a table with a stranger, they are almost definitely friendly. You don't need to be Irish to come here, just open minded, relaxed and willing to participate in the friendliness.
Address: 18 St. Clements Phone: 01865 247808 Web: http://halfmoonoxford.com/
Feel free to give me suggestions of places not listed here, I may have already been and not rate them, but equally I may not have made it there yet!