Can there be a nicer English city than Oxford? Beautiful architecture, dreaming spires, museums, art galleries, winding streets with quirky or niche shops and eateries, history, a world-famous University…
But for a really (and I mean really) good lunch, try venturing out of Oxford city centre to Binsey, a mere 30-minute walk from Oxford Castle (I timed it) to sample the delights of The Perch, a 17th century thatched-roof gem, with open fires, low beams, cosy lounge sporting Chesterfield sofas and a gorgeous garden.
This historic riverside pub and restaurant (800 years old, no less) is ‘an Oxford institution as old as the university’ and just a few minutes walk from the Isis (Oxford’s stretch of the Thames) and Port Meadow.
Recently renovated, the food on offer ‘has a classic British farmhouse focus allowing seasonality and quality of ingredients to lead our menus’. There’s also a varied selection of drinks and extensive wine list so there’s something to suit every taste and every customer.
A splendid little find, The Perch is a buzzing, welcoming pub perched(!) right next to the river on the edge of Port Meadow. It’s a cosy place with restaurant area where all sorts of folk (dogs and children included!) congregate to eat some truly fine fare. There’s also a covered patio eating area – perfect for those chillier days – and an outside eating area in the garden where you can breathe in the fresh air, let the little ones run around safely and where Pooch can relax if he’s had a walk on Port Meadow.
In the grounds of the garden is The Shed bar offering a range of cocktails and more basic grub such as burgers, nibbles and cream teas, all at reasonable prices. If you prefer something a little more adventurous, the inside restaurant will cater for you, from pot-roasted ox cheeks to steamed Brixham mussels to delicious Sunday roasts and puds and you’ll find it hard to choose just one thing from the new Spring menu.
We arrived late morning, parked in the car park, then set out through the pub gardens to enjoy the walk into Oxford centre. The pub garden has a pretty path that leads down to the river, decorated with ornamental arches and fairy lights. It’s a fine walk that would suit all the family and dogs in particular will love it. Port Meadow is an area of huge common ground and there are canal boats to view along the way as you walk into Oxford,as well as a few bridges, so it’s a varied and interesting walk. By the time you have walked into the city, browsed around, taken in a few sights and walked back to The Perch, you are well up for lunch!
We sat in the restaurant area and perused the menu… it was so hard to choose! But choose we did and decided to start with a fish plate to share. This was delicious and more than enough for two – we didn’t want to feel too full up and not be able to manage a pud – and the roll-mop herrings were the nicest I’d ever tasted.
I then had Kelmscott pork and black pudding rissoles with mustard and cream leeks. If you think you know black pudding, think again with this dish; cooked to perfection, it was simply divine. I finished with a frozen raspberry ripple parfait with white chocolate cream and hazelnut praline. Yum!
My companion opted for grilled sea trout fillet, crushed Jersey Royals, spring onion, parsley and cockle butter, followed by a cheese board containing Dorset blue, Somerset organic brie, Dambuster cheddar, rosary goats’ cheese, water biscuits, celery, grapes and chutney. Very fine fare indeed!
The food was excellent, served by really polite, hospitable staff and delivered quickly (always good when you’re hungry!). There was also plenty to choose from for vegetarians, too. Although the pub was really packed (it was a Saturday lunchtime and the sun was shining!) we weren’t kept waiting and were happy to sit and soak up the friendly atmosphere in between courses.
The Perch hosts an annual Beer and Cider festival in summer as well as outdoor movie nights and music festivals so it’s not just a one-horse town, so to speak. It was also, apparently, an inspiration to Alice in Wonderland’s Lewis Carroll, so there are various events leading up to Alice’s Day on July 4th and a wonderful statue in the garden of Alice’s rabbit friend.
So next time to go to Oxford, spread your net a little wider and plump for this picturesque little pub. It’s so worth a visit and you won’t be disappointed (unless you don’t book in advance of course…)
- The Perch Inn, Binsey, Oxford, OX2 0NG
- Call: 01865 728891
- Bookings: Call to make a booking.
- Opening Times:
- 10.30am-11pm, Monday-Sunday
- Noon-10pm, Monday to Saturday
- Noon to 9pm Sunday
- Shed Bar
- Weekends from May to October
- 10.30-7pm-ish (weather permitting)