36-37 Queen Street
Mon-Wed 12pm-1am; Thu, Fri, Sat 12pm-2am
Telephone: 01865 242192
Fax: 01865 790871
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I spent many happy hours in Maxwell's in my teens, and this was going back over 20 years ago, so on a trip to Oxford this week I took my own teenage daughters to the place... I was really excited to be able to tell them all about it on the way - how cool it had been when I was young and hung out there with friends etc, and when we arrived I was first hit by a wave of nostalgia as it looked so familiar... and then had a huge craving for one of their great burgers. But then we unfortunately received the WORST service I have ever had in a restaurant. We were told to sit wherever we wanted, the place had about 6 tables full as it was early lunchtime, so we sidled in to a booth and waited... and waited... and waited...
In the meantime 3 other tables came in, were given menus, and had their drinks by the time I managed to attract the attention of an employee. For 15 minutes we were totally ignored by the staff, despite my beaming at passing employees and doing the 'hi, we are here' expressions...
Being English, I do not like to complain, but the whole experience was so rubbish that I managed to find and heckle the manager who looked stunned at the complaint. Maybe I was in such a nostalgic moment that I was over-emotional, but I felt like crying and we left the place. I dread to think how long it takes to get served on a day when there are over 10 tables.
mrsK (Unverified), 28/04/11
Please donít read this review. In fact, Iíd advise you to navigate away from this page straight away. Why not read our suggestions for things to do in a day out in Oxford instead? If you must read this review, please disregard what I say. Under no circumstances start going to Maxwellís, because at the moment itís just on the right side of busy, and if anyone else- especially the student body- discovers its existence, I might not be able to get a booth table on a Friday night anymore.
Actually, Maxwellís seems to have the same idea as me- the only sign of its existence on street level is an unprepossessing metal staircase, with a red neon sign pronouncing (somewhat ironically) ďFamous Since 1972Ē. The Oxford Maxwellís is the founding member of a now mostly London-based franchise. Londoners, as ever more trend-savvy than us in Oxford, have embraced the diner-style food, and their Hampstead and Covent Garden branches are regularly packed with hungry and thirsty people. By contrast, the Oxford branch seems relatively quiet, perhaps because, after you make your way up the gloomy stairwell, the restaurant is pretty huge. A big, high-raftered room with a massive window overlooking Queen Street, it has room for half a dozen booths, about twenty tables, and a long bar area. The dťcor is simple and unpretentious, although the points they win for the cool retro-chic wall murals are lost by the silenced TVs flickering in the background- a feature of American bars which Britain could do without.
However, you donít really come for the surroundings. They do their job, just like staff, who are friendly and relatively efficient, but at busier times seem on the verge of being rushed off their feet. One of our sides had to be reordered, but Iím willing to forgive any waitress who brings me Maxwellís food. This is really what itís all about. Despite Maxwellís attempt to cater to a cocktail/nightclub set (with a 5.30-7.30pm Happy Hour and a late weekend opening), itís the fantastic American favourites which will have me coming back for more.
Nevertheless, the cocktails are worth a mention- theyíre not especially cheap (even discounted), but thereís a nice mixture of classics (like a well-muddled, pleasantly limey Mojito) and unusual concoctions; the Lemon Tree (a refreshingly fruity rum and blackberry liquor number) and Loretto Lemonade (Makerís Mark, Midori and apple topped with ginger ale) were both particularly good.
There are no such surprises on the menu- heavy on the meat, fish and deep fryer, Maxwellís food isnít likely to win any plaudits for being healthy, but it could certainly get a few for being tasty. I started with an order of buffalo wings, which coupled tender chicken with a deliciously tangy barbeque sauce. My companion had the crab cakes, which she pronounced excellent- the creole mustard that came with them was certainly tasty enough to dip a salad leaf in, anyway! We shared loaded potato skins, which were not quite so wonderful, although perfectly tasty.
The mains were where Maxwellís really got into its stride. Incautiously, I ordered a whole rack of smoked hickory ribs, and was slightly surprised when presented with what appeared to be a small pig, smothered in wonderfully sticky barbeque sauce. The pork was a revelation- tender yet firm, melting off the ribs, and wonderfully filling. The Cajun chips and coleslaw on the side were fine, but really only served to complement the fantastic meat. It was the same with my companionís blackened Cajun salmon- pan-seared to perfection, with a great spicy flavour that didnít obscure the freshness of the fish, but with a fairly anaemic selection of seasonal vegetables on the side. The side salad and onion rings were actually fairly disappointing- the salad dressing was a little watery, and the onion rings were slightly blackened in places.
Iím aware, as I write this, that my originally ironic warnings against going to Maxwellís might be gaining a ring of veracity- but if I fault the side dishes, itís only because they pale into insignificance next to the splendidly indulgent food. Maxwellís isnít expensive, the cocktails are good, and the food is, quite simply, fantastic- mouthwatering, stick-to-your-ribs American fare at its very, very best. So please, do go and try the best hidden gem (well, hidden diner, at least) in central Oxford- even if it means I donít get my booth table.
Alwyn Collinson (DI Staff), 15/02/10
Maxwells has reopened and looks amazing, right from the minute you walk in the door. It's definitely not the same old place. We went in on Friday night - the DJ was scratching away some really wicked tunes, the new dance floor was packed and the light show was unbelievable. The bar staff all look great and the drinks could be the best in town, they don't use the cheap stuff in there, and we got happy hour all night as students too. Best night I've had out in a long long time. Love the changes, about time Maxwell's...
karli (Unverified), 14/10/06
Maxwells still hits the spot! I went there first, back in 1981 and can still remember the hangover and heartburn, the day after.
It was good that the place had a small dance floor, as our group (not one of us under 35) got into a nostalgic groove and danced, jumped and crawled around to some old time funky tunes.
The other customers, of all ages, were up for a laugh as well.
The food was well cooked and the cocktails were really good and pretty cheap. What stands out about Maxwells is the great atmosphere, and the friendly and obliging staff.
From the beginning, we were just hungry and didn't intend to stay so long. We ended up having such a good time, we stayed until closing time. Hats off for Maxwells!
Kevin Hulbert (Unverified), 29/06/06
Great food, big portions, really enjoyed our visit, student discount too, drinks are amazing, really good happy hours and they are not the usual cheesy drinks made with cheap ingredients that you normally get, really good creations. I got a membership card for happy hour anytime now.
lou lou (Unverified), 26/05/06
We went to Maxwells last weekend for dinner and ended up staying til 2am, what a night we had. When we got there it was quite busy, we got a booth with a great veiw of the whole place. The bartenders were good to watch, they must know their drinks, i think we tried everyone off the menu, almost 50. Being students we got happy hour all night so were only paying about £2 for really different drinks. The food was great, really big plates, only just had enough room for dessert but was worth squeezing it in, i suggest the Sundae, fantastic. The music was great and the dj kept the dance floor jumping all night. Was good to hear some good old tunes not just the usual top forty or RnB all night. It's a little old but go there if you want a real fun night out with no pretentious arrogance that comes with a lot of places.
grinch (Unverified), 07/04/06
I hadn't been to Maxwell's in a very long time and had forgotten how good it was. I went on Saturday night with four of my friends and had the best night ever. There was no charge and the doorman were freindly, which makes a change. The bar was going off, they had a POWER HOUR on where certain drinks were £1.50. The DJ was great -really mixed it up, but he did play some real cheesy tunes too around midnight. Funnily enough everyone loved it. I guess there are some songs you just have to dance too.
Although it looks like the same old Maxwells, there is something about it now that's changed; it seems to be a lot more about clean fun and they have some great deals on too, double happy hour is on all week and we are going on Monday night for all-you-can-eat wings: 100 for £10. Stay tuned for that one.
Will be going back for sure.
jade h (Unverified), 24/01/06
There aren't many of my friends who haven't experienced at least one drunken night in Maxwells since arriving at Oxford, and I have to admit that I have yet to find a cocktail bar in the city where I can enjoy a fun and lively atmosphere, pretty darn good cocktails and a fairly good price (especially for students) to add to the equation too.
Recently, my fiancť and I also decided that it was about time that we took the plunge and tried out thier food, so having booked a table for 7pm, we arrived to unusually quiet and more civilised (if Maxwells can be described as civilised) surroundings than the normal pumping music and crowded bar.
Our waitress, in the obligatory belt-sized skirt, brought our drinks across - due to a special offer that evening, they came in at £1.50 each for a beer and vodka and orange juice, and took our orders. I went for the vegetable Fajitas while Paul opted for one of the four different steak and chips. Service was slower than might have seemed necessary, but not so much so that it became a problem, and the food was delicious. The steak was cooked to perfection, with a mouthwatering sauce, and my Fajitas were unusually presented with the vegetables arriving sizzling dangerously on a hot plate, with the wraps and sauces served separately. Dessert was typically American - we chose from the chocolate fudge cake, Brownies, icecream and cheesecake and found that they too were presented well, again with that slight hint of delay; or is it just the more relaxed approach that Americans give to a meal out?
The food was, as already mentioned, delicious - but not cheap. An average main course sets you back by about £15 and desserts only just under a fiver; and although reasonably sized, the portions weren't the most generous to be found in Oxford. But that said, for a fun night out where you can fully indulge in this light-hearted American style diner and be fed with good and refreshingly different food, then I fully recommend that you treat yourself, maybe just once in a while.
Alison Hook (Unverified), 21/10/03