The management describe their aim as "Just good food and good drink". See the Guardian's favourable review of March 2010 here. NO CUSTOMER PARKING. Wheelchair lift behind building. Takeaway cake and coffee.
Opening hours: Mon 5-11pm; Tue - Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-10.30pm. Fresh meat and veg sourced mainly from local farms. Food served: Supper: Mon-Sat 6-10pm, Sun 6-9.30pm. Lunch: Tue - Sat 12-2.30pm, Sun 12-3.00pm. Wheelchair friendly.Dogs allowed. Games: Bar billiards. Next events at Magdalen Arms
Organic, Locally-sourced & Free Range products Fresh meat and veg sourced mainly from local farms.
Cuisine: Gastropub, British & Modern British gastropub cuisine with focus on local & seasonal ingredients.
Real Ales, Children welcome & Food served Games: Bar billiards.
243 Iffley Road
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I have read the hype and been here a couple of times. It has a really nice atmosphere and good menu. I have however found the meat dishes very salty - although the staff would never know, as they don't ask how your food is. There seems to be an assumption that everything is great. I recently ordered a steak and was not even asked how I would like it cooked. When I asked the staff about this I was told "it's cooked on a griddle".
There are many good things about this place but the service and attitude of staff can come across as *slightly* arrogant. It would be nice if they could bear in mind that the humble customer is there to enjoy a meal, not bask in the glory of a Guardian review.
bear (Unverified), 27/06/12
The man and I go to the Magdalen fairly often. We bring friends and family there, and sometimes we just go for a quiet night. We love it: it's nearby and has a casual atmosphere, happy waiting staff and great dishes executed by people who know how to make them sing. But last night - Sunday - wasn't so hot.
Three of us went for an early dinner. First off, our waitress, while very efficient, did not seem in a good mood. Nothing you can do about that, but it does dampen your dining experience a little when someone radiates that feeling of not wanting to be there. She brought us bread. Now normally bread at the Magdalen is scrummy sourdough. But this basket was, I am willing to bet, bargain baguette - which was disappointing.
The man's starter was porchetta salad with anchovy. This dish he loved, but it was far too big for a starter (as their starters often are), so it kind of put him off looking forward to our main. Our friend and I had fired polenta toasts with cuttlefish in a tomato sauce. My toast was sadly burnt, and the tomato was too concentrated to let the cuttlefish sing.
One thing I love about the Magdalen is that there are many dishes on the menu that you can share with 2-5 people. On this occasion, the man and I shared the steak and ale pie. It certainly had good flavour and the meat was tender, but there was a lot of grease present and the crust was seriously heavy.
Our friend had a dish of lamb shoulder, red pickled cabbage and dauphinoise potatoes. His cabbage came cold, which struck him as odd, but all other elements were really tasty and tender. But his dish had the same problem as ours did - lots of grease.
Now, I know that the Magdalen has a busy Sunday lunch service. The place really buzzes at that time (as at so many others), so maybe the staff were just really tired. But I would suggest that the restaurant closed or offered a simpler menu than tried - not quite succeeding - to carry on serving the full menu at full quality on Sunday nights.
We need more restaurants like the Magdalen in Oxford. Its current rivals are few, with the majority being very much sustenance-based rather than dining-experience-based - so please please please Magdalen Arms, keep up the good work!
Joroley (Unverified), 11/06/12
A place for good, solid, meat-heavy dishes with the cute novelty of offering Henry VIII-style sides of lamb to share and BIG Desperate Dan pies. But that's where it ends. Three baked souffle definitely baked three times, goose tasting of goose ... It is what it says on the packet, but you can also fantasise that you have just hopped off an alpine ski-lift and are eating in a Swiss chalet, so good fun!!!!
Fi (Unverified), 24/12/11
This week I went there with my family to celebrate my 60th birthday. We were very dissapointed with the service. It felt like we had been put on the back burner.
I can't blame the waiters as they were very pleasant and kept apologising, so I feel this is down to the management for not prioritising its booked customers!
On the plus note the food when it did arrive was very good but whether this is enough to tempt me back for another try? The service would have to greatly improve.
Abruzzo (Unverified), 23/12/11
Oh how I LOVE the Magdalen Arms and not only because it is situated at the bottom of my road!
The food is excellent and seasonal with Sunday roasts nearing the best in Oxford. The service and atmosphere is fantastic, welcoming, relaxed, I find the staff and chefs are only to happy to accomodate whatever will help the overall dining experience, whether relocating us to a better table or simply recommending one of their excellent wines. (I tend to go for the daily specials of various fruit laced prosecco's DELISH.)
I would book early over the weekend and bear in mind if you are not a child lover that Sundays are full of them!
sparkle88 (Unverified), 14/12/11
This place has SCRUMMY food and a brilliant atmosphere; the perfect balance of gourmet food and friendly, unpretentious service. Ideal for couples or family evenings out. The Magdelen Arms is an all round winner - particularly for meat lovers (it is a bit light on the vegetarian options, in fact). I will be going again and again and again! One piece of advice though: be sure to book in advance to get a table between 6.30 and 8pm, as it's always busy!
CD (Unverified), 11/07/11
I have eaten here about once a month since it opened about 18 months ago and, without exaggeration, I have not had one single mouthful here that was not totally mouthwatering. The food is fantastic - imaginative without being pretentious, hearty but at the same time subtle; and the prices are low, given (a) the exceptional quality and (b) the generous portions. It's a busy pub so service tends towards the informal, even occasionally chaotic - though never less than friendly, and often very warm and witty; don't come expecting reverential restaurant-style waiting staff with lots of time to devote to you. But that's all part of the lively yet relaxing atmosphere of the place.
sidney percy (Unverified), 08/06/11
My 5yr-old son and I were passing by and decided to have a quick lunch - what a good decision it was. Finally, a pub in Oxford that serves good, real food, and not some boring, standard stuff of the kind of any ready-meal anyone can buy in a supermarket. The menu is short, which means the chef can put more time and attention to prepare your meal, and you can be sure it's fresh, and tasty, and so different than anywhere else. It also changes twice a day, which is unique and should happen in more places, since this kind of inventive, creative approach to pub gastronomy is something we don't get in Oxford, I don't know why. To me, from reading the lunch menu, the food they offer is unpretentious, cosy just-like-at-home kind of way (I'm not English, yet what this pub offers strongly resembles the kind of food I cook myself at home), and what you get is exactly what it says on the card. Oh, and how about home-made lemonade instead of sprite (yuck!)? And bread that they bake themselves on the premises instead of half-baked baguettes served in most of the pubs, that taste like nothing? Also, the house wine is drinkable, no, actually, it's really good (unfortunatelly, I don't remeber the name). The place itself is very nice, the staff friendly, generally, a great place to go! They certainly serve the best bread I ever had in a pub, or a restaurant - really. I also loved the fact, that the salt I got on my table was a sea-salt, the only salt I like to use apart from rock salt, other kinds just spoil my food. If the pepper was also freshly griound, I would be perfectly satisfied. A few people mentioned that there is a very small choice for vegetarians, and I must agree with this, however, the parsley soup was so nice I didn't think about eating anything else. And my son ate more than half of his adult-sized meal, which never happened before in any restaurant and which means, that the food was simply amazing! I will certainly go back for some more culinary experiences.
well_fed (Unverified), 03/06/11
Two excellent recent experiences at the Magdalen Arms. The first involved an antipasti with creamy, unctuous buffalo mozzarella balls as big as my head and enough Italian meat to feed a family of four. The grilled scallions were a particular highlight. There was also tender lamb in moroccan spices absolutely falling off the bone (after inquiring, the friendly server told us it had been cooking for about 8 hours). Having just had the lamb, the next time I repeated the antipasti (which was kind of addictive) and went for the prime rib for a main course. It was rare and juicy, and we all had our eyes closed, chewing in absolute ecstasy before I broke the silence in order to give a speech on how much I regret having been vegetarian for 12 years and vegan for 4 when there's local, grass-fed beef to be had on special occasions. We rounded off the meal with the peach and olive oil cake and ice-cream that I happily tucked into (and I'm not even a dessert person!) It was a happy ending to a succulent meal.
Om Nom Nom (Unverified), 02/06/11
Went to the Magdalen Arms after seeing the Guardian review. Overall it was very disappointing and we thought it was 6/10. Two of us had the braised beef which did not have much meat on it, and the veggie selection was poor with undercooked new pots and a very insipid gravy. Puddings were better and possibly worth the money. The mains were just under £14 which we all thought was about £5 over priced. The service was very average and there was not much attention or thought to how to interact with customers. It was a case of plonking the food down, no checking to see if everything was okay and generally lacking some love/passion.
The setting is nice and they have done a good overhaul of what was a very basic boozer.
This place will not last very long with this size of portions, customer service and pricing!
We won't be going back in a hurry.
hecky (Unverified), 02/06/11
We made a belated first visit to the Magdalen Arms for lunch on Sunday. I'd heard so much about the place and was very much looking forward to trying the food. For meat-eaters it didn't disappoint, and I was pleased with my porchetta (pork) and my friends liked their shared guinea fowl. My non-meat-eating girlfriend had very little choice, though, and would have had even less had she not eaten fish. A very strange omission in a modern restaurant somewhere like East Oxford.
But I didn't really want to write about the food, which was fine if you like meat and gravy. Our visit was pretty much spoiled by the terrible service. When we arrived they didn't know what to do with us, and left us standing in a gloomy corner while they chatted. We were then seated and given menus but after that left alone for half an hour, with no one coming to offer us a drink or explain the specials. We would have complained to the manager or emailed them our views, but no one appeared to say goodbye as we left, and their website has no email address. Such a shame as we really wanted to like it.
Werthers Original (Unverified), 03/05/11
Well, what can I say, this place simply ROCKS!!!
I am a regular here and I would ignore any of the bad reviews you might read, if there is a wait for your food to arrive then be safe in the knowledge that your meal is being created for you by a loving and caring team, actually chat to person or people you are with, that's what dining out is all about, chatting, eating and having a nice time - there should never be a rush when eating out.
I eat out all of the time and I have read that some people have complained about the pricing. I find this quite ridiculous as the prices certainly undervalue the quality of food that is lovingly delivered to your table, I would happily pay more than what they charge knowing that the food is of the best quality, I am certain that there are no microwaves pinging away and that there are no pre-made packet items simply being heated up and thrown on a plate.
They say the menu changes twice a day - WHERE ELSE IN OXFORD do you get that, I can tell you safe in the knowledge that the answer is NOWHERE!!! I saw the other day the staff having their 'menu meeting', again, where does that happen??!! The team seemed to care so much about what was on offer, asking and probing about the ingredients, origin and layout of the dishes on offer.
If you want a decent meal then I would more than urge you to give this place a go, embrace what the staff have to say and take your time. We have a history here in Oxford in not supporting local businesses and then moaning when they disappear as the lack of choice is limited to the chain outlets that offer pre-heated microwaved slop that charge the same if not more!!!
Go, and then go again - support the people who are trying to make a difference.
Foodie (DI User), 13/12/10
saddle of hare was spectacular
also good to see three (3) chefs sitting at a table at the end of the evening discussing the menu
Peter M (Unverified), 08/12/10
I looked forward to trying out the Magdalen Arms after reading the glowing review in the Oxford Times. I was disappointed by the fact that it took an hour for the main course to arrive - very slow for luncheon service. The only explanation offered was "we're very busy", so I suggest they advise customers of the length of expected wait on arrival, or don't let any more diners in if they're overstretched. I was offered coffee or dessert (which I didn't want) as I left! The food was OK, but didn't live up to the high expectations set by some reviews :(
coolfrood (DI User), 16/10/10
Went last night and it was packed, like: recession, what recession? The food was delicious, though I, too, wish there had been more than one vegetarian option. You're probably thinking, "Vegetarian?! What are you doing dining out anyway? Shouldn't you be home, gnawing on some celery or something?" Be that as it may, not all veggies are into the often-defaulted-to mushrooms or aubergine. Fortunately for me, I like the latter and their version was fantastic. Everyone else I was with had lamb and, from watching as their eyes rolled to the back of their heads, I can only surmise that it was tasty.
Noe (Unverified), 26/08/10
If you are looking for good fresh food very well sourced and cooked to perfection this is the place to go. See the love the chefs etc put into the food out there. It's beautiful to see an establishment sourcing food according to the seasons with daily changing menus. I always go down there for a pint and to try something new. Where in Oxford would you get local radishes on a plate with good vinaigrette so simple? I have tasted the octopus salad which was really good. The food is very simple but a few of the reviews were about waiting too long - come on, it is the best in Oxford, or else you can go for a kebab.The other day I saw a lady podding peas, like bucket loads of them. Where in Oxford would you find that care being taken? I always thought frozen peas to be the best peas, but look at the care! I am just over the moon that we have such an establishment in Oxford. So all food lovers go to the Magdalen Arms and you wouldn't be disappointed, but don't be in a rush. Enjoy.
shell (Unverified), 28/05/10
My daughter took me to the Magdalen Arms for a birthday treat. We sat outside as it was such a nice evening. Outside tables can get a bit neglected in a restaurant but this was far from the case. Even though it was busy inside we were served promptly. We shared some asparagus, beautifully cooked and simply served. I had slow cooked pork and my daughter had the fattest sole I've ever seen. All washed down with a tasty chilled beaujolais. We then shared a cheesecake with mango salad. Everything was fresh and delicious. The loos were great, too!
I'd read the Guardian review and think maybe it didn't do the Magdalen any favours by raising expectations too high. This isn't fine dining with fawning waiters, its just about lovely fresh food, well cooked and cheerfully served. If I was going to be picky, I'd agree with other reviewers that there could be more vegetarian choice, but my main complaint is that I fell asleep on the Oxford Tube back to London and almost missed my stop! I will definitely go to the Magdalen again next time I am in Oxford.
SL (Unverified), 23/05/10
I had been looking forward to trying out the Magdalen Arms after reading the review in the Guardian. Unfortunately, our meal was spoiled by very slow service since it took an hour for the main course to arrive after the starter (1.5 hours in total after we arrived). In short, I wouldn't recommend going to the Magdalen Arms if you are hungry!
Alex (Unverified), 12/05/10
We went on a Tuesday evening a couple of weeks ago. We hadn't booked so we were fortunate to get a table, although we were warned we may have to share.
The choice on the menu was disappointing - one vegetarian option and no fish. I went for the £16 rib-eye with blue cheese butter and chips. I asked if I could have an alternative to chips and I was told that it already came with a salad and that if I wanted vegetables I would have to pay extra. I found this annoying considering it is a request that is usually fulfilled with no fuss and at no extra cost in most restaurants. I asked for my steak to be cooked medium-rare, only to be told that this was how it was served - perfect I thought! It came out medium at best. It was average and instead of being marbled with fat there were great big lumps of it. Salad leaves were nice but overdressed. The blue cheese butter was a little overpowering.
My friend had the cauliflower cheese, which was really good as they hadn't skimped on the cheese. We shared a bottle of wine and had a dessert each. One pear and almond tart (cold, would have been better served warm) with ice cream and a buttermilk dessert with caramelised blood orange slices. In total bill was around £47.
Ambience was pleasant, nice old tables with mismatching chairs. However, the tables are quite close together so does not encourage quiet conversation.
We both agreed that the food was overpriced for what we received. I doubt I will be returning. Don't get me wrong, you could do a lot worse, but you could also do a lot better in Oxford for less money.
Ling (Unverified), 10/05/10
Having become a fan from my first visit, the glowing Guardian review actually had me worried that the inevitable resulting popularity would make standards suffer. I booked a table for four on a Sunday, and when I was arrived I have never seen it so busy. I was nervous. However to my great relief there was no need, they had sensibly scaled up staff numbers and despite it clearly being fully booked the staff were as efficient as ever and most importantly to me it had lost neither its relaxed atmosphere nor great food. Phew!
Ess (DI User), 08/05/10
I've eaten at the Magdalen Arms 5 times now: the first 3 meals were brilliant and the last 2 were less so.
Each time there have been three or more of us and we've mostly eaten different dishes.
On all occasions, I've not been overly impressed by the "meet-and-greet", which was a bit slow and "Wait 'til I've finished talking to my chum".
It feels a bit as though the Matthew Norman review reduced the quality of the food - maybe it will readjust, as there was a marked increase in business, which may not have helped.
I still think the place is good value and I will continue to eat there, but it's not as special as it was.
Haze (Unverified), 05/05/10
My first meal here was pretty mediocre - two of our party of 6 couldn't even finish our meals (gristly steak in too much blue cheese). When we saw Matthew Norman's review in the Guardian raving about it we thought we must have just gone on a bad night, so decided to give it another shot. However again we had a pretty bad meal - my veal seemed more than half fat (!). Friendly service, but we sat down at 9pm and only got our starters at nearly 10. Friends we bumped into there also had similar experiences to us. I've seen the good reviews and wonder if there are different kitchen staff on different nights. Once you start paying restaurant prices in a pub then the food really needs to up its game, and I'm not sure the Magdalen Arms does this.
If you are looking to eat out in Oxford I would ignore the hype from the Matthew Norman review.
stella (Unverified), 24/04/10
I have been to the Magdalen three times now and am glad this new gem is in the neighbourhood. The staff are cheerful and the decor is like any north London gastropub, makeshift-homely-style. I have eaten three lunches here - however, I'm sad to say there is little choice for vegetarians. What is on offer has been steeped in melting cheese (often the case when meaties try to feed veggies) and the salads doused in rich dressing. In my opinion the food is all way too salty - the chips were over salted, a shame because they looked like nice chips - and the main dish I had was heavily salted. The flavours in my smoked haddock & Swiss chard rarebit weren't very well balanced and I couldn't taste the smoked fish :(
I don't mean to moan as I really like this pub, and I'm grateful that it's round the corner from my house, and it's a welcome oasis in this sadly gastro-lacking city - but I think it could just make some small changes (also the portion sizes could be smaller too!) and achieve something truly great. Please, if you're doing simple rustic cooking, let the quality of the simple fresh produce shine through!
reality check (Unverified), 10/04/10
Just back from delicious lunch. Yummy , generous helping of fennel gratin, fresh focaccia type bread, carafe of tap water and a great, strong round espresso. And all for a tenner. Lovely staff and cheerful, buzzy atmosphere. Well worth driving to and searching for parking... Next visit Sunday lunch.
Wednesday night at the Magdalen through the rain - we ate in the bar area, a relaxed deep maroon, wood-furnished space with cool brushed chrome light fittings and unpretentious tableware - chunky wine glasses and sweet yard-sale plates. Like the 'pub with food' you should see everywhere.
Students, families - they are welcoming to everyone. The restaurant was shrouded off by a maroon voile curtain so can't comment - you probably have to book well in advance now, but the atmosphere of the bar suited the food - no faff, allowed to be what it should be. Starter of mussels, wild garlic leaves, not too creamy sauce, huge and succulent, the mussels were the best, from Shetland. Remoulade of proscuitto - room temperature and loamy. The bread basket was accompanied by slightly salted butter, in itself just lovely. Braised rib of beef melted in red wine gravy, soft carrots and a mound of celeriac mash (which would have stood more potato to add starchiness). My only comment is that the horseradish cream was too rich for the celeriac and could have been stronger in bite. A side of spring cabbage, steamed, seasoned and buttered, tasted just how it should - reflecting the announcement on their board outside that they trade allotment produce for meals!
The Magdalen is wonderful - we're already planning to go back for Sunday lunch. I bet Yorkshre pudding would cut the distance between north and south to nothing. Siobhan was great, all the staff were committed and engaged. Splendid!
Eba (Unverified), 26/03/10
Cheese, potato, pastry and a few leaves.. although my companions said the meat and fish dishes were delicious.
sunshine (Unverified), 17/03/10
Excellent quality gourmet dining experience though service, whilst helpful and friendly, was perhaps overenthusiastic (with three staff coming to take orders that we had already tendered). However a minor point compared with the daily renewed menu of fresh food and imaginative 'English style' recipes.
Starters of game terrine and sourdough toast, deep fried brawn and gribiche were followed by hare salmi with crispy polenta and, for me, braised ox cheek, dumplings and horse radish cream. We had no room left after this but looked wistfully at the puddings amongst which were quince and walnut crumble, buttermilk pudding and poached rhubarb, welsh organic cheese with Cox apples.
Wine was reasonably priced and the bill for two around £50. A bit more than the average Cowley Road eatery but well worth the extra! Highly recommended for the discerning gastronome or a jaded appetite!!
guppben (DI User), 12/03/10
What a shame I live over 70 miles away! The food was delicious, the atmosphere warm and inviting. You can tell a lot of thought and care goes into choosing top quality ingredients.
char (Unverified), 03/03/10
Had a wonderful experience... great food and very cheerful and accommodating staff. We plan to go again and again when we wish to eat out in Oxford.
We booked to go for a friend's birthday and found the staff rude. We wanted to add two people to our booking 2 days before the meal and got into a discussion about our booking "going up and down like a yo-yo" and were told they would charge £10 per head for any cancellations! We were also rushed through our ordering and meal (which was really good food) to get another booking in.
It is the first, since I have moved to your island, that I go to a place that is a British restaurant. This perhaps reflects the funny relationship British people have with their attitude with food. I had a rib eye steak with fries (the equivalent I believe of my "national" steack-frites) absolutely delicious with the meat almost melting in your mouth, and they had dijon mustard to go with it (or the choice of English mustard too) if wished. The wine also was so exceptionaly nice, sorry I can't remember the name now. I will definitely go back and perhaps then be more adventurous in my choice from the menu!
Lucile Deslignères (DI User), 17/01/10
We love this place, and have been 3 times in the last 3 weeks. The food really is superb, but the waiting staff add something special too. It seems they are all really happy to work there, which seems to make an enormous difference.
Bar billiards, and dogs allowed in the bar area.
Lovely friendly place, would recommend it heartily.
A (Unverified), 11/01/10
We used to go to the Magdalen Arms in its previous incarnation for Sunday breakfasts, and were curious enough to take our kids and our parents for Sunday lunch in early January 2010. The menu looked a little daunting, with some unfamiliar ingredients, but the food was absolutely delicious, freshly-made and wholesome, and there was plenty of it. They happily provided a nice vegan meal for our cheese-hating vegetarian and bowls of chips for our picky children, in spite of being fairly full and busy. There's a relaxed atmosphere - classy without being 'posh', and we didn't feel self-conscious having colouring books on the table. The service was efficient and friendly and it isn't frighteningly expensive either, in spite of the elaborate menu - starters/desserts for 4-6 pounds, mains from about 9 upwards and a pound for a basket of bread. You can get a pint of Theakstons too. Thoroughly recommended.
Frances (Unverified), 03/01/10
It is rare that restaurants live up to the hype but this place was fantastic the first time I went and has been consistently so every time I have been since. They just get everything right; the staff are friendly and attentive without being in your face, the decor and layout are similarly understated but welcoming, all of which makes the perfect backdrop for the food which is just outstanding. No fancy dish names just recognisable dishes with novel twists or flavours that make them taste like you have never had them before. My food vocabulary isn't up to explaining how they make their food taste so much better than anywhere else, but it just does! Ordinarily I'd be worried about building expectations too high, but actually all I'm worried about is that the more people try it the harder it will get for me to reserve a table!
local (Unverified), 29/12/09
My friends and I recently had a terrible time at the "new" Magdalen Arms. We arrived in the evening for drinks and food- found ourselves a table and then a member of staff proceeded to hammer nails into the walls around us for pictures. Nice to have some pictures, but surely there are times when the pub is not full of customers to do this!
After waiting some time to order, we were informed that we could no longer have food as the kitchen had reached capacity. We had been present for some time, taken menus, and had not been informed that this could be an issue. When we complained, the staff were rude, and both myself and my party will not be returning to a venue that has so little respect for customers.
Adam (Unverified), 22/12/09
How nice to have good English food in an English pub for once. During my first meal there last night, we had a piece of halibut that was good enough for Jehova, with gorgeous chips, a fantastic pheasant and celeriac pot pie (which was sadly a little light on the celeriac), and some perfectly cooked curly kale that managed to be zingy despite only being dressed with butter and pepper.
Really great food, and impeccable service despite the pub coping with a huge Christmas party that sat down at the same time as us. The food was about 10 minutes late in arriving due to the 40 extra guests wearing paper Christmas hats next to us, but despite our complete understanding of the pressure they were under to cater to everyone there, by way of apology we were treated to a complimentary terrine and cornichons - which were divine - together with a bowl of characterful home-made salty bread which came out to keep us happy. An unnecessary touch, but one that goes a long way to explaining why this place is so good. Superb crisp Sagres lager on tap too.
Medium-priced, very high quality food, amazing service, and great, great value for money. Highly, highly recommended.
Jimbly (Unverified), 15/12/09
I've been here a couple of times since the reopening now, and the combination of high quality food, value and friendly service is a real winner. The Hereford beef and ale pie I had to share on my last visit was a great example of how to turn a simple piece of pub food into a classic with the application of a little imagination.
Needless to say I'll be back!
Ed (Unverified), 27/11/09
Several months ago wrote review about how dire the old Magdalen Arms and said needed a more upmarket business model. I doubt the new owners read it but they've done it.
This pub is now utterly brilliant. The food is possibly the best in Oxford and certainly the best value.
It's warm, friendly and a pleasure to be in. If it's anywhere near as good as the Anchor and Hope is in the long run then this will probably be the best dining in Oxford, far better than Jericho or the High St.
I would move to East Oxford for this pub.
Rich (Unverified), 19/11/09
The new team at the Magdalen Arms are doing a fantastic job - the redecoration is lovely, it's exceptionally welcoming (towards our baby as well), there's a good wine list (sorry can't report on the beer), and the food is brilliant: the menu is what you'd hope for in a good gastro-pub (hearty, interesting, not all of it obvious, and very difficult to choose from!), and it's very well cooked. The kitchen really know what they are doing; and the competence extends through to the waiting staff and the bar, too.
Easily one of the best, and friendliest, places to eat in Oxford; and how wonderful to have it in our neck of the woods. Thank you Florence and Tony!
AnnaB (DI User), 10/11/09
Was there for Saturday lunch and can really recommend the place. Imaginative and tasty food for a reasonable price.
The food here is absolutely fantastic. I have been a number of times since it reopened and have sampled all manner of delicious things, many of them for the first time. What I like best is that I can trust that whatever I order will be wonderful, so there is little risk in trying something new (although the not-too-exotic mutton with barley was so nice I almost cried).
The staff and owners are unfailingly warm, and happy to educate about the menu or recommend a nice wine. In short, it's a fine dining experience without the pomp and circumstance, and certainly the best meals I've had in England, let alone Oxford.
Caitlin (Unverified), 07/11/09
Great food especially the cassoulet and roast pork, great choice of wine at reasonable prices, and great atmosphere. Only thing lacking was the choice in real ales.
Spread the word, don't want to lose a great place to eat in East Oxford!!
Ollie (Unverified), 02/11/09
Thank you Chiv/Shiv? (Siohhan) for suggesting a Virgin Mary and making it taste like the full blooded version! Can’t decide what to order/want it all? Let Chiv choose. Chiv recommends the purple sprouting broccoli for my light lunch on Saturday. (She has to be kidding, right?). All I can say is get some while they’ve still got it on the menu – and I never saw anyone do that with cheese before, amazing. Same dilemma for pudding – Chiv says ‘the muscat crème caramel’. What??! With all that other good stuff on the list? Ok, I’m up for the challenge because that would have been my last choice, sooo boring. Chiv wins hands down – it’s sublime. Alex and Mick thought they’d hit the jackpot with the calamari and aioli and the ham hock terrine, then the lemon polenta cake with pears and mascarpone. Maybe we all did.
When the signs went up that the pub was available for lease, we thought ‘wouldn’t it be great if we got a nice restaurant’. We never really thought it would happen, but what Florence and Tony have done is way beyond expectation. I’ve never seen a menu change so often and remain so imaginative – we may never eat in town again. Why would you?!
Anne, Sidney Street (Unverified), 31/10/09
As a member of the committee meeting that was taking place at an adjacent table last night I can only endorse the views expressed here.
The "committee" was in fact the Sidney Street residents weekly gathering, which up until now has met at another fine pub in Magdalen Road - The Rusty Bicycle. The arrival of Florence and Tony has given us a real dilemma as this is undoubtedly a very fine pub and restaurant, with owners that have earned their spurs elsewhere (including one of my favourite pubs in London). We may have to go out together twice a week from now on... this information comes as a result of a five minute chat with Florence, by the way - an indication of the friendly welcome that awaits.
Anne and I ate there last week and recommended it to our fellow "Sidney Streeters", so last night was a reconnaissance by some of the other residents. I was amazed to see a menu as full of imagination and adventure as the previous week's. These people are passionate about food, using local produce and seasonal variation, and it shows in the menu.
At last a culinary triumph for East Oxford! Let's hope we can still get a table there in a few weeks from now!
Mick (Unverified), 30/10/09
We had a jolly fine meal at the Magdalen Arms last night. It hasn't been open again all that long, but it already feels settled and smoothly run.
I have to confess I'd never been inside the old MA, and was astonished how large it is. It feels lofty rather than cavernous, partly because there's a restaurant-y section curtained off, but I imagine you could get a lot of people in there! There's a beautifully motley assorment of chairs and tables, with lots of unvarnished wood about the place. Some of the chairs had a pocket for your hymnbook in the back.
We were welcomed by the barman and told that if we wanted to eat we could sit anywhere. I'm not a fan of the sort of pub where some bits are food only, some drinks only, you need a numbered spoon and a PhD just to work out where you're allowed to go. So this was a nice relaxing start.
The menu took some studying. It's not ridiculously long, just a good serious set of options, including words I didn't know. (Perhaps everyone but me knows this already, but Trevisse is a sort of lettuce, red leaves, slightly bitter and a bit like endive.) A passing member of staff told us to go and order at the bar when we were ready, just as we were beginning to wonder if we should go and order at the bar: further evidence that the staff actually appear to see things from the diner's point of view!
In the end we chose Gravadlax and Pea & Ham Soup followed by Hungarian Mutton Stew with Dumplings and Confit of Duck, Puy Lentils and Trevisse, with extra Greens on the side. The staff were able to check the ingredients and confirm whether dishes were gluten-free.
The food was really, really good. The Gravadlax came with home-pickled cucumbers and was rich and i-dill-ic! The soup was really hearty but not so blended that you couldn't taste the individual items. I suspected a very good stock at its heart. The glass of St Chinian I was recommended did indeed go very well with both the soup and my main, being velvety and berry-flavoured.
The Confit was delicious, and its accompaniments went very well, including the Greens. They turned out to be perfectly-cooked baby cabbage with the right amount of saltiness and very good flavour. They also (reportedly) went well with the stew and dumplings, whose sauce was very thick and tomato-ey with paprika-ish hints. It was declared tender, succulent and filling with lovely, slightly chewy dumplings and perfect dollop of creme fraiche. We were quite full by the end of the starter but couldn't bear to leave any of the main courses because they were so nice.
And although we were already well-fed we really wanted to try the pudding collection. Cakes are also home-made and the Lemon Polenta Cake was gluten-free so we tried that and the Stichelton (an excellent stilton). The cake came with a poached pear, we think spiced with nutmeg and cardamom. At any rate it wasn't overwhelmingly cinnamon-flavoured. The Stichelton was served with rhubarb chutney (we thought home-made) and oatcakes. One of the dessert wines, Monbazillac, is available by the glass and cut through the sweet pudding like an icicle. The coffee was also very drinkable.
Drinks are an interesting point - from the menu I'd have guessed they'd have organic cider, ale from microbreweries and Fentiman's ginger beer. It's not like that! The beers are a pretty standard selection, and the only gingery drink on offer was Britvic ginger ale. My companion pronounced: no nonsense drinks which do not detract from the star of the show, unquestionably the food.
Having said that the wines are something special. I didn't read the list carefully but it seemed like an eclectic and carefully chosen mix, not just the standard Merlot / Sauvignon options.
All in all it's an unpretentious, grown-up sort of place. It's by no means unwelcoming to students, or any other demographic, but it won't bend over backwards to feed them happy hour cocktails. While we were there we saw a big group round a table, what looked like a committee-meeting, a couple of girls gossipping, a man reading a newspaper by himself and a couple.
In this spot a welcoming venue where anyone and everyone can foregather is not just a luxury but vital to the community. A large noticeboard outside asks if anyone has excess fruit, veg or flowers on their allotments and would like to swap it for lunch. (We wondered about the flowers, until we saw the fabulous displays of lilies in the bathrooms.)
The food is also a pretty sophisticated offering. We're used to gastropubs that offer Ostrich burger and chips, but there's not a chip in sight at the Magdalen Arms. It makes other venues seem very shallow by comparison.
Our bill came to £58 for the two of us. That's without a bottle of wine, but with alcoholic drinks. We felt it was definitely worth it, not least because the portions were delicious and generous, garlicky ciabatta at the start was free, service was excellent throughout and we were very full.
Definitely a place to return to, and somewhere we would take guests with confidence. A new favourite.
Su Jordan (DI Staff), 29/10/09
Don't be put off by the fact that this used to be a spit n' sawdust football pub, the atmosphere and decor is now completely different and this is noticable even before you get inside.
The food is absolutely outstanding - original and cooked to perfection. Average cost of mains is probably about a tenner, so in my opinion very good value considering how good it was.
Sagres lager on tap is a nice touch but real ale lovers may be disappointed. Plenty of time for guest ales to be brought in as the pub gets more popular of course.
It's fantastic to have a restaurant like this in Iffley Fields, and should definitely appeal to the north Oxford crowd as well!
In summary, we couldn't fault the food, service, value or surroundings. Highly recommended.
Jeff (Unverified), 29/10/09
I recently ate at the newly re-furbished Magdalen Arms on Iffley Rd and it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. Beautiful atmosphere, fantastic service and cooking of the highest level from chef Tony Abarno.
It is a must visit for everyone and I think it will quickly become known as Oxford’s best restaurant; personally I think it already is! At last we have a restaurant in Oxford to rival London; hurray!!!
Rufus (DI User), 28/10/09
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