Magdalen Road, situated in the heart of East Oxford, runs between Cowley Road and Iffley Road, linking together many small residential streets along the way, and is home to a wealth of independent shops and places to eat. Here we take a look at some of its highlights
At the Iffley end sits Pegasus Theatre, whose stylish and striking bronze-look exterior is one of Magdalen Road's most recognisable features. Pegasus is a young persons' performing arts centre, playing host to drama, dance and comedy shows and workshops for little ones. Pegasus has existed in various incarnations for over half a century, but the most significant milestone in its history was the opening of the current premises in 2010. Magdalen Road now boasts a purpose-built 133-seat theatre that specialises in creating inclusive shows with young people in mind.
Next door is the Magdalen Arms, famed gastropub and haven for carnivores. Reviewed favourably in national papers, this pub is one of the more famous in Oxford, with a seasonal menu that changes daily. They also host the Magdalen Flea Market on the first Saturday of each month, selling bric-a-brac, handmade clothes, vintage finds and other antiques. Some of their menu prices match their status, but there are reasonably priced pints in the mix. Though they don't boast tonnes of choice for vegetarians, Magdalen chefs always provide an option and are great at adapting their menu to suit the customer.
If you're after a more casual pub experience, halfway down Magdalen Road sits The Rusty Bicycle - the very first venture of local chain, Dodo Pub Company (who have gone on to open The Rickety Press in Jericho and fabulous new The Up In Arms in Marston). Here, food and drink is plentiful and cheap with a selection of pizzas and burgers to suit everyone. If the Rusty Bike is on your commute home, beware! They host an After Work Drinks happy 'hour' from 5-7pm every weekday, serving £3 pints of their lovely Dodo Lager. Their cute beer garden with punnily named sheds (Cabin and Stacey anyone?) plus long-running events like their Tuesday quiz nights mean that this Magdalen Road venue attracts punters from all over the city as well as the Cowley crowd.
Over the road is The Magic Cafe, a fully veggie establishment that isn't as flashy as its name might suggest. Instead, expect to be greeted by what seems to be a cosy living room with plenty of space for larger groups and families with pushchairs. There's a relaxed, no-nonsense, community feel, helped by the mismatched furniture and enormous local noticeboard. This cafe has perfected the art of meat-free comfort food: though their mains change daily, there's always a vegan option, plus lots of cakes, teas, coffees and milkshakes.
Next door you can find Wild Honey, a treasure trove of sustainable and locally produced goodies. They stack their shelves high with the most environmentally friendly and nutritiously delicious products available. There's lots of local produce on offer including cereal, grains, supplements, chocolates and pasta, plus plenty of household and cleaning products too. For even more sustainable produce, Hamblin Bread is well worth a visit. Though not strictly on Magdalen Road (it's actually on nearby Iffley Road) this neighbourhood bakery has a thriving cafe, shop and Instagram account. They serve breakfast, lunch, coffee and teas, and make all their bread on site from stoneground British flour. They even sell natural wine, cider and beer!
So, it's Saturday. You've done your grocery shopping for the week, but it's too early to have a pint... brunch? The Handlebar 39 brings the charm of its more central sister restaurant to Magdalen Road. In the mornings and early afternoons, all the usual brunch fare is on offer, with lots of healthy options and plenty of gluten free choices. Then, in the evening, 39 becomes a creperie, providing a range of sweet and savoury pancakes to enjoy. As is to be expected of a Handlebar offshoot, all the ingredients used at 39 are ethically sourced and local. Bannister's and Silvie on nearby Iffley Road are two other good brunch joints to have up your sleeve for those easy weekends.
Finally, to Oli's Thai. Run by the same people responsible for Arbequina and Bar Terruño on Cowley Road, and often hailed as one of, if not the best restaurant in Oxford, this place is tiny but perfectly formed, with an ever-changing but ever-delicious seasonal menu. Evening reservations get snapped up extremely quickly, so expect to book far in advance - waiting times can reach weeks, or even months. However, if you're lucky enough to have some time during the day, weekday lunchtime bookings are easier to score, and there are usually a few seats at the bar available. Get there early and have a back-up plan ready; they really are that popular!