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European Cuisine in Oxford

Oxfordshire abounds with gastronomic options from countries as varied as Thailand and Lebanon. But with such enticing offerings from faraway climes, it's often easy to forget what's closer to home. What has Europe ever done for us, you might ask? We don't have all the answers, but it does seem to feed us exceptionally well. Here's the Daily Info rundown of the county's best continental cantinas.

France

Pompette

A newly-arrived titan on the Oxford restaurant scene. We went to the launch of the Autumn menu recently and the food was so sublime that we were unable to do any networking or businessy stuff at all - we simply lurked in a corner and ate profusely and silently. Meltingly-well-cooked pieces of steak, crispbreads with a herbal, sweet crème fraîche that bamboozled us (in a good way), and an exceptional pork, duck and date terrine. And the croquettes. Oh the croquettes. Croquettes are designed to be stodgy, filling, comforting in a run-of-the-mill sort of way. I was thus utterly unprepared for Pompette's crispy golden spheres, delicately filled with the most flavoursome cheese and ham, and later on, many a still-warm, buttery madeleine was covertly pocketed for the walk home. All dishes were partnered with some excellent full-bodied French wines too, with other options from elsewhere in Europe if you're so inclined.

Pierre Victoire

Narrow, with lights and bunting criss-crossed above you and the colourful canvas shades of the restaurants, Little Clarendon Street feels distinctly European. It's a fitting home then, for Pierre Victoire, an excellent, privately-owned bistrot specialising in traditional French fare that is not only delicious but also deliciously priced. The Prix Fixe lunch and dinner menus are particularly eye-catching, and the candle-lit, convivial atmosphere (as well as the extensive wine list) make Pierre Victoire a fine place to while away an evening with friends.

Slovakia

Moya

Reputed to be Oxford's only Slovakian restaurant, St Clem's gem Moya is a Daily Info favourite. Run by Richard (West of England) and Ivona (East of Slovakia), the restaurant has a superb range of cocktails as well as homemade Slovak cuisine. The food is hearty, spicy, smoky and much more varied than one might innocently think: fish and seafood are on offer as well as classics such as Halusky baby dumplings and Segedin, a creamy pork and sauerkraut goulash.

Italy

Constructing a condensed list of Oxfordshire's Italian restaurants while simultaneously keeping an eye on your word count is a near-impossible task. In brief, Banbury's Pizza Calzone takes pride in filling customers to the brim with fresh and flavourful food, in a cheerful, welcoming atmosphere that is exactly what one seeks in a ristorante. Prize-winning Mamma Mia has a monopoly on Jericho and Summertown with its bustling pizzerias, while a battle for supremazia rages on in East Oxford. Cowley Road institution Mario's is well-matched by La Cucina, whose menu extends beyond pizza and pasta into a broad spectrum of meat, fish and risotto dishes.



The Netherlands

Little Amsterdam

Banbury meets Haarlem at Little Amsterdam, where one can indulge with a range of pancakes which are sweet, savoury, or sweet-and-savoury (there are bottles of stroop, or syrup, on every table). A topping of smoked sausage, leek and almond crumb is a particularly alluring combo. For those after something a little less flat (though no less filling), there are beef croquettes, sauerkraut mash with smoked sausage, and bami bites (triangular pockets of noodles, vegetables and spices), all served in an informal, coffeehouse-style atmosphere.





Greece

Manos

This Jericho locale may cover all the bases - it is at once café, deli and wine bar - but that doesn't mean that it spreads itself too thinly. Traditional favourites like moussaka and spanakopita are matched by familiar accoutrements such as tzatziki, houmous and fresh Greek salads. There's also a lovely garden-cum-terrace out the back if you need to hide away from Jericho's famously ceaseless hustle and bustle.

Souvlaki Brothers

If you're after more informal sustenance, Souvlaki Brothers have you covered. For the uninitiated, souvlaki is a Greek street food staple: a choice of lemon chicken, pork, bifteki or grilled halloumi stuffed into a flatbread with chips, salad and sauces. It's a superb lunchtime option, though you'd do well to eat a tightly-packed souvlaki on the move without either a) getting indigestion or b) dousing yourself in aioli (or the unenviable combination of both). Rather better to take a seat on one of the bench tables, nicely located in one of the Covered Market's central atria.


Spain

Al-Andalus

Another excellent eatery along Little Clarendon Street, Al-Andalus can be relied upon for a tapas fix. Expect classic Iberian favourites such as patatas bravas, padron peppers and boquerones (whitebait) as well as larger dishes such as paella and spicy seafood stews, with smoky reds, crisp whites and light lagers to take the edge off. The restaurant is low-lit and eye-catchingly decorated with a palette of reds and oranges, making it a particularly hearty stop-off on a winter day.

Arbequina

Elsewhere in Oxford, Arbequina on Cowley Road comes highly recommended. Like sister restaurant Oli's Thai, it's small and extremely popular, so tables are at a premium. But if you're lucky enough to snag one, the small menu is consistently excellent. The usual suspects - tortilla, grilled octopus - are exquisitely cooked while more complex dishes such as beetroot borani and slow roasted pork belly with mojo verde pair flavours which are punchy without being overpowering. It's often said that the joy of tapas is in sharing small dishes, but with this kind of quality on offer, you'll find it hard not to hoard.

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