I’ve spent a lot of time in Oxford. It’s my favorite city in Britain outside of London (in fact, I might like it more than London shhhh!). From day trips to long stays in the summer for a course, I’ve spent a lot of time there. I have my own haunts that I enjoy very much. Of course, I like places like the Eagle and Child and Blackwells. But my favorite place to eat is Brown’s Cafe in the Oxford Covered Market (not to be confused with the Brown’s restaurant chain).
This lovely little place has been there since 1924; almost a hundred years in the same family and has been a mainstay of Oxford locals and students for as long as it has been there. Stepping into the place is like stepping back in time. It’s a traditional old British cafe. You can get a cup of tea or coffee. Or you can get a meal. And the variety of meals available is mind-boggling. The place is so small, you wonder where they store all this food!
The food is hearty British fare, but also a flare for various other types of dishes from all over the world. I much prefer the British fare. You can get reliably tasty meat pies, bangers & mash, roasts, chicken – even burgers (definitely not British). The chunky chips on offer are delicious, especially when soaked in their house gravy. You order at the counter, and they bring the food out to you when it’s ready. Best of all, the food is very reasonably priced. You can easily eat a freshly cooked meal for under a tenner.
Eating here is like being a temporary local, which is the best way to travel. It’s a quiet little oasis in busy Oxford. People walk by, students eat their lunches, people read newspapers, study books, play on their phones. The lighting is warm; the place is especially inviting on a cold winter’s day, serving hot tea and warm food. When I’ve needed a quick and yummy meal while in Oxford, this place has saved me more than once. It’s a treasure.
It’s had a starring role in Oxford’s famous TV shows – Morse, Lewis and Endeavour. It’s fun to spot it in the show, knowing I’ve been there. There’s been talk of changes at Oxford Covered market – rising rents are pushing out mainstay businesses – one hopes Brown’s is able to endure. It’s a treasure of a place serving delicious food. Try to have lunch there when you’re in town. It’s well worth it.