The Cherwell Boathouse
50 Bardwell Road, Oxford, OX2 6ST
- Recommended for:
- Couples, Foodies, Honeymooners, Seasoned travellers, Celebrity spotting, Chilling out, Great views / scenery, People watching, Special occasions
Best for Romance - Expert review of The Cherwell Boathouse
The Cherwell Boathouse is an Oxford institution. It was built in 1904 by Oxford University waterman Thomas Tims as a place where punts and rowing boats could be hired. It was bought in 1975 by Anthony Verdin as he needed the spare storage space to keep his extensive collection of wines. In due course a kitchen was built so that visitors could eat as they sipped Verdin’s vintages in this idyllic riverside location. The Boathouse has since grown into one of Oxford’s most popular eating places. When former Rhodes scholar Bill Clinton came back to Oxford, it was one of the places he asked to eat. The restaurant also remains an excellent place if you fancy shelling out £150-300 for one of Mr Verdin’s top Burgundies.
The wine list is reasonably priced and there are 18 house wines available by the glass. The cheese menu is also good value, pairing eight cheeses with an imaginative selection of wines by the 35ml shot.
The main menu is not cheap, but it is intriguing. Personally I come here to drink well and eat lightly. However, keen diners will enjoy the mix of British and Mediterranean cuisine.
I've enjoyed the tomato consommé and the ham hock terrine with piccalilli. The venison is local and always good and the lemon balm posset and the chocolate soup make for interesting desserts.
Location and wine remain the main reasons for visiting the boathouse. On a summer’s evening there is nowhere better. This is the whole Rupert Brooke/Zuleika Dobson Oxford idyll. TS Eliot is supposed to have glimpsed his future wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood on a Cherwell punt in 1915. (She was listening to a wind-up phonograph.) These days the sound of drunken 21st-century students falling in the water can shatter the Edwardian summer illusion.
There is room for 75 all year round inside and 60 outside (for six months of the year) at tables overlooking the boat apron and under awnings.
Brisk and amiable, although this can slow during busy times when it’s not unusual to find extended Oxford families occupying sections of the restaurant. If you want the place more to yourself, go for an early lunch (when the set menu is reasonable value).
Down a cul-de-sac off Bardwell Road, which runs eastwards from Banbury Road towards the Cherwell river. There is some parking on the left before you reach the restaurant. This part of north Oxford is full of large 19th-century houses and exclusive private schools like Wychwood, Oxford Girls’ High and the Dragon School. Privilege never looks prettier than on the Cherwell’s banks in summer.
Expect to pay up to £40 without wines for three courses.
Book one of the four window tables and you have the added pleasure of “river theatre” - watching picnicking parties wobble on and off the boathouse’s punts and rowing boats.
None – the Boathouse is a unique institution.
More information on The Cherwell Boathouse:
- Price guide:
- British, French
- 50 Bardwell Road, Oxford, OX2 6ST
- 01865 515 978
- Lunch, Dinner
- Opening times:
- Mon-Sun noon-2pm (2.30pm Sat-Sun) and 6pm-9.30pm (last orders).
- Accepts Credit Cards:
- Essential at peak times
- Free tags / Keywords:
- Wine specialist