Best cheap eats in Bucks and Oxon
There's no shame in seeking out the cheap-but-chic! From charming hole-in-the-walls to bargain set menus, these 16 eateries are Muddy-approved for light pockets.
Mollie’s Motel, Buckland
If this swish restaurant and hotel looks like it’s straight out of Pulp Fiction, that’s no coincidence – founder Nick Jones (of Soho House fame) styled it after the classic 1950s American diner. But wait, it isn’t Soho House prices! Enjoy charmingly retro burgers, grilled cheeses, hot dogs, and more for roughly a tenner each. Wash it down with a classic shake and a pic for your Instagram…
The Brasserie, Milton Keynes
A restaurant for training chefs, The Brasserie is the ultimate place for amazing food at cheap prices. Sure, the kitchen staff are technically still learning, but tell that to the excellent cod and butter bean cassoulet special. It’s crazy how affordable this calibre of food is: stacked posh burgers and chips for £6.95, changing specials like roasted cod bisque with samphire for £10.95, and a Thursday night tasting menu for £25 a head!
Pierre Victoire, Oxford
You’ll be pleased to know that this très mignon French bistro on Little Clarendon Street has brought more than just excellent classic French cooking over across the Channel: it’s also brought the great bistro tradition of prix fixe menus. Two lunch courses for £17.50 or three for £21.50 will do very nicely, thank you very much. The price goes up a little for dinner (£26.50 for two courses or three for £32.50), so for the full effect opt to have your Moules Marinières, steak frites, and chocolate fondue as a long, French-style lunch.
With the name of the game here being Indian street food, the menu is pleasantly affordable. Decently-sized, fragrant dishes range from £4.95 to £8.95 at most (and that’s for a curry served inside a hollowed out loaf of bread, so nice and filling!). Since the MO is fast, real eating it’s a zingy, messy experience: roti wraps leaking sweet chutney, piles of sticky tamarind fries, lots of crunchy finger food. Can’t decide what to order? Choose a Tiffin Box for one for a chef’s choice selection: a bargain at four different dishes for £14.
The Three Oaks, Gerrards Cross
You can’t beat a set menu for proper good value, and The Three Oaks does a great one of two courses for £19 or three for £24. Considering it’s won a Michelin Bib Gourmand every year since 2014, and been in the Good Food guide every year since 2017, those are some crazy decent prices — and for fancy dishes like confit duck, too. Enjoy the set menu at lunchtime, Wed-Sat.
Is there anything better than great Italian food? Well, great Italian food that doesn’t cost the earth, naturalmente. Chic slice of the Med Zaza is as kind to your pursestrings as it is to your Insta feed (check out the awesome indoor olive trees!), with pasta dishes for around a tenner and an excellent set menu for lunch time and early evening. From 12-6pm, Monday-Friday, two courses will set you back £12.90, and three courses £15.90.
For tapas on Cowley Road, this is a dead cert. We’ve been big fans of Arbequina for ages (you might have spotted them gracing the Muddy Awards line-up in the past), and it’s still one of the best spots in the whole of Oxfordshire for tapas that won’t max out your credit card. Small dishes cost between £4.50-8 for good portions, with some stand out dishes creeping up to £15.50, and drinks coming in very reasonably.
No5 London End, Beaconsfield
Little sister to The Three Oaks, No.5 is another purveyor of every ambitious cheapskate’s love, the set menu. From 12-2.30pm Tues-Sat, you can snaffle two courses for £16 or three courses for £19, which is bargainous for grub this good. A stylish bistro rather than a gastropub, the space is attractively furnished with exposed brickwork and wooden wall motifs. Expect dishes like grilled pollock with creamed leeks, and beetroot risotto with crispy kale.
Taste Tibet, Oxford
A Muddy Awards 2021 finalist, this punchy little business cooks the most authentic Tibetan food this side of the Himalayas, and for an extremely reasonable price! Having started as a stall on Gloucester Green Market before its Cowley Road restaurant, there’s long been plenty of well-earnt media buzz; most recently it was picked out by Ottolenghi for a feature in The Times. Especially handy for money-savers is the fact that everything’s so filling — four momos (dumplings) for £6 accompanied by a fragrant dal and rice for £7 would have you positively rolling down the street. Top tip: you can also buy lots of the food frozen, for reheating at cut prices.
Wells Farmshop and Cafe, Abingdon
We’re suckers for a good farm shop here at Muddy, and this one takes the homemade, organic biscuit. It’s no surprise that the food is good here as owners Bertie and Lucy Wright previously worked at Oxford staples Gees, Quod and The Old Parsonage, but you might be surprised at the affordability of this seasonal, highly local menu. Day to day, you can enjoy a brilliant breakfast or lunch there (toasted currant teacake £3, squishy breakfast baps for £4.25, lunch dishes like garlic mushroom gratin for about £7), but keep an eye out for their excellent supper clubs too, where you can get three courses for £20.
Made in Sud, Milton Keynes
Slinging some of the best pizzas you’ll get outside of Naples — puffy, charred crust, rich sauce, excellent cheese — this cheerful street food van based in Intu Milton Keynes is another bonkers hidden gem. Pizza started out as a poverty food, which is why Made in Sud keeps its authentic Neapolitan pizza amazingly affordable. And with a Margherita pizza costing just £4.90, it’s cheaper than most Pret lunches! Now that’s a dangerous thought…
The Coconut Tree, Oxford
Muddy is no stranger to The Coconut Tree – we love its relaxed and friendly atmosphere. You know what we also love about this lively Sri Lankan joint? The price. Smaller dishes start at just £2.70, with the most you’ll pay for any single dish being £9.70 for the substantial chicken and cheese kotthu. This place is made for sharing and they even make big sharer ‘cocotails’, or go for their two cocktails for £10 deal, available always! Can’t argue with that.
The Blossom Room, Milton Keynes
Don’t overlook this glamorous little place as just a bar: The Blossom Room has an extensive menu of Asian favourites, with large dishes like chicken katsu burger, teriyaki chicken noodles, and ramen all hovering at around a tenner. It’ll have to be lunch or an early supper if you’re taking the family (under-18s have to leave by 7pm), but if it’s a more grown-up affair, you can also take advantage of the 2-4-1 cocktails. Ca-ching!
Tucked away on Hollywell Street, this tiny Japanese eatery is a veritable hidden treasure. Both casual and super-authentic, the food is down-to-earth delicious, and mostly hovering just under a tenner — stretching to £14 for the teriyaki salmon. If you go on a Thursday night it’s sushi night, priced generally at about £3 for two pieces, and all at an exceptional standard.
Mamma Mia Pizzeria, Summertown and Jericho
These award-winning pizzerias are delightfully unpretentious, styled in an old-school, green-chequered-tablecloth kind of way. A charming hole-in-the-wall kind of vibe, you know? The food is authentic and delicious, with prices for hearty mains of pizza and pasta sitting around a tenner. You’ll leave happy and extremely far from hungry.
Atalay’s Kebab Van, Thame
Yes, it is a kebab van but don’t be alarmed. This Thame institution has been voted national kebab van of the year three years running, has a slew of awards, and was recently given a shout out by Scott Mills on Radio 1, so you don’t need to have downed six pints to justify a visit. A nightly fixture in the main town centre car park from 6.30pm, Atalay’s often has people queuing down the road to get their mitts on its chicken kebabs and falafel wraps with all the trimmings (the salad is brilliantly fresh and crunchy).