Best cheap eats in Bucks and Oxon
Caned the credit card but still fancy a dinner date? What you need is a Muddy-approved cheap but chic dining spot.
No one wants to splash the cash on pricey restaurants at the mo, so we’ve pulled together a selection of our favourite chic but cheap eats across Bucks and Oxon. Aren’t we helpful?
This Insta-friendly Italian restaurant hidden away in Liston Court only opened in September, so if you haven’t had a chance to get there yet, consider this your nudge. The main event here is the cicchetti menu, which is basically Italian tapas – these small plates are a great way to sample a variety of dishes, and with four decent-sized portions at £25, it won’t break the bank either. We have our eye on the burrata.
Oxford’s best-kept secret (until Muddy reviewed it, of course), this tiny, under-the-radar fish restaurant is all about incredible but insanely affordable food. Fish4Lunch boasts a small cafeteria-style set-up, no-frills service and mega simple menu – there are usually four mains at most to choose from, and no desserts or booze. But with top-notch food at under a tenner per dish, it’s well worth a visit.
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 two years running, and is up for the same award again this year, so you absolutely 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).
Mollie’s Motel, Buckland
If this swish restaurant and hotel looks like it’s straight out of Pulp Fiction, that’s no coincidence – owner Nick Jones (of Soho House fame) styled it after the classic 1950s American diner. The menu is retro to match, with a big focus on burgers, hot dogs and chicken, all washed down with a hand-spun milkshake (or a £7.50 cocktail if you’d rather a margarita with your mac and cheese). If Soho Farmhouse is beyond the budget, this is a mega affordable alternative.
NORSK Cafe, Haddenham
Past Muddy Award winner NORSK is Scandi chic on a budget – although the fact that it’s a lifestyle store as well as a café means you may end up spending more than you bargained for anyway, thanks to the stylish Nordic gifts and interiors buys lining the shelves. Hit up this Haddenham hotspot for breakfast or lunch for around a tenner per head, all cooked up by a chef with a Michelin-starred pedigree.
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 £3, whilst larger offerings like chicken curry on the bone and spicy battered cuttlefish are all £5-£7.50. This place is made for sharing and they even make big sharer ‘cocotails’ starting from a very reasonable £12. Plus, between 17 Feb and 31 March, they’re running a new lunch offer of 3 dishes for £10 – can’t argue with that.
Bubble& Cafe Bar, Amersham
The eagle-eyed among you might recognise husband and wife team Rupert and Marita from BBC2’s Million Pound Menu – but lucky for us Bucks-based lot, they’ve set up a residency in Atul Kochhar’s Hawkyns restaurant in Amersham. There may be (well priced and delicious) burgers, steaks and salads here, but the main draw is the bubble and squeak menu – for just £13.50, you can pick up a the signature sharing plate for two, which includes bubble and squeak with poached eggs, smoked streaky bacon and hollandaise sauce. Excuse us while we mop away the dribble.
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, but keep an eye out for their excellent supper clubs too – there’s one on Thursday 27 Feb that costs £26 for three courses.
Little sister to The Three Oaks in Beaconsfield, No5 offers a modern British menu that’s going down a storm with punters (we hear particularly good things about the burgers). While the evening à la carte menu isn’t eye-watering, especially for food of this quality, it’s not cheap either, which is why we recommend the lunch set menu for those pinching the pennies. Visit from 12-2.30pm Tuesday-Saturday and you can snaffle two courses for £16 or three courses for £19, which is bargainous for grub this good.
For tapas on Cowley Road, this should be your first and only stop. 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 £4-7 for good portions, with some stand out dishes creeping up to £13, and drinks coming in very reasonably.
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.