Living as a student in Oxford can be expensive, and with the temptation to live off baked beans on toast and spend your entire student loan on Jägerbombs and nights out, eating out is often reserved for when parents come to visit. If you look around, however, Oxford is home to a number of delicious, cheap venues, which can break the monotony of overcooked pasta without breaking the bank.
This exceptional falafel kiosk in the corner of Gloucester Green is one of Oxford’s best-kept secrets. Prices start at £2.70 for a tortilla wrap stuffed with hot, freshly made falafel, hummus, halloumi, sautéed spinach and gherkins (optional), and drizzled in tahini; the perfect pick me up after a long morning of lectures or a big night out.
The only good South Indian restaurant in Oxford, regulars insist that the kitsch interior of this fast-food restaurant only adds to its charm and attraction. Dosa Park, near the train station on Park End Street, serves authentically cheap and surprisingly good dosas, idlis, thalis and a huge range of curries and rice. The restaurant is always encouragingly full and you can get a huge stuffed dosa for between £4 and £5, or a whole tandoori chicken for £9.99.
This independent restaurant gets the traditional Italian trattoria vibe just right, with good prices, informal pay-at-the-counter service and fantastic stone-baked pizza. Buongiorno E Buonasera maintains its casual atmosphere in the evening, when pizza is served on wooden boxes and eaten with your fingers by candlelight.
Hidden unassumingly between Gloucester Green and Magdalen Street, The White Rabbit is a traditional pub which serves arguably the best pizza in Oxford. Notoriously full even on weekdays, you can’t book tables here (except for parties of 8 or more) so make sure you turn up early to get a seat. Their pizzas are reasonably priced but the best frugal find are their £4.50 lunchtime ‘paninis’, basically just full-size pizzas folded in half and stuffed with a choice of Parma ham, mozzarella, goats cheese and caramelised onions. The White Rabbit has a good selection of local and Italian beers, board games to play while you’re waiting, and if this isn’t enough to tempt you in, you can also get 16 Nutella doughballs for £3.
The most wholesome of the Oxford Cheap eats, Will’s Deli on St Giles is a sister company to Vaults and Alpha Bar, and is hugely popular with hip, healthy students. Pick up sweet potato curries, Tuscan beef stews, goulash, chicken porcini and a generous range of colorful salads for between £4 and £7 at lunchtime. The portions are big and the food feels healthy and nourishing – Will’s Deli is the sort of place your mum would like! Make sure you come early to avoid things selling out.
Head over to Gloucester Green for a few £1 slices of pizza, or a large pizza for £6.99. This hole-in-the-wall is open till midnight, their pizzas are cheesy and calorific and they have branches in Cowley and on Fleet Road as well. The best part is that they deliver, too.
Every day is Pancake Day at this little old pancake van on Broad Street, where you can get organic Breton crêpes stuffed with cheese, ham, mushrooms and a range of other sweet and savory fillings for under £4. Perfectly located if you’re slaving away in the Bodleian, it is made even sweeter by the 10% discount you receive if you’re a member of the Oxford Union or French Society.
Most colleges are within range of a van serving cheesy chips, kebabs and burgers at antisocial hours. Maybe you’ll start off by turning your nose up at these polystyrene boxes of saturated fat… but you’ll soon learn to love them, become obsessed with them, and not be able to live without them after a night out. The point of no return is when you find yourself sneaking out sober at 10pm to pick up fried chicken or large cheesy chips with mayo.
Head to Gloucester Green on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays for an array of hot, freshly cooked and good value street-food. Enjoy cheap curries, noodles, Tibetan momos, burgers or pastries, ideally located for a quick break from the Oriental Institute, Sackler Library or the History Faculty. Alternatively, if you’re in need of some fresh veggies but don’t have the budget for M&S, the farmers market on Wednesday is ideal for ridiculously cheap avocados, courgettes and punnets of fruit.