The Magdalen Arms

The Magdalen Arms entrance
Neck of Lamb for 2 - ©oxfordeater

Neck of lamb for 2, Magdalen Arms - © oxfordeater.

With it’s days as a stinking old rough boozer firmly behind it having recently been awarded a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide 2011 for serving “good food at reasonable prices”, I’m going to forgo the details of what this pub used to be like before the change in ownership and makeover in order to just focus on the present.

Put simply, the food at this gastro/bistro pub is brilliant. The changing menu each day has a British focus with a bit of Italian influence thrown in for good measure – this works wonders as lets face it, if we’re being honest, on the whole Italy does food ‘a bit better’ than us to say the least. The menu changes every day and don’t expect a book to wade through either whilst you are picking what to eat – there are normally a maximum of around 8 choices only for each course, but this is a good thing in this eaters’ opinion.

Food is cooked to order and at busy times service can be a little slow but for us it was very quick. The menu is inventive and interesting – you can usually expect at least a couple of gamey dishes alongside the odd stalwart like fish and chips or steak but one thing the Magdalen Arms does do well are dishes you stick in the middle of the table and share, so that’s exactly what we did on our recent visit. Antipasti Misto (£12, for two people to share, pic below) to start consisted of lovely toasted bread, olives, salty parma ham, grilled salad onions, mozzarella and a beautiful red roasted pepper. We followed this up with another dish for two to share – Neck of lamb with dauphinoise potatoes (£26, pictured right). Again, I’ll put this simply – it was all gorgeous. The lamb fell apart to the touch and the potatoes were rich and creamy, prompting a sneaky ‘undoing of the top button’ situation on my jeans 15 mins into the eating. We just about squeezed in a desert but it was a single desert (chocolate brownie with ice cream, £5) that we shared.

When we arrived at 7pm on a Friday night it was fairly quiet but by the time we had eaten and moved into the central bar area the place was rammed. When booking they did mention they do two sittings: 19:00-21:30 and then 21:30-close. They might not insist upon this if you are in larger groups, I’m not sure. It is worth bearing in mind though that if you book for 7pm, you might have to vacate your table by half 9. I would recommend this earlier sitting though as things soon start getting crossed off the menu due to certain dishes selling out. Another tip for you – if you can’t get a booking, you can just turn up and sit in the bar area and order food there. From what I could see there didn’t seem to be too much difference (if any) between the bar and main menu, might be worth checking beforehand though. As an aside, post dinner whilst sat in the bar, we couldn’t help but approve of the Caribou album being played through the staff iPod – great album!

Bad points? Not a massive amount of choice if you are a veggie (I’m not so wasn’t bothered!), we were not notified of the specials upon arrival and the desert we had was a bit too basic and quite overpriced at £5 for what it was. Aside from that – this place was an absolute pleasure.

Cost – Average. Most mains range from £10-£16. Deserts are all around £5.  House wine was £12.50 but prices soon shoot up as you go through the list. Our meal with a bottle of house red came to £55 before tip.

Where? 243 Iffley Road, Oxford

Web –

Antipasti Misto, Magdalen Arms. © oxfordeater

Antipasti Misto, Magdalen Arms. © oxfordeater

One Response to “The Magdalen Arms”
  1. Great review bud, the grub looks immense! You’d have a ball over here in Sydney mate, some awesome restaurants. Not had the pleasure of checking them out yet but read lots about them. x

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