In Manhattan, an empty store front showing signs of activity – especially if that store front is on a corner – is quite likely to be a Starbucks or a bank. In one instance, there is even a Starbucks in the bank. Not so in Banbury.
In Banbury, a store front showing signs of activity is quite likely to be – well just about anything food related. A coffee shop, Mexican food, a bakery, a Dutch pancake house, an Italian restaurant, a wine bar. I’ve been saying for ages that Banbury is shaping up to be very much a foodie destination – and all these places joining the impressive existing ones are a big reason.
Sure, there are non-eateries as well because you can’t eat ALL the time. I know this because I’ve tried. So should you want to work up an appetite before diving into the plethora of restaurants and cafes around here, might I suggest checking some of my other Banbury-centric posts from Greater Gotham Goes Global and Fabulous Foodie. I’ve done a handy-dandy Banbury round up of some of them for you over on Personal Parlance. Some places I always like to take a peek into:
- The Pink Pig, Independent Record and Merchandise Shop. Records? You remember records? Round, vinyl things. The ones with grooves? They have those and lots of other stuff. I have no record player but this will not prevent me from perusing their wares. I suppose I should say re-opened as it’s apparently an old favourite of many that has come back.
- Maybe you’re more the outdoorsy type? Well, there’s Fresh Air Junkie on Parsons Street, ready to supply you with whatever you need to hike along the canals or climb … whatever one might climb around here. We picked up some sporks for our trip to Marrakech but that’s another foodie tale for another time.
- The Banbury Museum – it’s not the biggest museum in the world (making it an ideal place to kill a pleasant hour or two) but they make wonderful use of the space they have and host an impressive range of exhibits (the Royal Photographic Society’s International Print Exhibition was particularly good) in addition to their robust displays on local history.
Hungry now? Good because so am I and there’s a lot of Fabulous Foodieness happening around here of late.
I’ve already waxed poetic about Bakergirl Bakehouse, the artisan bakehouse at Wykham Park Farm but it is only one of many places on the culinary landscape.
- I was very sad when Veritas closed (I still miss the poulet Napoleon) but I am glad that space remains a foodie spot. It’s been turned into Little Amsterdam – a cafe, deli and pancake house. We went for lunch a few weeks ago and I made the CLASSIC mistake. In my desire to try as much as possible, I over ordered. Good gads, I was so full at the end, I could barely walk. But I learned something from my mistake – I learned that it was ALL yummy! Pancakes aside (and don’t miss them because you’ll regret it) – the cheese balls? The reason I was so very stuffed by the end of the meal? Oh my! SO good! Lovely space, super friendly and efficient staff – and now that the weather is warmer, I look forward to checking out their patio. Little Amsterdam is also home to the Banbury Cookery School.
- The Whistling Kettle – WHAT a great spot to take a break and indulge in a bit of cake – and who doesn’t like a bit of cake now and again? It’s especially nice to be able to sit, indulging in cake while also indulging in one of my favourite past times – people watching. Whistling Kettle, located as it is on the Market Place, is ideally positioned for such things. I shall be there frequently.
- When I saw Lucha Burrito was coming, I must say my inner Texan rejoiced. A good burrito can go a long way toward soothing quell a LOT of ‘Tex-ican’ cravings. Pick and mix topping options means you can get it pretty much any way you like. And come hungry because these burritos are GINORMOUS in addition to be being VERY tasty indeed.
- Sweet Tooth Pancake House – But wait, you say – I thought the pancakes were at Little Amsterdam. And they are. Banbury has TWO places for pancakes – and this is the other one, also one of our favs. In fact, @dungeekin says the chicken Caesar salad pancake is his favourite brunch EVER. I myself enjoy the chicken and mushroom one – and I am determined to try the waffles since every time I go, one gets carried past me and looks amazing.
- Naomi’s Cafe Bar – a cafe, art space, reading nook and performance venue all in one. Not only that, it is Banbury’s first (and as far as I am aware only) ‘pay it forward’ café. The coffee? Also a lot better than the coffee at the train station so if you’ve got an extra moment or two and you like your java, it’s across the street from the station’s front entrance.
- Pinto Lounge – the first place we ever ate out in Banbury and we’ve gone back again and again. The burgers? So worth it. The brunch also quite good. I’ve enjoyed the baked good, the jambalaya as well so this is what I was class as a good all rounder. I have yet to try the tapas but I hear good things. Staff always nice and there’s a really good vibe to the place. Every town needs a reliable, go to place and Pinto Lounge fits the bill nicely.
- Caffe Veneto – I must be perfectly candid. The coffee here is outstanding, the panini is delish and the place is spotless but the service? Can be slow. Not unpleasant or difficult. They are, in fact, very nice, the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It’s just that sometimes – not all the time – hot food can be very slow to reach the table if the place is more than half full. If you are in a hurry and having more than cake, give it a miss. But if you’re not rushing and the weather is nice, grab a seat by the window or in the seating outside to enjoy a fine, fine cup o’ joe.
- Reg’s Cafe -Fancy grabbing breakfast or brunch? Go over the Reg’s but come hungry and come with a true appreciation for a top notch breakfast at a great price because they don’t stint on quality or portion size. This place has only been open since 2013 but they’ve been racking up fans, praise and awards right and left.
- Puddingface, the pie place – Admittedly if you aren’t in the mood for pie, they can’t offer you much but it IS called the pie place so you go in knowing their focus. Puddingface is another spot where it’s best to pack your appetite (and a spare appetite if you’ve got one). The atmosphere is relaxed, a pub full of comfy nooks and crannies. The pies are delicious, not to mention huge – when they bring them out along with the chops and mixed veg, you may well find yourself wondering how someone can be expected to eat all that. I wonder if every time and yet, somehow I end up with an empty plate. What I really don’t understand is why they offer dessert. I’m sure the desserts are delicious (they are well reviewed on TripAdvisor and other sites) but I’ve never been able to even imagine eating one after the pie and sides.
Now, confession time. I don’t have a pithy wrap up. I know, I know – this is a shock. After all, am I not the queen of pithy wrap ups? But the thing is this – this post was originally intended to be a quick hit list of where to get a decent bite to eat in the centre of town. It grew both in length and in scope so it’s now a two-parter.
Having covered some of the new and/or worth checking out shops and eateries around here in this part, the next part (coming super soon) will touch upon some of the other places – food festivals, cookery schools, local markets, etc. – that foodies might find of interest both in Banbury and in the surrounding (an hour’s drive or less) area.
So stay tuned – and stay hungry!