A prestigious museum isn't the first place that springs to mind when you think fine dining, but in-the-know Oxford residents have been enjoying the Ashmolean's top-floor restaurant since the museum's extensive re-fit finished in 2009. With lavish lunches and afternoon teas on offer during gallery opening hours, the Ashmolean Dining Room transforms on Thursday and Friday nights. Step through the concealed doorway on St Giles and take the lift skywards: an evening on the roof terrace awaits.
The restaurant itself is full of light, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows maximising the view of the historical Randolph Hotel and beyond to Oxford's famous spires. One of these windows is a sliding door, opening onto the terrace. Thanks to our wonderful British weather, this terrace is sadly under-exploited for much of the year, but once summer rolls around (hurry up, would you?), this space is the place to be. There's an extensive area of decking with tables and chairs for informal dining, plus a patch of real grass with deck chairs that's perfect for lounging after a hard day's work.
In addition to a well-chosen wine list, a selection of wines and beers, the Roof Top menu also offers three appropriately-named cocktails: the Randolph, the Oxford Fool Sling and the Rooftop Daiquiri £6 each). N, D, M and I tested the range between us, with the vodka and cointreau Randolph and the rum-based daiquiri winning particular praise. The watermelon flavour of the Randolph makes it the perfect summer drink. Sadly the weather on our visit didn't quite fall into the 'perfect summer' category, but we didn't let a spot of rain stop us from ploughing through the entire food menu.
With dishes designed to be shared, the Roof Top's is ideal for a sociable post-work bite (or what I like to all a pre-dinner dinner). Or, if you order everything on offer as we did, you'll have more than enough for an evening meal. The select menu features a range of 'small plates', priced £4 each or 3 for £11. There are also sharing boards featuring either meat or cheese or a combination of the two for £14.50 a pop. These nibbles are definitely pricier than a bag of crisps down your local pub, but they're also a damn sight tastier – and more filling.
|Meat and cheese boards|