Turl Street Kitchen - Photo by Ben Mostyn

Above: Beautiful food served at the Turl Street Kitchen - Photo by Ben Mostyn

Jane and I took a day trip to Oxford to visit the revamped Ashmolean Museum (fascinating) but the place we had lunch afterwards was so good and so interesting that I had to let you know about it. It's called the Turl Street Kitchen, and is based in an old house now used as the Oxford Hub.

It's a centre for social regeneration and student volunteering, with meeting rooms etc available for free upstairs, and this very nice relaxed restaurant downstairs, whose profits go to support the Hub. Food all local, sustainably sourced, and very delicious - we had roast pork and apple sauce, new potatoes and spring greens (not the easiest veg to get right I always think!), followed by sticky toffee pudding. Quality ingredients and beautifully cooked, nice friendly service too. 15% off the already pretty reasonable prices for students - understandably it is very popular, if I was still a student in Oxford I would be a regular visitor! www.turlstreetkitchen.co.uk

(The Ashmolean of course has a posh new dining room upstairs - a friend had recommended it from a visit a few weeks back - we did go and check it out for a coffee on arrival. Very pretty setting with big glass windows and outside tables overlooking a roof garden, but that bit more formal and expensive and rather 'boys' food', as Jane said.)

We also managed to fit in visits to the Bodleian and Magdalen College - gardens looking very pretty - and then went back to the station via the Covered Market, a great favourite of mine from student days - I was always dropping by for a bunch of flowers or some sausages or whatever. The souvenir shops have encroached a bit further since then but I was gratified how many proper food shops still survive - two butchers, a couple of greengrocers, flower shop etc etc. Now however the city council is threatening to up the rents massively so all that may go: www.oxford-coveredmarket.co.uk

Our final visit was to the Oxford Malmaison hotel - converted from the former prison on the old castle site. I had read about this and was curious to see how it had been done - the cells are obviously quite small, so two or more go to make up each room, but with as much of the architectural integrity preserved as possible. Fortunately we bumped into a nice friendly member of staff with time on his hands who was happy to show us around. It's really rather stylish, and evidently very successful - currently operating at 92% capacity, he proudly told us: www.malmaison.com/locations/oxford

After that we tottered on to the station to catch the train back to London! C.G.

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