I’m still trying to get my head around the geography and zoning of Oxford’s fair city. I prefer it to London if I have a spare day off and nothing better to do. But, as someone with heavy links to the Smoke, I can’t help but find parallels between different areas. For example, I think of Jericho as the Islington of Oxford. It’s full of chichi bars and restaurants, a nice little art-house cinema and a general relaxed upscale vibe.
The Cowley Road, on the other hand, is closer to Camden–lively, multicultural, funky and fun. Here’s where you’ll find all the cheap, good-value curry houses, the O2 Academy, and most importantly for greedy old me, the two Atomic restaurants.
Atomic Burger has been a source of simple pleasure for a while. The pop-culture theming is so deliciously over the top that it moves from tack to an art statement. The signature burgers are named after icons from Elvis to Chuck Norris, and they’re remarkably good, generous and flavoursome.
Now a partner restaurant, Atomic Pizza, has opened a ten minute hike down the way (like Camden High St, you forget just how long the Cowley Road can get, especially when you’re weak with hunger) and it’s a blast. Bigger and brighter than the burger shack on the way back to St. Clement’s, the pizzas are again themed, although you can also build your own. I’m especially intrigued by the burger pizza that they offer. The food is as bold and brash as the setting–eating next to Han Solo in his ROTJ block of carbonite was an experience, I can tell you.
The excuse for the visit (apart from a raging need for a 15″ pizza, the Gambit in case you’re wondering, chicken, bacon and cajun BBQ sauce) was a meet-up with some Twitter pals, @LizUK and @Gergaroth, with Liz’s mate @jowyton along for the ride as well. It’s always a thrill to finally have a face-to-face with people you only know from their online presence, but I’ve always found it works nicely. Gets the tedious small talk out of the way quickly so you can concentrate on the good stuff. Deciding on appropriate T-shirt film quotes for the staff, for example. The boss was up for the game as well. Mind you, he was the one wearing the Inigo Montoya t-shirt that started it off in the first place.
The setting helped the whole session to be silly, uproarious fun, and we’re definitely doing it again after Christmas. Although I shan’t be risking the legendary Godzilla Challenge – a full-size pizza with a triple order of fries, chili, cheese and their weapon-grade Godzilla sauce on top. You get a T-shirt if you finish. Or if you don’t. And hopefully a lift to the hospital afterwards.
You can find both restaurants up and down the Cowley Road. They’re not easy to miss. Links to the menus and videos of a Godzilla Challenge winner below. I don’t think you can go wrong for a fun night out in Oxford.