Last month I was kindly invited to check out the new Marriott hotel in Oxford. The Courtyard by Marriott hotel is located south of the city centre in Abingdon, which was just a short drive south from Oxford itself. It’s also within reach of Bicester Village shopping outlet and many of The Cotswolds villages, so it’s an ideal location to explore the local Oxfordshire area.
Oxford is one of the most popular places in the UK to visit, so we we’re looking forward to exploring the city as I’d never properly been before. Unfortunately the weather was bitterly cold and windy, but we didn’t let that put a dampener on things! But we did therefore seek out some indoor stuff to do so we didn’t have to be outside too much.. it was freezing!
We were a bit worried about parking in central Oxford but luckily there was plenty of parking available, although it was a little pricey. Alternatively though there are a few park and ride bus services available which would work out cheaper if you’re there for the whole day. We started our visit by talking a walk around the city and getting our bearings.
We walked to Oxford Castle and Prison and climbed the mound for panoramic views over the historic city. At the castle you can take a guided tour by one of the costumed character guides for £12.50 to learn about the history of the castle and prison.
There are plenty of museums in Oxford including the iconic Ashmolean Museum and the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. We visited the Natural History Museum which is free entry and the neo-gothic building is huge and full of artifacts including dinosaur skeletons, huge whale skeletons and stuffed mammals. There’s even a dodo!
If the weather’s nice then there’s plenty of nice parks to enjoy that I imagine would be full of students relaxing in the sunshine. There’s also all the pretty streets you can get lost in, the stunning university buildings and lots of shops and boutiques. We visited the Westgate shopping centre which is full of all of the most popular high street brands including Primark and John Lewis.
What I loved about the shopping centre is that there’s also the Westgate Street Food Social which is a food court where you can choose from a mix of the latest street food and relax in the communal seating area. We grabbed a quick lunch here – I had a burrito and Gavin had some noodles – and it was such a cool little space to sit and chill. There’s even a Nutella pop up stand selling chocolate muffins, croissants, waffles and dutch pancakes! This is also where you can find Junkyard Golf – I really wish we went, it looks so much fun!
Courtyard by Marriott Oxford South
Once we’d had enough of walking around Oxford in the cold we drove to our hotel to check in. It’s about a 15 minute drive from the city centre, but the route is very straight forward and there’s plenty of free parking directly outside the hotel. The reception staff were very helpful – they quickly checked us in and also booked us a table for dinner later in the evening.
We were treated to a stay in a larger Executive Room which features a Nespresso coffee machine, premium toiletries and designated seating area. All rooms feature complimentary Wi-Fi, 55-inch TVs with Chromecast technology, rainfall showers, comfortable Hypnos beds, and king size beds. I love the contemporary design and styling of the rooms, especially the sleek bathroom with the large shower. The hotel also features a state-of-the-art fitness centre which can be used by all guests and is open 24/7.
Dinner at Oxen Bar & Grill
We had our evening meal in the hotels restaurant – Oxen Bar & Grill. The restaurant offers British and international cuisine in a cool casual dining room. Their menu features local produce from Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds, with award winning rare breed longhorn steaks, freshly made pizzas, and seasonally inspired cuisine. The restaurant is beautifully and tastefully decorated with stylish leather seating and contemporary accessories.
We started our meal with some delicious fresh starters – Gavin tried the Cornish mussels with white wine, cream, shallot, garlic, parsley with rustic bread, and I had the roast beetroot hummus with goats cheese, marinated olives, pickled vegetables and flat bread. We have quite ‘basic’ tastes so these were a bit of a risk for us (Gavin usually just has garlic bread wherever we go!) but we both really enjoyed our starters, and I loved how fresh and beautifully presented mine was.
For main course we were both tempted by the sirloin 8oz steak (like I said.. we’re basic!) with skinny fries, watercress, confit tomato and your choice of sauce (I chose Béarnaise). We asked for the steaks to be cooked medium rare, and whilst I think mine was perhaps slightly overcooked, the meat was very juicy, tender and tasty.
The fries were nice and crispy just how I like them, and I enjoyed the creamy sauce I could dip into. Portion sizes were generous and the plate was nicely presented, which can be tricky with steak but it all looked (and tasted) delicious!
After our meal we were too full for a dessert each, so we decided to opt for a cheese board to share instead. You can pick either three or five cheeses and you can choose which one’s you would like. We selected mature cheddar, Oxford blue cheese, and Cotswold brie. The cheese board comes with chutney, biscuits, grapes and celery.
The presentation of the cheeseboard perhaps wasn’t quite as well done as the other dishes, but I really enjoyed the cheeses we picked and the delicious fruity chutney. I wasn’t too keen on the biscuits as they were a little bit thin and tasteless, but they were all eaten once loaded up with some cheese and chutney.
I always love a hotel breakfast, so after a wonderful nights sleep I was looking forward to starting my day with the hotels buffet breakfast. Breakfast is served in the same restaurant area as dinner and there was plenty to choose from.
You could help yourself to juices, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, cooked breakfast items, pastries, muffins, fruit, toast and breads, cold meats and cheeses, cereals and many other items. You certainly wouldn’t go hungry! The cooked breakfast items were all of very good quality, nicely cooked and piping hot. Buffet breakfasts can sometimes be a little bit disappointing but I really enjoyed my breakfast here and couldn’t have asked for more.. everything I needed was available.
We had a wonderful stay at the Courtyard by Marriott Oxford South hotel and would recommend it for anyone wanting to be close to Oxford city centre but within easy reach of The Cotswolds and surrounding Oxfordshire areas.