8-9 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, OX1 3EW
- Recommended for:
- Backpackers / Students, Couples, First-time travellers, Foodies, Seasoned travellers, People watching, Romance
Expert review of SoJo
Mr Shuman Tse opened SoJo quietly seven years ago in an unremarkable building near The Bridge nightclub. Despite the lack of fanfare, word got around that this simple, dark, streamlined restaurant was serving some of the best Chinese food in Oxford. These days the place is often crowded, not just with locals and Oxford’s Chinese residents, but also Chinese tourists visiting the city.
Head chef Ji Hong Li worked at a famous restaurant in Shanghai. He offers dim sum, Sichuan dishes and the Mongolian Grill. This is a very large heated griddle at the back of the restaurant on which the chef fries the shreds of meat, vegetables and noodles that guests select from the buffet.
For those who are wondering what SoJo means and in which Chinese dialect, it is actually an amalgamation of Mr Tse’s granddaughters' names, Sophia and Jodie, who were born the same year as the restaurant opened.
Dishes from Shanghai, Sichuan and Canton but more like home-cooking than Chinese exotica. Go for the pork and vegetable dumplings (£3.50), the five spice beef brisket (£8.00) and the vegetarian spring rolls (£3.00) served with a sweet chilli dip. The Mongolian Wok (grill) is housed at the back of the restaurant. Guests create their meal from a buffet style counter and hand it over to the diminutive chef who will then fry it for you on the large hot plate. It's something that works well if you're part of a group but the best food is definitely from the a la carte menu.
Beer is Tsing Tao and Tiger, both available for under £4. French house wine comes in about the same price per glass. A bottel of pinot grigio will cost you £16. Why not try a bottle of the hot sake, which at £8.00 is good value?
I absolutely loved Teresa's recommendation of the Shanghai sweet soy pork hock (£11) and the Szechuan spicy aubergine beef (£7.80). Try both.
The lack of tourist Chinoiserie is attractive. The two dining rooms are low-lit with Chinese students and Chinese visitors seated around the walls going about the serious business of eating. There are one or two lanterns but otherwise SoJo comes across as a restaurant for people who wish to eat Chinese food rather than a traditional Chinese restaurant. The manager, “Mother” Teresa Leong complains that many people, hearing that there is a good Chinese restaurant in the area, go across the road to the Bangkok House because it looks more like what they were expecting in terms of decor.
Hythe Street leads from a rather confused section of Oxford, by the bus station, towards the railway station. This eastern end of the medieval city was originally dominated by the outer ramparts of the castle. After the walls were taken down it hosted light industry based around the Oxford Canal and its basin. Now it’s marred by an ugly – albeit very useful – car park occupying the site of the old basin. In recent years Hythe Street has become livelier, with a backpacker’s hostel, the Bridge nightclub and trendy places to eat like Bangkok House and The Oxford Retreat. One of Oxford’s best Chinese supermarkets, Lung Wah Chong, is situated directly opposite SoJo.
The food is very tempting but you should be able to get away with £15-20 per person.
More information on SoJo:
- Price guide:
- 8-9 Hythe Bridge Street, Oxford, OX1 3EW
- 01865 202888
- http://Under construction
- Lunch, Dinner
- Opening times:
- Mon-Sat noon–11pm (last orders 10.30pm); Sun noon–10pm (last orders 9.30pm); closed: Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day.
- Accepts Credit Cards: