"Only an hour or so outside of London, Bicester Village is a dream destination for savvy shoppers and ruthless bargain hunters," Tremayne from London city guide HG2 tells me. Read on to find out where to eat and shop there, and what other treats can be found nearby.
"The most visited cluster of outlet shops in the UK, the oh-so-quaint ‘village’ features over 130 boutiques. And for Zipcar members, it’s ideal for impromptu shopping expeditions. Some of Bicester’s top draws include Anya Hindmarch’s coveted bags, Agent Provacateur’s luxe lingerie, and a stable of British design houses such as Mulberry, Paul Smith, Pringle of Scotland, Alexander McQueen, and Vivienne Westwood.
It’s easy to spend hours browsing the racks, so why not make the most of it and head out of the city for a day trip? Bicester Village also enjoys proximity with lush Oxfordshire scenery and high-end restaurants. Zipcar makes the whole excursion hands-free: Zipcar Victoria’s spacious boot means you can chuck a day’s worth of bags in the back instead of hauling them around all day.
For those looking to nibble as they browse, Bicester Village hosts a number of worthy eateries among its many shops. Jamie Oliver’s Fabulous Feasts is one reliable spot, perfect for indulging in filling sarnies and custom breakfast baps. Villandry Café is a great destination for early morning visitors, with its charming Parisian vibe and a menu of French pastries and freshly ground coffee. True Francophiles may also want to stop by Crêperie Angélie for a selection of sweet and savoury crêpes. And we can’t praise Amorino highly enough – the gelato purveyor sculpts its gorgeous flavours (might we recommend the biscotto?) into rosebuds.
Meanwhile, a 20-minute jaunt down the M40 leads straight to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons (Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford OX44 7PD, 01844 278881, www.manoir.com), one of Britain’s top restaurants, which has, rather incredibly, held its two Michelin stars for 27 years. The restaurant’s self-taught chef and founder Raymond Blanc helms a kitchen that turns out sublimely good seasonal plates (all arranged in artful compositions, naturally). Le Manoir’s tranquil lawns and gardens also help day-trippers recharge after a morning of heavy-duty shopping.
Shoppers can also hop into their Zipcar and make their way to the nearby Fox Inn (Fox Lane, Bicester OX27 7JW, 01868 345284, www.thefoxatsouldern.co.uk), for a casual, but no less relaxing, dining experience. Situated in the idyllic village of Souldern, it’s only a 15-minute drive up the B4100 from Bicester’s many shops. The pub, originally a coaching inn dating back to 1803, also features a spacious walled garden for al fresco dining. Locals swear by its burger, while other kitchen specialties (pan-fried duck breast with potato gratin, red onion and taleggio tart tatin) offer well-cooked pub fare with a gastro edge.
After a leisurely lunch, it’s best not to rush straight back to the city. Instead, make the most of your Zipcar and soak up the Oxfordshire scenery. Those looking to supplement a few hours of retail therapy with a dose of culture can zip over to Waddesdon Manor (HP18 0JH, 01296 653226, www.waddesdon.org.uk), a picturesque stately home 20 minutes down the A41. The manor was commissioned by the Rothschild family in the 1870s, and was designed in the style of a Loire château, turrets and all. The National Trust site features a wine cellar that celebrates the Rothschilds’ famed Bordeaux vineyards, and its acres of gardens include an aviary garden and statues aplenty. With Zipcar, Bicester Village is a convenient and infinitely worthy shopping destination in its own right: bargain prices, lack of traffic jams, and hands-free shopping are the makings of an ideal day out."
Have you been to Bicester Village? How do you rate it as a shopping destination?