Carb Crawl: the best bakeries in Oxford

If you’re planning a visit to Oxford, consider leaving room in your itinerary (and your stomach) for a tour of the town’s best artisan bakeries – you’ll be thoroughly spoilt for choice.

Can you think of a better way to spend a day than strolling through a beautiful city, stopping at bakeries for treats fresh from the oven? Baker Kitty Tait can’t either – and she’s sharing her Carb Crawl adventures exclusively with delicious. Each round-up includes her top artisan bakery picks in one UK city and highlights three stand-out bakes to try at each location: the baker’s choice, Kitty’s choice and a popular crowdpleaser. Use as a guide when you plan to treat yourself to a coffee and pastry – or follow in her footsteps and enjoy an all-out Carb Crawl.

First up in Kitty’s Carb Crawl series is her hometown of Oxford, where her own baking journey began. Grab your walking boots and be rewarded with an outrageously jam-stuffed doughnut, next-level apple tart and the pastry that converted a pain au chocolat sceptic…

Carb Crawl: the best bakeries in Oxford
Bronzed bakes from Missing Bean Bakery in Oxford

Meet baker Kitty Tait

When I was 14, I was so overwhelmed with anxiety that I couldn’t leave the house. Then I started baking and it changed everything. I ended up opening a bakery at 15 and Carb Crawls were a huge part of my journey. Visiting bakeries and meeting bakers showed me the joy fresh bakes can bring to communities.

I’m starting this series in my hometown, Oxford. Some of these places have inspired me for years, while others I discovered only recently. Every bakery I’ve visited is unique, but they all have one thing in common: they are the buzzing hubs of their neighbourhood.

Kitty Tait standing in front of the counter at her bakery, Orange Bakery, in Watlington, Oxfordshire
Kitty at her bakery


The best bakeries in Oxford

Proof Social Bakehouse, Sandford Lane

Proof is an extraordinary bakery, but it’s not just their ever-evolving bakes – from cherry almond croissants to tiramisu doughnuts and cheesy chutney danishes – that make this place so special (although they certainly help). Founded by the Tap Social team, Proof is a social enterprise and provides paid training and employment to people, during and after prison sentences.

Baker’s choice: Lemon, honey and toasted almond danish
We all know the phrase ‘like dog, like owner’ – well this is ‘like bake, like baker’. With a creamy lemon curd, gentle honey glaze and nutty flaked almonds, this pastry is as warm and inviting as its head baker, Paul Dickinson.

Most popular: Coffee and mascarpone croissant
It took me three months to learn how to make sourdough and three years to make croissants. Laminating dough is notoriously hard, yet somehow Proof has laminated its dough with not just butter but ground coffee. This rich, earthy croissant is then stuffed with a light mascarpone cream. It’s a cappuccino in pastry form.

My choice: Bacon, hazelnut, bechamel and maple danish
Sweet, salty, nutty, creamy, crisp… This pastry has all the adjectives. I love trying unusually flavoured bakes, not just because it introduces you to new combinations, but because they convey a level of passion and freedom from the bakers that’s so joyful.


Gatineau, Banbury Road, Summertown

Gatineau is the bakery you dreamt of as a kid: bundles of pastries stacked in wicker baskets, cabinets heaving with glossy tarts and cakes. Almost 17 years old, this traditional French bakery and patisserie prides itself on using only the best ingredients, and after sampling (devouring) their goods, you’ll understand why.

Baker’s choice: Apple tart
Simple apple tarts are great, but this was not a simple or great apple tart: it was complex and exceptional. With its melt-in-your-mouth buttery almond base, delicate layers of paper-thin apple and a fiery ginger glaze, it’s little wonder that head baker and owner Hervé Gatineau (coolest baker name ever) eats one of these every day.

Most popular: Croissant
“We make about 6,500 of these.” Per year or month? “Per week.” After realising it would probably take me at least two years to make this many and feeling pretty humbled, I was then desperately hungry to try Gatineau’s phenomenally popular pastry. Every baker secretly likes to think they make the best croissants, but there’s a reason why Oxford is addicted to Gatineau’s buttery crescents, made with high fat French butter and soft flour. I was humbled again. PS: they also have vegan ones!

My choice: Escargot au chocolate
I hate pain au chocolat. Yep, I know that’s a strong emotion to have about a seemingly innocent pastry, but I do. Maybe it’s because I have the appetite of Bruce Bogtrotter, but every time I have one, I’m always disappointed by the lack of chocolate. However, this croissant swirl encasing chocolate custard and topped with chocolate glaze and shavings made my inner Bruce very happy.

A selection of pastries, including a croissant and apple tart
Gatineau’s star bakes: an elite apple tart, croissant and intriguing chocolate ‘snail’


Hamblin Bread, Iffley Road

Hamblin is dopamine in bakery form. Made with local ingredients and organic stoneground flour, every bake – from the plump golden buns to caramelised sourdoughs – delivers a hit of flavour that goes far deeper than most.

Baker Kate Hamblin of Hamblin Bread holding a tray of cardamom buns
Baker Kate is the brains behind Hamblin Bread


Baker’s choice: Tea cake with saffron & candied seville orange
Like the fairy godmother of baking that she is, Kate Hamblin has completely transformed the matte, plain (and often dry) tea cake into a glossy, moist masterpiece. Enriched saffron dough is studded with tea-soaked currants and house-made candied seville peel. It’s the Cinderella of carbs.

Most popular: Cardamom bun
Delicately twisted, then coiled, this bun is a glazed cardamom cloud with crispy edges and a buttery centre – not to be eaten, but inhaled.

My choice: Vanilla custard bun
In Sweden they call these ‘solbulle’ which means ‘sun bun’ and I don’t think a name could suit better. Hamblin’s bun features softly spiced dough looped around a pearl of silky rich vanilla custard, dusted with vanilla sugar. Sunshine in a bun.


Barefoot Bakery, North Parade

Born in a little home kitchen, Barefoot has gone from strength to strength. Although they now operate out of two brick-and-mortar stores, they’ve still maintained their from-scratch artisan undercurrent.

Baker’s choice: Biscoff cruffin
A hybrid of a croissant and a muffin, this flaky cylinder is jam-packed with a creamy Biscoff custard that peeks out of the top. It’s a celebration of pastry and indulgence.

Most popular: Cinnamon bun
Like the ones you see in American movies, these cinnamon buns are the size of a baby’s head. A generous coat of icing is slathered over a pillowy-soft cinnamon swirl. You can see why they sell hundreds a week.

My choice: Blackberry bramble doughnut
Stacked in apple crates, juicy little blackberries poke out of each doughnut. Getting the right ratio of filling to dough is no mean feat, but Barefoot has perfected it, with a wodge of tart bramble jam in every bite.


Missing Bean Bakery, Magdalen Road

Many bakeries strive to use as many local ingredients as possible, but Missing Bean takes it to a whole other level. They mill their own flour, source and roast their own coffee beans and even work with local bakers – bolstering (not blocking) their trade. There’s another Missing Bean café on Turl Street in central Oxford, and three more branches in Oxfordshire.

Baker’s choice: Cheesy leek potato roll
Made with seasonal veg from the community-led Oxford City Farm, these crumbly caramelised rolls are the kind of ugly-delicious only real food can be.

Most popular: Almond croissant
These can be a hit and miss, often too sweet, stale or claggy. However, when done right, the nutty, dense pastry of an almond criossant is completely addictive – and Missing Bean’s is exactly that. With a cult following, this icing-dusted crescent is an elite bake.

My choice: Serrano ham and gouda croissant
Inspired by the legendary Ohio baker Dan Riesenberger’s creations, these croissants are LOADED with sweet creamy gouda and fat slices of salty serrano.


Recreate some artisan bakery magic in your own kitchen with our patisserie recipes.

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