• The White Rabbit, Friars Entry, Oxford

IT’s one of Oxford’s best pubs - a haven of real ale and proper conversation. For a pub run along such old-fashioned lines, it comes as some surprise to discover the White Rabbit is actually run by a team of cool young guys, including a leading figure on the city’s local music scene.

Gus Rogers regularly captivates audiences with his indie-rock band Kill Murray - and is now doing the same with something equally satisfying and fulfilling - pizza.

Not just any pizza, mind, The White Rabbit’s thin, crispy and stone-baked to perfection by Italian chef Matteo Ferrari. Hailing from just outside Milan, Ferrari is not just another pizza-maker: he’s an Olympian - and like his automotive namesake, is among the very best.

“I took part in the pizza Olympics!” he laughed as he shovelled a quattro stagioni out of his besppoke pizza oven. He wasn’t joking, the tournament in question having taken place near Rome.

It is a full year since the White Rabbit opened on the site of rock fans’ favourite, the Gloucester Arms - the perfect opportunity then to revisit.

While always a great destination for a cosy meal, the pub also serves them to go - great news for hungry passers-by either hurrying home, or just looking for something more wholesome, and tasty, than the usual junk food fayre served up around the corner on Cornmarket.

The menu is refreshing, and quintessentially Italian, in its simplicity, with the only real choice being between one of 11 pizzas, a couple of calzones and a luxurious garlic pizza bread with mozzarella.

A veggie antipasta board of roasted peppers, courgettes and aubergine, artichoke hearts rocket roasted goats cheese and bruschetta, a White Rabbit salad containing baked goats cheese and roasted peppers, soup and chick pea and chorizo are also served, but make less convincing takeaway options.

The range of toppings, however, is inspired, and authentically Neopolitan - each creation coming with six or seven toppings. Extras can be added for either 50p or £1.

We went for a straightforward calzone (mozzarella, tomato sauce, ham, mushroom, artichoke and oregano) and a Spagnola (mozzarella, tomato sauce, chorizo, roasted peppers, onion and paprika) - and, in suitably Latin-style, shared them.

The calzone (£7.50) was fabulous - just the right combination of firm dough and soft, juicy filling.

And filling it was too. The tender chunks of artichoke heart, were a particular delight; why these delicious and delicately textured vegetables are not used more widely remains a mystery. The whole creation was immensely satisfying, banishing any lingering memories of the cold and dark outside.

The pizza (£7.50) was thin and crispy and generously loaded, the chorizo lending bite and a lovely salty edge, complemented by the paprika. Chorizo, we agreed, is the new pepperoni - far superior in taste and texture.

Whether looking for a cosy bolthole to spend a winter's night, or a delicious, quality takeaway for an evening in, this curious rabbit hole is well worth investigating. 

  • The kitchen is open every day from noon to 9pm (Fri and Sat 10pm) 01865 241177