While Oxford's pizza wars continue to rage on George Street and the new Westgate Centre unabated; the old school chain faithfuls vying for patronage over the new upstarts which are popping up like rabbits in a carrot PYO field, there is one pizzeria that is keeping a dignified silence and carrying on as normal.

Normal at The White Rabbit is anything but usual however, my favourite pub in Oxford always being full to the brim with a wonderfully eclectic bunch of students, locals, academics and theatre-folk, tourists and foreign students, desperate for an authentic Oxford experience.

That The White Rabbit specialises in pizzas is but one of its eccentricities, that it does it so well, shows more of a determined backbone than its fun, young staff might otherwise demonstrate.

Yes, appearances can be deceptive and as The White Rabbit's reputation for fantastic pizzas grows, so does its menu, now branching out into starters and desserts, so you can really make an evening of it.

You can't book though, which is a good thing, because the pub vibe must be left unchecked. It's too good a venue to be over-run with earnest restaurant-goers. But should they venture in, they are in for a treat, not only offering something a bit different, but doing it extraordinarily well.

Nabbing a table by the skin of our teeth, we wedged ourselves in, distracted by the wonderful new menu. Of course the star of the show is always the pizza, but we delved into a wonderful mound of burrata della nonna (£9.95) as soft and bouncy as a Botticelli bosom, adorned with a home-made basil pesto, baby plum tomatoes and focaccia, a meal in itself. The enormous board of straccetti ham with parmesan and rocket was another treat, and we set to, engulfed with so many riches we had to pull back and stop snuffling to save ourselves for the main event.

And what an event it was. Taking an age to choose, thanks to the mesmerising variety and combinations of pizzas on offer (pizza purists cover your eyes), we went for a Zola (pear and gorgonzola £9.95) the Capriocciosa (ham, artichoke and mushroom £9.45) and a portion of aubergine parmigiana (£7.95) and in two shakes of a Parma pig's tail, the piping hot, rustic mains appeared.

I could taste the pear and gorgonzola for weeks afterwards. It was a masterpiece, not just the perfect balance of the dough, tomato sauce, chewy, crispy, density but the toppings were wonderfully subtle, sheered off shavings rather than lumps, the salty cheese and sweet crunch of fruit blending perfectly into the framing sauce. It's hard to discuss without curbing my desperate need to return and eat it all over again.

The ham and mushroom was a more recognisable offering, but again the ingredients spoke for themselves. How my friend managed not to order a pizza I will never know but it was a brave and well rewarded choice. So often with a parmigiana, the aubergine is undercooked an chewy. It needs to melt in with the cheese and tomato, like the White Rabbit's did, so that each mouthful is velvety, soft with mozzarella and piquant with sauce, and this ticked all the boxes. Bravo.

The sole dessert offering of a salted caramel brownie with ice cream (£3.95) was as good as it sounded. Washed down with several very good bottles of wine, we were finally overwhelmed with culinary riches.

So don't be deceived. What may appear as standard pub fare is anything but which is exactly why The White Rabbit remains utterly unaware and unconcerned by the Italian face-offs occurring a mere stone's throw away. With pizzas this good why should they worry?

The White Rabbit

21 Friars Entry, Oxford, OX1 2BY

Tel. 01865 241 177


12 Midday open - 12 Midnight close - kitchen hours vary