The Dew Drop Inn, Banbury Road
The pub may look tiny on the outside, set back off the road in the centre of Summertown with tables outside, but inside it extends back for ages, making it a huge pub. Inside, there is a small bar to the left and the gigantic lounge to the right as you face the entrance. The lounge, which dozens of dark wooden tables, looks kitted out almost entirely for food, with only a few bar stools. Decor is fairly relaxed and comfortable, with plenty of dark beamwork. A Courage pub, the Directors was reasonably drinkable and remarkably cheap, cheaper than the city centre, but I suppose they can afford this if they make a mint on the food. Not particularly a boozer's pub, and the landlord is a grumpy sod, but well worth it if you live in the area. Another home of the 35ml spirit measure. June 2002
Update: Visited this place after finishing my Clinical Finals written paper, having been herded out to the Summertown exam hall. The inside hasn't changed a lot. The beer is still Courage and still good for price and quality, or could it have been my dire need for a pint? The food set-up was remarkably efficient for the common things, such as chips and things to go with chips, as they had a buffet-style dishing point with food pre-prepared. Summertown pubs don't have much competition (there really only being two of them) but are still pretty good. July 2004.
Update: Now the only pub in Summertown since the Woodstock Arms closed, this place would have a captive audience for anyone not willing to walk the mile to the nearest pubs in the Walton Manor / Jericho area. A warm Friday night led to the outside being packed and the inside being empty. It has been refurbished since my last visit, now favouring a chocolate and vanilla colour scheme with plusher furniture. This make the place feel slightly darker and more intimate, making the lounge area feel less vacuous. The beers are Courage Best, Old Hooky and Timmy Taylor Landlord. These were fairly well kept and reasonably average prices based on the city centre although I would have expected a little cheaper here in suburbia. Seems slightly more pubbish that food-plugging on the lounge side but the bar had a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere being empty except for a couple of locals. Standard, catch-all boozer in an upmarket location. July 2010.
Update: It is the general feeling among several friends, acquaintances and myself that, unless you are a regular here, the staff are brusque and disdainful slightly beyond the point of rudeness. With pubs closing left, right and centre, you would think that community pubs would be grateful of the custom they can get. Down one star. February 2012.
The Plough Inn, Wolvercote Green
This is a Morrells pub, but one of its kind, unlike the clones in the rest of Oxford. A truly huge pub, it is split into about four sections, with the main room having its own little corners as well. One of the rooms is known as the library, mostly because it is! A mixture of old and new throughout the building, and a beer garden outside faces towards the canal and Wytham woods. A place this size and of this type, like the Trout, lives off the tourist / day trip trade, especially the food. However, unlike many places, one can still drink here without feeling like being in a restaurant. The meals looked excellent, with some refined dishes on the menu, but the prices suit this. Several different beers on offer, not just the Morrells range. Oxford Blue was on at 1.50 on promotion, with Pedigree and London Pride as guests. The large collection of pump clips on the wall behind the bar suggests they change the guests frequently and imaginitively. Despite the fact that it makes its money as a tourist eating shop, this place is a very good pub as well. Nothing is too pseudo, and the large volume of custom adds rather than detracts from the atmosphere. Why can't all Morrells pub show more restraint? April 2002
Update: Pretty much the same after the Greene King takeover. The people appear to be the same, especially which one of them is the big Chelsea supporter. The beer is now IPA and Abbot, with a rotated guest, Bombardier at this time. This was very good, and reasonably priced. Made great use of the very comfy "old man" lounge chairs. Two menus exist - a very good bar meal range (recommended) and a posher, more extensive menu for the restaurant area. Well worth visiting. May 2003.
Update: This pub is now at the 5 star mark in my opinion. It was a hot, sunny day, the Perch and Trout were crawling with visitors ordering soft drinks and food, yet the Plough still seemed like a real pub. Despite the large amounts it must take on food, this still retains a drinking-friendly atmosphere and the main bar area could still feel like a village local. Not too expensive, Jonathan Crisp crisps, and an ideally situated beer garden. Beautiful! April 2004.
The Red Lion, Godstow Road
A pub of two halves - reasonably sized fairly rustic drinking area at the front, with a smaller room off to one side, with a great big food and dining area round the back. Bar meals can be eaten anywhere, but the larger menu is resticted to the back room, except in our case because the place was packed and they didn't want us to take our requests for five Sunday roasts elsewhere. Pedigree and Banks available on draught, and the Pedigree was pretty good. Roo test-piloted the Guinness and pronounced it adequately poured. This pub is conveniently close to the Trout if the latter is too busy or shut (as it was last winter). December 2001.
Update: Found it a bit too expensive, a bit too ordinary, a bit too unfriendly and bit too boring on a recent trip to here. Especially if you have no intention of have any of the food. July 2005.
Update: The front bar is more cosy and village pub-like than I remembered. There was a very friendly atmosphere and the beer range was much better, featuring four ales. These were all from the Marstons stable when I was there, but pump clip evidence shows that guests are frequent and mostly local, such as White House, Vale, Wadsworth, and the like. There was also a real cider on draught. A little pricey, as I'd seen in the past, but not too bad. They still do a bouncy castle everyday! As it was a Sunday, the carvery was on as well as an extensive menu. The people at the table next to me were impressed by the quality and quantity. The music on this day was exclusively The Who, which I enjoyed thoroughly. Overall, I found this friendly village pub a joy to relax in for a lazy afternoon. Up to four stars. June 2012.
The Trout, Godstow Road
A "summer" pub, sitting beside a weir on the Isis. If you are expecting an idyllic village pub then you'll be disappointed, since it is largely given over to food. It is still relaxing, however, with a log fire indoors and extensive seating next to the river. Watch out for the peacocks. Draught Bass was excellent, but somewhat pricey and I had to ask for the sparkler to be taken off. Food apparently can take ages, is pricey but good. Famous patrons include DCI Morse and Bill and Chelsea Clinton. My first trip here resulted in the alcohol induced, Pythonesque tale that is The Quest for the Holy Fish. January 2001
Update. This place was done up over winter 2001/02 and I have now reassessed it. The old way in has now been shut off. Can't remember if the (locked) wooden bridge across the river was here before. The inside can hardly be recognised and the entire set-up is designed for food. It feels as if
they've knocked some walls and taken out the large real fire. And built a great big extra eating area beyond the toilets. The bar has been moved, and there is more space at the food ordering place than at the bar. Said bar is bestrewn with a million different wines and girly drinks, and the cask beer has been reduced to one, Bass. The Bass was still good, and the manager looked almost relieved to see someone who wanted a real drink, seemingly relishing the chance to take the sparkler off. The view and location are now this place's only attractive features. It is no longer a pub but a restaurant. (Oh, the food was nice with a classy menu, but expensive). One star deducted. June 2002
Update: Came here on a cold November day following the Birchathon, after finding the White Hart to no longer be a pub as well. Two pints of Bass and an orange juice cost about 8 quid. Food took over an hour. If it wasn't such a "classic" I'd never come here again. November 2002
Update: Okay, so I've returned again, and been left entirely in two minds. Is this a beautiful country pub that cannot be missed or is it a money-grabbing tourist trap? It was a hot, sunny day and we enjoyed ourselves with a pint outside on some of the drinking-only chairs, bumping into some members of the Turf staff while there. However, I spent longer queueing for the drinks than consuming them, and the food ordering point has now been moved to the bar, where it is a hastle and confusion to get in the right line. Remains expensive, but the Bass is still great when I asked for the sparker off and draught Worthington's adds a second pump. I don't know: I'm tempted to give the 4th star back. No, it is just too annoyingly busy and touristic. Go to the Trout - it is a must see and excellent experience - but it doesn't quite cut it as a decent pub and therefore suffers in this guide. April 2004.
Update: I have now written more about this pub than any other in Oxford, barring the Turf which has it's own section. Justifiably so: the Trout is an absolute classic, and as such has a specific status within the pub hierarchy of Oxford that cannot be ignored. It has recently been decorated again and I had to come to visit. It is now claiming to be a free house, although the colour scheme is cunningly very similar to the Royal Oak, also owned by Mitchells and Butler. The inside feels a bit more open plan, with one section with a vast dining table. No true structural changes have been allowed as it is a listed building. The opinion was varied: Anna really liked the new inside as it was a bit brighter but also less pseudo-pub. I was initially dismayed yet again, but I must say that it started to grow on me. Never mind, though. The beer is now Timmy Taylor Landlord and one other random beer. Yes, definitely at the top end of the price range, as one would expect, but very drinkable. The real place to experience the Trout, however, remains outside on a sunny day gazing at the river. It was in such a contemplative mood on this visit that I, mellowing with old age, thought "would I actually want the Trout to be any different?". The answer is probably no. It does what it does extremely well and we love it for that. It is commercial, overcrowded, expensive, slightly impersonal and the drinks and "tavern" side are only a small part of the takings. However, the Oxford experience would never be the same, summer walks would just not be complete, and the Oxford Pub Guide would be a little less opinionated if it were not for the Trout and how it is, just as it is. Back up to 4 stars. April 2007.
The White Hart, Godstow Road
Not what I expecting from the outside, which, compared to the Red Lion next door, leads to the expectation that this would be a small, quiet, rustic pub. Instead, it is the "town" pub of Wolvercote. Large, L-shaped pub with a huge television which was switched on to a horse racing channel when I went. Blue pool table situated at the furthest place from the front door. Seems, unsurprisingly, to be popular with the younger inhabitants of the area. Everywhere very clean and tidy, almost antiseptically so, but welcoming. Beer was Ansells Bitter, Tetley or Ind Coope Burton - not a choice! The Burton was passable, but lacking a lot of its full flavour. A bit on the steep side, as well. Another place doing 35ml measures of spirits, and a very well kitted out spirit shelf. This pub would be very popular if it were in the centre of Oxford, which is where it should be - it's somewhat ectopic for Wolvercote village, but who am I to go against the word of the locals? April 2002
Update: Not a lot has changed in the intervening years. It is still very much the "town" pub in the village, and still had a reasonable group of people in the middle of the day when the other pubs in the area were empty. The inside had been redecorated and felt slightly more spacious but, again, had that slightly over-clean feel. Good pints of cheap St Austell Tribute were available. We sat in the garden, which was more extensive than I had seen, with a few patio tables immediately out the back and then a green area with a little marquee, presumably both a smoking and a function area. Perfectly pleasant for the most part but the music was rather too loud, including that being piped into the garden, for the time of day and number of customers. September 2010.
The White Hart, Wytham
I finally found enough time to walk out to Wytham, and was not disappointed. Village pub at the core with bits tacked on, or above, for their excellent food. I am told they have BBQs in the summer. Beer - choice of two or three. The Adnams was particularly splendid. The blazing log fire is a joy to behold in the cold weather and perfect for just gazing at and cogitating over life with a decent pint. The landlady insisted that I sat down on a bar stool rather than lean because I "don't look comfy". I imagine that in the height of summer this place gets overcrowded with tourists like the Trout. June 2001.
Update. Disappointed during the latest visit. The omens looked bad when I saw they had changed the pub sign. Then, right on cue for perfect pathetic fallacy, it started raining, so I entered swiftly. Now the friendly close-knit atmosphere has gone towards the complete food plugging. Didn't recognise any of the staff - now all equipped with full length cooking aprons. My heart missed a beat when I saw no pump clips on the draught pumps, thinking they had got rid of the cask, so had to ask. Old Hooky, in perfect form, but prices have gone up. Was asked, even before ordering my drink, whether I would be "eating with us today". No, I replied, I've come to a pub for a drink. Sat by the open fire and brooded. Still deserves four stars, though, because of excellent atmosphere of the building and beer quality, but one star deducted from the previous five owing to food-plugging. April 2002
Update: Ye Gods! If it wasn't enough the last time to see that this pub had become an eating shop it is no nothing more than a restaurant. The old, dimly lit pub has been redecorated into a bright, pastel-shaded monstrosity, with the real fire now looking extremely out of place. The real beer appears to have finally been done away with (I wondered how long it would last). Oh, and they couldn't fit us in for a table of 6. I left in disgust. November 2002
Update: Decided to visit exactly half a year after last abortive trip (May 16th as opposed to Nov 16th) on the off chance that it had been converted back. It hasn't. However, there is Hook Norton Best and London Pride, both expensive for weakish beers but drinkable. Still very popular for food and the stuff does look very good, but I still fume at how they destroyed this wonderful country pub. It was raining cats and dogs as I biked out here on a whim, so I spent my time inside standing in front of the fire with my pint, creating a large puddle on the floor and a cloud of evaporating rain water. Will I ever return? May 2003.
The Woodstock Arms, Woodstock Road
CLOSED as of spring 2009
Fairly typical-looking NuMorrells pub from the outside, done up in those so fetching shades of yellow and terracota. A couple of tables outside by the main entrance, and more of a beer garden round the back. The insides appear to escaped the worst of the NuMorrells redecoration disasters, but is still recognisable as such with loads of mirrors shoved everywhere and a slightly toned down level of random tat. I quite liked the place, but I think that might be just a comparison to the cloned Morrells pubs in the town centre. Clientele seem mostly to be middle-aged to elderly well-spoken North Oxford gentlemen who were, I think to their own confusion as well as mine, being forced to watch the World Pool Championships on the enforced Sky TV. The strong point of the Woodstock is the five beers it had on, only one of them being Morrells. The others comprised Pedigree, London Pride, Greene King IPA and a weekly guest, at this time Speckled Hen. The down side:- the expense; 2.40 really is a bit too much for a 4.1% beer, I'm afraid. This, along with the TV, despite the brave attempts to escape the branding of a clone pub, prevents the pub from gaining four stars. June 2002
Update:- Greene King's take-over doesn't seem to have changed this place much at all, except that it has developed a hexagonal billiards table and the beer range appears to be 3 GK beers only, unfortunately. Random tat in both rooms is now starting to gather dust and the menu includes lots of artery-clogging pub favourites. Pub quiz once a week. This pub grows on me; unlike most of the ex-Morrells clones this pub has genuine atmosphere. Rumours of after hours drinking unconfirmed, although the manager when I visited at lunchtime hadn't been to sleep after "everyone left late". One star added. February 2004.
Update:- Boarded up and looking well and truly closed. This leaves the Dew Drop as the only pub left in Summertown and, well, pretty much the whole of North Oxford. Opportunity for an enterprising business person, perhaps? June 2009.