The George, West Way, Botley
CLOSED as of Spring 2011
This friendly pub stands next to the Seacourt stream and has tables and a covered conservatory-like drinking area next to it. Not completely idyllic since the stream is tiny and generally extremely mucky. The pub appears to have been built at several different ages, with more stonework inside. The beers are Greene King IPA, Abbot and Speckled Hen. Perhaps this place was previously a Morrells house but who can tell (except I think they had the signs still up). The Hen was very good and not too expensive. Bar staff were friendly and the crowd, since it was Sunday afternoon, appeared to be a local (perhaps pub) football team and supporters. The part facing the road has a pool table and the enforced music is tolerable. The most eccentric feature of this pub is the yearly charity pooh-sticks competition using the bridge next to which the pub stands, and the sticks of previous winners adorn the bar. The best (of two!) pubs in Botley, but still fairly average. September 2002
Update: I have heard several reports of the unfriendliness of the staff and locals from a few years ago, but this place has now changed hands and gone a bit more upmarket. For instance, the "George" in question appears to have changed - the portrait of George IV has been replaced with St George. Also, the place now incorporates a French brasserie / bistro, Michel @ the George. I haven't been back here yet, so I'm unsure whether it is still a definite pub with an expanded food section, or whether it is a restaurant with a pub-style bar which would necessitate the place becoming "closed" for the purposes of the guide. Will keep you updated. July 2010.
Update: I have heard that this place has been closed and been put up for sale by Greene King. A visit by Ian Liddle a few months ago reported that it had gone rather English extremist. If anybody has further news then please get in touch. June 2011.
The Hollybush, Bridge Street
Previously Walter Mittey's:
This place is pleasantly eccentric. Small L-shaped serving bar, Oxford Monopoly "board" running around the edges of the ceiling. The tables are suitably ricketty. The menu is huge and looks excellent value for money. Beer was Greene King Abbot and Ruddles County (which Greene King have changed the brew of, damn them!). Abbot was perfectly good. The guy who served me was terminally hung over after a Christmas party the night before and was going thorugh the familiar "How did I manage to spend so much money" memory exercise familiar to us all. December 2001
Renamed the Hollybush:
Update: This pub has now returned to its original name, the Hollybush. It was only named Walter Mittey's, spelt incorrectly, in the nineties when Morrells went mad. The change to Greene King allowed for the change back. Before finding out this history I only noticed on passing that the name had changed and the outside had been done up in full Greene King regalia, so, with a groan, I put it towards the top of my list to revisit to inspect the damage. Inside, nothing has changed at all except that most of the Oxford monopoly has disappeared except the "Do not pass Go..." as the way to get behind the bar. Fairly busy, and the food still looks excellent. Four beers: Abbot, IPA, Ruddles County and Morland Original. The County was good, but a little towards the pricey end. February 2003.
Update: The Hollybush is now being run by a former manager of the Angel and Greyhound and has totally cast off the last of the Walter Mittey's decoration in favour of becoming a warm community pub. Initial indications were good: a more gererally clean feel, a pool table and a guest beer (St Austell Proper Job) in addition to a seasonal Greene King and the regular GK stock. Prices outside the city centre were suitably lower and the beer quality was good. The unusual things, however, was the fact that there were only 8 people in the pub on a Saturday night, 6 of those being in our party, and then a live band started playing great music but, alas, with their amps turned up to 11 when, as mentioned, there was nobody there. Unable to hear ourselves talk once the band started, we finished up quickly and moved on, taking three quarters of the pub's custom with us. One in this area to have a look at in the future, however. November 2010.
The Kite, Mill Street
Quite lively local town pub with, it appears, a fairly successful darts team who were entertaining (and beating) another pub's team when I visited. This place has been NuMorrelled, but it's the people who make the atmosphere here rather than the surroundings. Take, for example, the octogenarian drinking brandy and playing the fruit machine with his ten year old relative, in violation of both the gambling laws and the pub's children license. Staff were younger than the clientele and very friendly, while the Morrells was as good as it is anywhere. Food looks better and cheaper than the standard Morrells fare. Best pub in this neck of the woods. January 2002
Update: As with other ex-Morrells pubs, this is now a Greene King establishment, but other than a minor bit of structural redesign there has been very little changed and the decor is quite atmospheric. The food menu is extensive and very cheap, definitely worth it. There are 3 beers - 2 Greene King varieties and one approved guest, all of which are kept very well and are also reasonably priced. There is quite a large patio garden tucked away at the back and it looks like they may do BBQs in summer. Friendly local crowd, and also swarming with archeologists on a Friday evening, complete with rucksacks, high visibility jackets and trowels. The best pub in this part of Oxford by some way. Up to 4 stars. April 2007.
Update: There's been a recent change of management and the extensive cheap menu has disappeared, although there are some good looking pizzas. The atmosphere was similar, the beer was similar, but the whole place felt a little colder and slightly unkempt and out group were the only customers there on a Saturday evening until about ten o'clock. It would be a shame if this place is sliding downhill. Will keep an eye on it. November 2010.
The Osney Arms, Botley Road
CLOSED as of early 2012
I came expecting a large, suburban pub supplying most of the Osney population and was pleasantly surprised to find it a lot smaller than I imagined. Whilst not exactly "quaint", this place has the confortable, laid-back air of a town pub you can still wind down in. A small bar with pool table at the front, with a confortable small lounge with tasteful Oxford watercolours round the back off the side entrance. The lounge contains a jukebox of timeless classics, and there is even one of those ancient video game tables (not plugged in) that so amazed me in my tender childhood. Ahem. The beer was only Greene King IPA when I visited, but another pump with reversed clip suggests another beer (?Abbot) should also be on. Beer cheap and well kept. The landlord was a cheerful, "seen it all" chap and the locals were friendly. Not bad at all! June 2002
Update: Oh God. This has always looked like a locals' back street boozer from the outside and used to have an inside to suit. However, Greene King have thrown a modern refurbishment at it. What is clearly still a family-run little pub has been given a gastopub-stlye makeover with lots of pine, a big purple wall with giant television and high backed chocolate coloured chairs. The formally distinct front bar and back lounge are now more open plan as the separation in the middle of the bar has come down. Totally out of place and character. The locals were distinctly less friendly than last time and the only beer was a very dirty pint of Sharp's Doom Bar, which was just the right side of the point of having to be returned. Ian from the Blenheim visited the day after and had to return his. So, not friendly anymore, rubbish beer and a schizophrenic refurbishment. Down to 1 star only. September 2010.
Update: Clearly on its last legs for a while. Not a big surprise, but West Oxford loses yet another pub. January 2012.
The Perch, Binsey
A "summer" pub, set just off the river in the sleepy village of Binsey. A lovely walk to get here, but don't try it after several days rainfall, try the Binsey Lane instead. HUGE garden, with giant chess, and a cool rustic feel inside. I expect meals are quite a feature here and there is a seperate food servery. The bar itself is well kitted out with bar stools, and the rest of the pub sitting area doesn't have the feel that it is designed for eating only. Bass was fairly bland and the bar staff were pretty apathetic. Could be excellent if the staff were a bit more enthusiastic. June 2001
Update: After a long time away, I've been back twice in the last few months. The beer has expanded to have some well-kept Speckled Hen as well. Inside feels more atmospheric and smaller than I remembered and the prices aren't too bad. It really does maintain a decent country atmosphere despite its popularity, especially when compared to the Trout. I was too cruel last time - it deserves four stars easily. Watching the sun go down in the beer garden here recently was a beautiful end to a trip here. September 2003.
Update: This is the place that the Trout should try to be. Despite being packed and very foody in summer, it still retains a decent pub atmosphere, is not overly expensive, has a good pool table and generally does not take itself too seriously. It's also far closer than Wolvercote in the winter! February 2006.
Update: Disasterously, the Perch is currently shut following a fire involving the thatched roof. I understand that plans are afoot to repair the building and get it open again. We can only hope that this is done sympathetically. Many thanks to Darryl Pentz for first bringing this to my attention. May 2007.
Update: Now re-open after repairs and restorations. Unfortunately, I last stopped by 2 days before it re-opened, so haven't seen inside yet. Looking forward to it, though! Many thanks to Richard Linsley Hood for the information on the re-opening. September 2008.
Update: I am distinctly unimpressed with the new Perch. Previously it was everything that the Trout failed to be: a real, traditional pub that also happened to have a huge beer garden right near the river. It did do food, but was first and foremost a pub, with decent quality beers. It has now become very gastropubbed and Frenchified. The bar has been moved and made much smaller and the inside is kitted out fully for dining. We felt distinctly uncomfortable sitting there clutching our pints. The huge outside space has far too few tables for the amount of people expected on a sunny day - it is grossly under-utilised.
They have set up a large BBQ outside as an alternative to the à la carte, but this is hugely overpriced for what look like fairly ordinary burgers and the staff seemed to have no idea where they were supposed to be taken to. It has lost most of the features that distinguished it from the other overpriced tourist traps, unfortunately, but is still nice enough for a pint on a sunny day. Down to three stars. August 2009.
Update: It is so unfortunate that such a beautiful pub in such a great position is (and I fully understand why they've done it) so expensive and heavily reliant upon food. The pub is a must-see and sitting out in the huge beer garden is an unmissable part of the Oxford experience but I can't rate it higher than 3 stars because of the small, crowded serving area, the tacit implication of the staff that if you walk through the door you want a three-course meal and the 1-2 beers of mediocre condition and huge price tag. I may be terminally lost in nostaglia but this place used to be a pub fundamentally which sold food secondarily. June 2010.
Update: I continue to be very annoyed by the attitude of the gastro-Perch. The last two visits were very contrasting weather conditions. First, in the winter, when the outside temperature was sub-zero, we were told we had to sit outside because we couldn't sit at the empty tables inside because we were not dining, even though the kitchen at that time was closed. The second was during the hot spell this Spring when 3 members of staff were standing idle, waiting on non-existent food customers, while one poor chap was on his own behind the bar trying to serve the throng of people wanting drinks in the heat. Get your priorities right! June 2011.
Update: The management of the Perch would like my to point out that they have won the top prize in the "Bar and Pub" category at the 2011 InOxford Magazine Restaurant Awards. 'Nuff said, really. January 2012.
The Punter, South Street
Formerly the Watermans:
Very quiet local - I can't imagine it ever being full. Just two people in there when I went, but no horrible feeling of invading someone else's privacy that you can get when walking into a isolated local pub. Nautical tat behind the bar, intermingling with the optics. Bar billiards and pool table in one extension off the main bar, with a TV on the other side of the pub. Greene King IPA and Morlands Original - I had the Morlands and found it perhaps on the turn. I can't imagine they have a huge turnover of beer, though. Perhaps this place picks up a bit when there are more people in. January 2001
Update: A gentle stroll along the river brought me back to this place for the first time in years. It was a little bit less shabby and busier than I recalled, but for all the clutter still doesn't have much of an atmosphere. Might be pleasant enough for a quiet drink if you are a local. The beers were the same and certainly tasted a bit better than on my last visit, remaining competitively priced. It's not the greatest of places, and certainly it could be made to be nicer, but it's still worth popping in if you pass by. April 2007.
Update: Absolutely great for sitting out next to the river in their small garden or they are very relaxed about letting you take your drinks to the bank. However, the beer range is likely to stay mediocre low-strength standard bitters and the inside is slightly vacuous and dead. As before, it would pretty good for a reflective pint if you live in the area but otherwise it's the outside that you'll be making for if the weather's fine. May 2010.
Renamed the Punter:
Update: Has now been given a gimmicky name and gastropubbed. Can't see this working in this rather obscure location. I haven't been yet, but Ian, the manager of the Royal Blenheim, was refused a drink because he wasn't going to be eating there. Will check on this myself. October 2010.
Update: I'm sorry, I was far too over-critical when I heard what has happened here and I have now since visited. However, I don't discount the report of a pub manager who isn't served in another pub because he isn't dining. Perhaps they've changed this, as we were happily served on a quietish evening. The whole pub, needless to say, has been tidied up a lot and there is a slightly more varied clientele with the same atmosphere. The beers remain at the Morland end of the Greene King spectrum, more expensive than before but quite nicely kept. Our table was sticky, despite the pub being pretty empty. The food is certainly a new, big feature to the venue. Some of it looks very good value, other bits of it quite expensive. On our visit there was also a pointless and annoying pseudo-continental method writing the prices: for example, 3,5 represents �3.50. A smartened, generally more fired up version of this backstreet local pub. Up to three stars. June 2011.
The Seacourt Bridge, West Way, Botley
Large, townish Banks pub standing on Botley's main road. Outside it has a columned portico that looks strangely out of place considering this is a bog-standard boozer. Inside is as one would expect - lots of pine, carpets and plush seating, split into non-smoking and smoking, eating or not eating portions. The menu looks good but slightly over the odds. Nearly everyone was drining keg bitter or lagers and the average customer age was 55, average waist size 44. The kegs were all measured halves, which looked somewhat undersized although I didn't see whether the glasses were over-sized or not. The cask was Pedigree or Banks original. The pedigree was very expensive and utterly mediocre. Can't say much more about it - it's just a very ordinary pub in a townish region containing only two pubs. September 2002
The White House, Botley Road
Closed August 2007, re-opened July 2009, CLOSED again late 2010.
This place can't decide what it is trying to be. The long building is atmospherically tripartite, comprising, from west to east: a posh restaurant with sycophantic boss type overwatching things and preventing the barstaff doing their job; a trendy bar area with pastel shades, pine and abstract art; a darkly lit pool-table enabled mini-pub with standard chairs and comfy benches. The commercial schizophrenia is quite noticable in the diverse range of customer attracted. The main bar is in the central portion, with two real beers (40p more expensive than the pubs the other side of the road) and a huge array of spirits, including an excellent whisky and brandy selection. The beer was well kept, but that wasn't enough to convince me that this is a pub in the true meaning of the word. This is a perfect example of a place where I would clash with many people of whether it is "nice" or not: I would be branded an old-fashioned pedant while I would respond that they are foppish sheep. If you are waiting at the station for one of Mr Branson's "puntual" trains and fancy a decent pint, skip this place and cross the road. I'll stop ranting now, you'll be pleased to know! June 2002.
Update: Absolutely superb food in the restaurant bit, but you pay for what you get. Service excellent, especially the comedy French bloke. Beer still very expensive but well kept. London Pride, Wadworth 6X, Hook Norton Best, and a fourth pump that was empty this time. February 2003.
Update: West Oxford loses one of its few drinking establishments, but this is probably the one I'd have chosed. Closed and boarded up. November 2007.
Update: Open again after a new owner was found. It is now advertising itself as a "Sports Bar and Grill". Doesn't sound thrilling but I'll pop along soon. August 2009.
Update: Now done up in the same style as the Duke's Cut on the same road closer to town and stocking Wychwood / Brakspear products, it has an abundance of light pastel green walls and varnished wood. As above, it is billed outside as a "sport's bar and grill". The place used to be in three parts - the right hand separate bar was the rough part, the middle was the quieter lounge and the left was the plush restaurant. Now the latter areas are rather merged into a lounge-cum-gastro pub affair.
The sports bit remains in the boistrous right hand bar, with loud music, bigscreen TV, darts board, etc. The staff are of the same ilk as the similar Duke's Cut, but if anything slightly worse. It took ten minutes for me to be served, initially being the only person at the bar while the staff chatted amongst themselves and then getting served after several parties who walked through the door and straight up to the bar. Beers were the trilogy of Hobgoblin, Brakspear Oxford Gold and Brakspear Bitter. The first two of these were both not available and
an average priced pint of the mediocre experience that is Brakspear bitter was swiftly consumed as I got slowly deafened, despite sitting in the middle room, by the noise in the right-hand bar. Didn't see the menu, so not sure if a potential remedy is sitting in the left-hand area with food. Remains a two star venue. March 2010.
Update: Locals report that it was busy enough, but the White House has now shut as a pub, been renamed and turned into a restaurant. Yet another Oxford pub bites the dirt. June 2011.