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By James Restall
What a summer, eh? We’ve had the pomp of the Queen’s Jubilee, golden glory at the Olympics, and even the sun showed its face once or twice. No doubt these glorious memories will be long faded now you’ve returned to the Dreaming Spires, beset by the nightmare of essay deadlines and disappointing autumnal drizzle. Worry not, my faithful punters – your favourite guv’nor is here to alleviate your woes with a little intoxication.
If you want to inject a dose of patriotism back into your life, The Royal Blenheim is your best bet. It borrows its name from Churchill’s birth place up in Woodstock, while its layout is the closest you’ll get to Albert Square’s infamous Queen Vic. But don’t come here if you’re looking for punch-ups, shocking revelations or the odd arson attack – this is a watering hole which prides itself on the quality of its beers.
At just £2.50 a pop you can enjoy the session White Horse bitter – Spoon’s aside, I can’t think of another Oxford local where you can still get four pints for a tenner. The other nine – that’s right, nine – bitters are also reasonably priced between £3 and £3.40 a pint. As the flagship outlet of Oxford’s White Horse brewery it’s no surprise that each pint is immaculately served.
While many of Oxford’s fine drinking establishments pander to the thriving tourist trade by plastering their walls with anything and everything University, the Blenheim manages to find a happy medium. By limiting their decor to photographs and drawings of University and College sports teams, the pub appeals to the visitor without putting off the student or the local.
But a beautiful building and beverages will only place a pub in the play-offs – to hit the top of the table it’s got to have the atmosphere created by satisfied punters and entertaining publicans. The Blenheim offers this and more. Despite having one of the most popular nightclubs in Oxford as a near neighbour, the bar is rocking even on ‘Camera Tuesdays’.
The staff are cracking – on my first visit I was served ahead of someone at the bar because I “was clearly a nice chap” on account of the British Heart Foundation lapel pin on my coat. Later in the evening the same barman debated the merits of Tilda Swinton’s acting with us over a copy of Empire.
So if you’re fed up of trying to pull in Camera, pop over the road and get pulled an even more satisfying pint of the good stuff.