Any pub that gets nominated as one of the six best pubs in Oxford by Camra has to be worthy of note.
On this occasion, you can be sure of something, the Oxford Mail might be right – I wouldn’t go so far to say that it is wrong – that Far from the Madding Crowd is the “pub of the year”.
But who cares about years, we’re talking decades here. And the real Oxford pub of the decade is the Rose and Crown in North Parade, far from the madding crowd – and some of the locals have told us that’s just how they want the R&C to stay.
If you read Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books and Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, you’ll get a fair idea of what Oxford today isn’t like. Last year, the Old Bookbinders Arms in Jericho won the award – but we’ve been there, and it’s a bit up its own arse.
Apparently, the winner of the Oxford “pub of the year” was selected by Camra branch members when they met at the Griffin pub in Witney, wherever the hell Witney is. No, please don’t tell me, it’s in the countryside somewhere, right?
You could never say that the Rose & Crown is up its own bumhole. The beers are crackingly well kept, the food is beyond excellent, and the claim that it makes the best chips in Oxford is hard to best. It’s got whiskies I’ve never heard of before. I assure you that’s almost impossible.
Where else could you find that the landlord of one of the six best pubs in Oxford has a part in a production of The Mikado? Andrew Hall is the perfect host for all sorts of reasons, one of which is that he will throw you out of the boozer if you engage in mobile phone playing.
The fact is that Oxford has been trashed by the city fathers over the centuries and the trashing of Oxford continues pell mell. North Parade remains a haven in the desert of North Oxford and long may it continue to be an oasis.
But don’t tell too many people that the Rose & Crown is an excellent watering spot, because it might ruin the place. I am biased because I live very close to the R&C but that will count against me, I assure you. And no, I don’t get a free beer for this review. In fact, I might well get barred for running it.