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Eagle & Child (Oxford)

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Pub. St Giles, Oxford.

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    2 Reviews
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      25.07.2013 11:56
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      Also known as the 'Bird and Baby.'

      On a wall plaque it states: "CS Lewis his brother WH Lewis, JRR Tolkein, Charles Williams and Neville Coghill and friends, met every Tuesday morning, between the years 1939 - 1962 in the back room of this their favourite pub. These men, popularly known as the "Inklings," met here to drink Beer and to discuss among other things, the books they were writing."
      - - - 00 - - -

      Funny how babies, of blue blood or red have a habit of making an appearance sooner than scheduled on hot days - news today of my cousin having a boy broke through, within twenty four hours of the third in line to the throne made an entrance will inevitably stimulate banter: His name is; Ollie - a Dickensian namesake jab at austerity - something the third to the throne's little head doesn't need to worry about. Alas, I'm eager to wet the baby's head in the Eagle and Child, Oxford which lies on St Giles Street, number 49 to be precise - a place I choose to frequent when eager to wet child's head. I wasn't about during those heavy debating days of the 1950s'and 1960s when the 'Rabbit Room' existed for the "Inklings" where plumes of smoke disfigured edges and white beards appeared infinite. Sadly, in the early 1960s also saw the demise of the 'Rabbit Room;' so those who 'rabbit' did so among the commoners, it liberated the public house and it is renowned for its hive of musings.

      Look Who's Tolkien?

      Eagle and Child is displayed in an Old English font, and the public house wears it with pride, like an aging serviceman weighed down by his medals of honor-ship. It's gaunt seventeenth century exterior shows signs of weariness; there is only so much outdoor paint can do to hide the crevasses; too gone for a good botox session - the pub has hunched with age, a result of three centuries of gravitational pull, has no doubt reaped havoc on seventeenth century building practices. I tend to say an amusing pray whenever I enter: "Don't choose today to give up the ghost of staying erect, amen." My tweed comrades mutter agreeably, "hhmmm, amusing, indeedy;" while peering into the cornered 'cubby holes of converse' seeking for available seating. When the Oxford students vacate the city on their holidays, such cubby-holed areas is a great luxury for intimate discourse. The Eagle and Child is the perfect venue for deliberating openly. Phillip Pullman the author of 'His Dark Materials' trilogy is a gregarious character after a Child 'Old Hooky' or three. His Norfolk broad charm is a force of nature, the Eagle and Child listens and cloaks round him when he is a resident. His 'The Book of Dust' is a follow-up book in process, unwrapped from his earlier trilogies; most concepts were borne in the Child. His 'dust book' is an attempt to stir controversy among religion's sheep; a premise from Will Self's 'The Book of Dave' who in 300 pages devised a new religion. Politics and religion chat is plentiful in the Child.

      The floorboards creak intermittently; one step would awake floorboards twenty feet away. Unnerving as it can stop you in full vocal flow - The well treated wooden beams are as glorious as they are historical. Presumably they're not purely designed to keep the Eagle erect I hasten a wise guess over the tide of time steel has been added to the mix of building materials. The pub was rejuvenated in 1998 which sort of elongated the interior; it added space at the rear. I feared the alterations may embark on creating a manufactured faux pas establishment from inside out - I was relieved if anything, the place just got a spring clean - a re-varnishing and de-worming, was notably, be-coming. Fifteen years on, the same wooden frames and paneling wobble as you perch your derriere, there is still that stale beer, wooden varnish, and old book musk aroma residing in the Child's character and it wafts past the nostrils at differing strengths. I bet it always did even when the English Civil War reached its finale; when at this juncture housed the King's Cavaliers, and royalty. Today, St John's College still has ownership, as if written in folklore by the intellects of their time, a secret passageway is said to join up the University to the Eagle and Child's cellar An endearing quality for a pub that is immune to modernism, technology, and gadgetries, you won't see power sockets adjacent to your knee caps waiting to boast your iPads up. Every now and again the light dims and a draft kicks through from the bar for no reason, is it the spirit of the middle-earth creator - Tolkien? Or is it some old wives - talking! Inspector Morse - now Thaw you can't ignore. I'm glad the eagle hasn't branded; evidence of old scripts, letters, a scrolled out wooden board stating in white: 'Real Ale For Sale' - calligraphic in style. Boards are in abundance reminding you of the obvious. "Welcome to the Eagle and Child" - "This is a no smoking pub" - "Events Coming Up" and the "The Monthly Guest" no this is not a euphemism for a cycle of ovulation, but whether you can guess a brand of beer; albeit, it got lost in translation when mentioned - the staff looked at each other and said: "Guest, we're not expecting anyone, are we?" Shucks, you guys - the pitfalls of not knowing your Eagle and Child memorabilia.

      Food is in the Child's capability although I have yet tried it. Neither have I observed punters eating - this leads me onto the point that the food either is insipidly unattractive or I've been too engrossed with my pint of London Pride and chin scratching. I conclude it is not worth writing home about, on the premise it doesn't lure me into endeavouring into their gastro-pub offers over a pint. I lean towards the hand to mouth snacks as they're unpretentiously presented in original packaging than in an olive pot; unlike the manufactured Wine Bar, which charges for the use of their porcelain olive pot, the bar presentation with a triangular serviette as well as the snack - they then pull out the silverware to present your change in coinage from a ten pound note; resulting in a mind-boggling fee of 29 pence per cashew nut. The Eagle and Child is mild about snack presentation. Serving the literary giants of our modern age and royalties of yesteryear brings remarkable historical awe to the whole Eagle and Child experience. And it doesn't reflect in the Ale prices either.

      Wetting the babies heads, whether royalty or commoner - it is a case of doing an 'Oliver' and asking for more - Worth a visit.

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      • More +
        05.03.2001 23:58
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        The Eagle & Child on St Giles' is one of Oxford's more famous pubs. It was the haunt of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkein and the Inklings literary group, and more recently Colin Dexter, the creator of Inspector Morse, has made this one of his favourite watering holes. This has made it a stop on the literary tourists' trail, although thankfully the pub itself is too small for visitors to linger for long! The pub is set on the west side of St Giles, opposite St John's College. The bar is small and oak-panelled, with two small "snugs" off the main bar itself. It was in these that the Inklings used to meet to hear extracts of the works that members of the group were writing, and some of the best fiction of the 20ht century was first heard in these surroundings. Beyond the bar, the pub continues in a row of tables - a tight fit to get past when the place is full! - to a no-smoking conservatory at the back. Beers on draught include several real ales, and prices are average for Oxford. Food is varied and well-cooked, and portions are hearty. Overall, the small size of the pub means that it is often not possible to get a seat, or even a safe place to stand - but for those that can, it's well worth a visit, especially as a cosy, welcoming refuge from the cold winter nights of Oxford.

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