The Old Bookbinders, Jericho, Oxford: You'd be Nuts Not To!

The Old Bookbinders is tucked away in the residential streets of Jericho. No snap happy tourists here unless you count the snap happy blogger and his iPhone. On a drizzly Sunday afternoon, there is just a handful of locals at the bar and a friendly but bored barman. Our arrival more than doubles the occupancy and draws some stares which confirms that this could be pigeon holed as a "local"; or just the normal reaction to 5 Aussies and a Northerner.

The pub has a jumble sale aesthetic, which looks like its slowly crept through the pub, with vinyl, beermats and rows of spent lighters clustered on walls. I imagine it to be great for a proper session with its dimly lit back room and corners to occupy.
I opt for the seat without a lethal looking ice skate dangling above and have a pint of Bath Ales, Gem, accompanied by free monkey nuts scooped from a large barrel. I am happy. Easily pleased perhaps but the simple pleasure of cracking shells, supping the the rich malty Gem and good company is what Sundays are all about.

17-18 Victor St
01865 553 549


Jude the Obscure, Jericho, Oxford: We Love Sundays?

As far as statements go, We Love Sundays is pretty unequivocal; and taken next to a £7.95 price tag the Roast at Jude the Obscure in Jericho seemed like a good option. Now I'm not expecting gastro pub fare, just the hope of some wholesome pub grub. I can't tell you where it came on the scale between boil in the bag heap and my Peasant benchmark as Jude's relationship with Sunday seems to be an on off one; Roasts only being available November onwards. The thinking perhaps being that no one eats Sunday Roast in Autumn? The suggested alternative to the Roast is, as a Yorkshireman, quite shocking. In fact I think this would bring a grimace to the face of even the most ardent Lancastrian.

Yorkshire Pudding is something that really shouldn't be messed with too much; as it simply doesn't need to be. A Roast Beef Yorkshire Pudding Wrap therefore is something of an abomination, ranking up there with the Lasangwich. There are doubtless pud-purists out there that object to Toad in the Hole as unecessary. This concoction would finish them off. On the assumption that a Yorkshire Pudding should be light, crisp and risen after being cooked in oil or fat; then preparing a pancake like batter wrap surely makes it something else other than a pudding? But then Soggy Beef and Batter Pancake Wrap doesn't really have the same ring I suppose. 

Lou, ordered the Wrap, though bearing in mind that she hasn't had a proper Yorkshire Pudding she cannot be held accountable; and it at least allowed me a guilt free taste; albeit a small one. With a  consistency of pancake rather than Yorkshire pudding I loaded it with horseradish and chewed; and chewed. Recent bids to endow the humble Yorkshire Pud with European protection would put pay to not the dish but the passing off as a Yorkshire Pudding; perhaps we could have the start of the Yorkshire Pancake? Which could almost be bearable.


Enter the Flagon: Beer Kung Fu - Walk Like a Panther

Beer Kung Fu Master status comes to the lucky few. We don't wear a belt to denote our status but we can be seen in action in licensed premises throughout the drinking world.

The ability to pass through a crowd of punters without spillage is one sign of a Master and the most precious of skills (more so when its £4 a pint). It's what we call Walk Like a Panther. Perhaps a Panther whose had a few, but a Panther all the same.

The latest test to hone my Master skills was the Garage, Highbury. Before me stood a crowd of anticipant punters; Grinderman's entrance onto the stage was moments away and I had two pints filled to the plastic brim with expensive, bland, gassy Lout.

I choose a zig zag route through jostling groups; last minute toilet dashers and most dangerous of all hazards: the random wavy arms. Like flailing beer assassins, they can spell disaster. Unlike stationary hazards such as random laptop cases this foe often cannot be anticipated with forethought. They require the lightening dexterity of a young Jackie Chan. In my case a quick back step and roll passed this obstacle with zero spillage. Other moves for any aspiring Master are the shoulder nudge, beer in the air (a risky move when failure leads to spillage on heads below. In which case normal Kung Fu maybe required); all accompanied by a booming shout of 'SCUSE ME! I am in no way what you would describe as coordinated but with the Power of Beer I dare say I could pirouette if required. 

Beer safely delivered and status well in tact I hand the plastic vessel to Captain English, he immediately spills the contents, misjudging the flexibility of the plastic (for someone described as a Music Alpha Male, having been to more gigs than some roadies, this is an amateur moment). More training required for his Yellow Belt I feel. Grinderman take the stage, Nick Cave throwing some impressive shapes, throwing mike stands and generally making the stage hands earn their keep; which while great on stage, makes me think that he could be added to the list of foes, when off stage.

Are there any fellow Masters out there who wish to share the ways? 


Intoxicating Sweet Shop: Draft House, Tower Bridge

I first heard that the Draft House had a new Tower Bridge outpost through Twitter and a look at the website revealed a soft launch with 50% off all food before the "real opening" on 13th September. I suppose the thing with a soft launch is that it a kind of forgive us if you we make mistakes but we are only new, we're not really open yet. Whatever your thoughts on that I thought it a fair enough deal at 50% off and based on my visit to Battersea I spent the rest of the day clock watching.

Captain English took little convincing and we spent more time debating how to get there. Now he holds a Boris Bike token walking seems so, well, pedestrian. Vernon as usual was a tentative and with that we had our three. I made it to Tower Bridge quickly through the City backstreets and all that stood between me and the a much needed beer was the tourist throng. I weaved my way through, taking no regard to stop while the fifth or sixth or seventh tourist took a picture of a loved one pointing at the bridge, at the river, at City Hall. It took on an almost Top Gear challenge anticipation as I got closer to the Draft House, expecting to see the Captain fly past. 

Stepping in, I saw him just at the bar, wiping the slightest glint of sweat away, which seems to have been more from the mission to find a docking station than the actual ride. The d├ęcor is somewhere between gastro pub and diner with melamine tables and a pea green banquette around the walls and a centre high table with stools. The walls, as with the Battersea Draft House are hung with classic music posters and despite the table service by smart staff in shirt and tie it feels relaxed enough for a quick beer, a longer session or a proper meal, which seems to be the main focus.

Attention soon turned to the pumps. Despite the array of bottled choice, the first had to be hand pulled, but with a choice of 10 or more it wasn't proving to be easy. We started with something we know, the Wandle Ale and steadily worked our way through Junction, Porterhouse Red and Sharps', Chalky's Bite, to name those that I recall. From the bottle we had Mort Subite Kriek (in place of dessert) and an Aventinus. It has been said that when faced with this kind of choice I am like a kid in a sweet shop, albeit the most intoxicating of sweet shops. This was no exception.

Food is an easy choice once I spy Pork Belly, served with a Black Pudding mash. Vernon has arrived by this point and turns his nose up at the thought of Black Pudding. In my mind unless you are a Vegetarian or acutely Hemophobic you have no business turning your nose up at Black Pudding, not least when it is mixed with mash potato  The pork is good as is the crackling, albeit sparing in its portion. My appetite does however grow in proportion to the volume I have drunk, so I'd maybe have to return to comment conclusively.

Compared to my last Draft House experience this was comparable; with a great beer selection, good food and friendly and knowledgeable staff. Service was a little unsure at times, though there was always a more experienced barman to hand, but as I've already said this is early days. I will return, when I'm sure the service will be as flawless as the beer.