Tucked away in a far corner of St John’s College, and without any clear signposting, it took us a fair amount of stumbling around in the dark before we arrived. Upon arrival I began to suspect that this was deliberate, an attempt to hide the bar out of embarrassment.
The bar itself is split between the main room – with the bar, some seating and a bizarre café station – and a small adjoining room with sofas, a jukebox, and a games machine. The tragedy of the decor was also not particularly well thought out, given the single pathetic blade across the top of the bar and the bizarre 70s cuckoo clock. The result was that it felt far too small.
Not that this was a problem, as there were never more than ten customers the entire night. I would be tempted to give it the benefit of the doubt here on a Tuesday evening, but the majority of patrons simply came in, bought a pizza, and left. The wide glass wall would have been a nice touch, if it did not look out onto one of those grotesque 1960s buildings that plague many of our colleges.
Amazingly the quad managed to look like almost exactly like every other modern quad in Oxford, so there was an odd sense of déjà vu to the place. On top of this the bathroom affronted me with an inordinate amount of pubic hair. Now I am by no means squeamish. A few pubes? Sure, why not. But here, some foul creature had virtually moulted all over the gents.
The choice of drinks is exactly what one would expect from a college bar, at pretty much standard subsidised prices. The pints were poured professionally, with several beers on tap and even more in the fridge, including Leffe, a personal favourite of mine. Beer drinkers would be satisfied here.
The signature drink, the St John’s College, was as unimaginative as its name. With one shot of Jack Daniels, one shot of Southern Comfort, and topped with Coke, it was neither interesting nor especially alcoholic. But at under £3 it was at least good value.
On the bright side, both bar tenders were exceedingly friendly, smiling all night and very willing to get involved in the chat. When they cottoned on to the fact that I was not a St John’s student, they quickly took the chance to welcome me and tell me all about the college. If you’re at St John’s, this bar would be fine, but not particularly spectacular. For other students it really has nothing to offer. Unless you hold a particular affection for pubic hair, that is.