The Magdalen Arms, 243 Iffley Road.
If you think getting to the Magdalen Arms is an ordeal, you should really try eating there: the service was as arduous as the trek itself. Three hours for three courses – for whatever standard of food – is simply unacceptable, and more than that, it’s a disgrace to professionalism.
That’s not to say that the staff weren’t friendly. The waiters were affable and, crucially, apologetic, yet they failed to rectify their mistakes – it was shit service with a smile. We were given complimentary coffees, but I would much rather have paid for the coffee and not had the wait and the embarrassment of complaining. We had to go up to the counter four or five times, perpetually asking for forgotten drinks orders, for the table to be wiped, for the bill – again. When the waiters were questioned the food was always ‘ten minutes away’.
When it came, the food was of a high-ish standard, and I’d only heard good things about it: the Guardian described this gastropub as ‘among the very best of its kind in Britain’. The menu was excellent, so much so that it was hard to be decisive: it’s mainly standard English fare with a not-too-tenuous twist, plus a bit of the heartier side of Italian thrown in. The starters and puddings were very good: the home cured duck ham salad was a particular favourite. I found that the first few bites of the mains were exceptional, but that pretty soon the dishes all got a bit samey – huge chunks of meat with little in the way of distraction.
Still, it’s hard to be objective with such awful service. They were obviously having a bad day – they told me they had 160 covers. But if you can’t cope with 160 covers, why take them? I wouldn’t say that the Magdalen Arms was worth the walk or the money .