George Orwell described his ideal pub as “uncompromisingly Victorian”, saying, “It has no glass-topped tables or other modern miseries.” This is a sentiment often missed by college bars, but these wise words from my personal hero came immediately to my mind and reverberated through my body as I walked into Queen’s. The low ceiling, stone walls, thick wooden beams, dim lighting and wooden cornered bar combine to form a pleasantly cosy atmosphere, and all fit well with Orwell’s vision of “solid, comfortable ugliness”.
This disregard for modern trends allows you actually to relax back into your seat without the fear that the condensation from your pint could do unspeakable damage to anything you put it down on. Few college bars attempt the old English pub feel, probably because we live in a city with an actual old English pub on every street. But Queen’s has achieved something vaguely resembling the real thing, though the most obvious mark of inauthenticity is felt when you leave with your wallet unemptied by the daylight robbers who run the Turf Tavern and The King’s Arms, and their cohorts. The atmosphere was aided by friendly staff who clearly knew what they were doing, and who, Cheers-esque, seemed to know everyone who walked in by their nickname and favourite drink; very impressive.
It did suffer from the bane of many other college bars, something I’ve previously dubbed the ‘spare-room’ problem. Assuming the bar wasn’t opened in 1341 when Robert de Eglesfield set up camp, it’s been built in a place not specifically designed for a bar. This leaves the bar too small for sufficient seating, or with such terrible acoustics that you can’t hear yourself think. Unfortunately for Queen’s, their bar is afflicted with both these problems. By half past nine, there were people stood around the edges of the room, waiting to pounce predatorily on the next open seats, and the following morning my voice was completely gone from the shouting necessary to talk to the person next to me. I croaked my way through a tutorial, all the while begrudging Queen’s for how they had forsaken me.
Their drinks choice really is nothing special, and would quickly become tiresome for regulars, but it is notably cheap across the board. So much so that their signature drink, the Sex on the Quad, was £2.80 for the rough equivalent of a triple. This is a big tick for me, and would make pre-drinking here very easy indeed. Although, their Sex on the Quad was just Sex on the Beach, so it’s not really a signature drink if we’re going to get picky.
A far less reputable Oxford publication that rhymes with shmersa recently hyperbolically claimed Queen’s is the best college bar in Oxford. I almost agree. Queen’s does have a lovely feel to it and wonderfully cheap drinks, so if you can get past the unusually grumpy porters, give it a shot.