Queen of the gin palace at The Keep, Wallingford
Albums on the wall, groovy downlighters, and bikes in fairy lights - we're loving this stylish wine and ale bar in Wallingford.
I don’t come across many stand-alone bars in Bucks/Oxon – most also have a food offering, or try to be something to everyone, so it’s been fun to stumble across The Keep in Wallingford. Unusually, this bar, still only one year old, describes itself as both an ale house (and actually it’s just won CAMRA’s Cider Pub of the Year 2017, so congrats!), and a wine bar though it also has a whopper local reputation as unashamed gin palace with an impressive variety of ways to illicit Mother’s Ruin. The bar, named grandly after The Keep of Wallingford castle, is slightly less glamorously on the main road and though I’m sure on sunny days drinkers spill out on the pavements, it’s location means it’s more of a drink-in venue.
Warm, friendly, sociable and crucially for bars these days (for where we go, those men are bound to follow), female-friendly. I’m loving the album covers on the walls, bike strewn with fairy lights, the art for sale on the walls and the trendy retro downlighters.
It all feels hip and groovy, as befits owners who are 23 and 26, but not at all alienating if you happen to be the wrong side of 40 – quite a feat to pull off, but there, they’ve done it. There’s lots of natural light in the bar during the day from large bar-front windows if you fancy a nifty swifty, and there are plenty of tables and sofas to snaffle for a longer stint for the evening, or one of the Gin & Jazz evenings that are put on regularly.
Ain’t no scoffing, it’s all about the quaffing. The Keep is a relatively small space and there’s no kitchen for prep, so it’s all about a party vibe and the booze – the team just celebrated their first year in business with a SKA/Northern Soul DJ night.
Um, er, well, yes and no. In the day time it’s quiet, as you’d expect, so you can easily come in here for a double G&T while your perplexed child looks at your glazed eyes and wonders where she put that number to social services. You can get a coffee here of course, that’s probably a more sane idea, and it’s relaxed enough to do that with your children, but generally, no, leave the little people at home.
Do you need an event to drink gin? What’s wrong with you?! Nothing planned at the mo, but I’ll let you know as soon as one of those jazz or DJ nights pops onto the Muddy radar.
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 2pm-11pm; Friday 2pm – 12am; Sat 12pm-12am; and Sun 12pm – 5pm.