Review: The Anchor pub, central Oxford
Oxford has some fantastic gastropubs but I think most would agree that they’re kind of hard to find in the city centre. Yes, if you’re Morse fan (or, ahem your dad is) you know about The Eagle & Child and Turf Tavern and all those slightly sticky Oxford ‘local’ pubs. But a really superior gastropub close to the action is harder to find.
So let me help you out. The Anchor offers absolutely first class gastro fare in a rather lovely position – a 10 minute walk up the Woodstock Road (just near Gee’s and down a side road), that just also happens to be a walk across the bridge to the wonderful countryside expanse of Port Meadow. It’s very much a locals pub, but the locals in this neck of the woods are city smart and know good food when it hits them in the lamb chops.
The exterior of The Anchor doesn’t suggest any brilliance within – it’s a modern(ish) red brick building, pleasant to the eye with a decent outdoor paved seating area, but nothing to make you reverse the car and look for a spot to park. Actually as in the rest of Oxford, parking will probably be your bete noir. There’s a tiny carpark at the pub, and I managed to get the last slot at 12.30 but don’t bet your granny’s fortune you’ll find a space. The thing with Oxford is that it’s actually very compact and walking anywhere in the centre takes only 5-15 minutes. No big deal frankly.
So back to the pub. The interior is attractive, relaxed, confident. You walk in The Anchor and feel like you’re going to have a good meal and you do.
I started with a glass of the bubbly in – praise be – a proper bubbles glass.
I’d already had a couple of coffees that morning so wasn’t massively hungry so went for the crispy duck salad. But you can see the portion sizes, they take no notice of prior engagements! It was delicious actually, plenty of dressing and the peppery watercress offsetting the sweetness of the duck.
For dessert, just to be a good sport, I went my default tester option, the creme brulée. I’d thought to have a couple of mouthfuls but that idea was plainly absurd as I scoffed the lot.
Job done, I had a quick scoot around the pub. There are quite a few separate areas you can drink/sit in. I loved my spot in the main area – very light and airy – but there are smaller rooms for an atmospheric or romantic dinner and also a lovely bar area with tables, bar stools and original features like the old stone fires.
Also worth knowing there are two private dining areas – the green and blue rooms (below) which could be handy for all those decadent dinners you like to have!
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: foodies looking for unpretentious, superior pub fare; walkers near Port Meadow (you’re minutes away); city visitors in search of a classy local. Great place for a group of friends over a leisurely Sunday lunch or evening meal.
Not for: Those who like easy parking – you could be unlucky and have to walk quite a way to the pub. The outdoor patio area looks onto the road, so is not ‘tourist’ perfect.
££: Reasonable. The duck salad is £10, moules frites £12, cod £16. Most desserts are around the £5-6 mark.