An Anecdotal Oxford Pub Guide

If you couldn’t tell from any of our previous posts, Chelsea and I really like the pubs over here in the UK.  Luckily for us, Oxford has A LOT of them.  Of course we had to make it to the most famous ones, but after that we weren’t really sure which ones to try and visit.  Then we got the idea, why not try to visit all of them?

A little while back we picked up the poster pictured above to help us keep track of the pubs we visited.  Some artist has taken the time to draw reasonable cartoon representations of many of the pubs here in Oxford, and our plan is to color them is as we visit them.  A quick glance at the poster and you might think that we haven’t been to very many.  If you care to count, we have actually already been to 33 pubs on this map, which means we are just over halfway done.

The rules for our visits are pretty simple: it doesn’t count as a visit unless we are both there at the same time, and we both have to order something to drink (preferably at least one beer).  We usually coordinate a visit with mealtime, so that we can sample the pub grub as well, to get a better idea of the place.  In fact, we have only had one night where we went on a crawl to more than two pubs.

If you notice the navigation bar in the main banner and in the “Pages” section on the right, we have a new section of the website called PUB GUIDE.  This section contains our opinions of each of the pubs on the “definitive” map.  At the rate we are going, we should have the map completed in another year, and will hopefully have some favorites as well.  Have a quick read through the list and see if there are any you would like to go to when you come visit us!

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Brideau’s Simple Reviews

I would like to introduce a new category and blog topic here at njbrideau.com, “Brideau’s Simple Reviews.”  The idea behind this new category is to give people at home (or any random Googler of this site) a biased opinion of the places we check out here in England from the eyes of two middle-class Americans with no experience reviewing much of anything.  Chelsea and I have made a deal to at least try a new restaurant or pub  every other week, and if we are lucky, even more frequently than that.  We also thought it would be fun to share our experiences, and review these posts in a few years when we look back at our time here.

This past week we visited a pizza chain here in Oxford, Pizza Express, which will be the subject of our first review.

I don’t really know the difference between a chain, a franchise, and what category Pizza Express falls into, but there are two of these restaurants in Oxford, and many more scattered in the UK, so call it what you like.  We visited the Golden Cross location, which is situated right off the main pedestrian mall in the City Centre.  Apparently, the building was first recorded in 1182 as Mauger’s Hall and still retains medieval wall paintings which are now protected by glass frames.  Unfortunately, we must have missed these paintings, but did notice the nice modern decor inside.

As its name implies, the specialty at Pizza Express is pizza.  Although I would say its more of a cross between an Italian restaurant and a pizza joint than just a pizza restaurant.  Not normally the type to eat appetizers or desserts, we found ourselves hungry enough to try both, and ended up with a 3 course pizza dinner.  Our resident olive monster suggested that our first course be marinated olives instead of the usual antipasto selection, so we went with that, and were quite happy.

For our pizza, we selected their “4 seasons” option, which divides the pizza into quadrants, each with a different set of toppings.  This way, we could try many flavors in our first visit to Pizza Express.  We also elected to try the “Romano” option, which is a thinner, larger, and more expensive version of the classic pizza.  We were a little underwhelmed when our “specialty” pizza arrived.  It turned out to be much smaller than we anticipated, and was thinner than a piece of corrugated cardboard.  The pizza also arrived uncut.  I have never had a pizza arrive uncut, or at least not had the tools handy to cut it.  We were a little unsure what to do actually, as we did not want to breach restaurant etiquette and look like typical Americans.  This feeling passed in about a minute or two, and I cut into the pie with a butter knife and fork to serve up slices.  The pizza was a little small, so if you are going in with a big appetite, and only want pizza, you might want to order one for each person.  Finally, because we were still a little hungry, we treated ourselves to dessert and were quite satisfied.  Wash it all down with a glass of wine, and we had a nice 3 course pizza dinner.

Overall we were generally impressed with the quality of the food.  The price of everything was a little steep for my tastes, (~$45) but I suppose if you factor in an appetizer, pizza, two glasses of wine and two desserts, that is a pretty fair price.  Plus, because these are scattered around the country, we know what we’ll get if we need to pop into one sometime in the future.

That leaves us with a final score of 3.5 on the B.S. review scale.