Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Eagle and Child, Oxford

While we were waiting for our food here, an elderly gentlemen shuffled past, casting a disdainful glance in our direction, intoning 'This place hasn't been the same since the Lewis people found it'.

Which Lewis he meant, whether C. S. or Inspector, I am not sure. Either way, it certainly epitomises the chief attraction of this place. It is famous for being the hangout of The Inklings, who counted C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien amongst their number. It has certainly retained it's character. Being, essentially, a long narrow, dark corridor with the occasional offshoot nook or cranny, you can see it as the kind of place where you might squirrel yourself away in a corner with your mates and laugh uproariously when they tell you they have had another idea for a book about elves.

Access is not easy since the building has retained its olde worlde proportions, down to the appropriately gloomy, almost windowless interior. And, just a heads-up, it really is dark. Enter, as I did, from the full glare of late summer sunshine and you are plunged momentarily into near-impenetrable blackness. Allow a few moments for your eyes to adjust, then grope or stumble your way through, guided by the Christmas lights festooned all over the beams, to where there is a well-lit room at the rear.

This is not a large franchise pub and so the menu is not just variation-on-a-theme-of-grilled. Being a Real Ale establishment the beer is far more important that the food; but that does not mean the quality is compromised. I opted for a fishfinger sandwich meal which was battered cod goujons served on sliced granary bread and accompanied by chips, cooked with the skin on. The fish was fine, the batter pale and gravel-crunchy, the cod flavoursome and not drowned in tartar sauce. The chips were served in a large stoneware bowl, piping hot and golden brown, not too crispy but with a good earthy flavour. A proper pub lunch, basic and filling, something to absorb the beer.

Anyway, while I was there, I had a great idea for a novel. I do not want to say too much but it's just something that takes place in a fantasy world, of trolls and whatnot. Perhaps even through a magical doorway. A wardrobe, or something.*




*Whaddaya mean, it's been done?



Access: *****

Touching Souls Tea Rooms, Tewkesbury Abbey

The town is quite a surprise.Whoever is responsible for the town centre has certainly created a centre of historical interest. I have never seen such Medieval conditions in my life.

Around the Abbey itself is lovely. Manicured gardens, scrubbed black-and-white buildings. The Tea Rooms are in a separate, purpose-built unit, with a decked balcony and community rooms and halls. Its modernity means that access is fine, although it might get a little cramped in the cafĂ© when it is  busy. The place is staffed entirely by volunteers which means there are several conditions regarding its running. In the first instance, it is only open for a limited time - around 10 until 1.45pm and until 4pm on Sundays. And the menu is necessarily restricted to very light lunches such as soups, sandwiches and cakes. On the other hand, it means that absolutely everything is distinctively home made and makes for pleasant revelation that, in this case, home-made does not mean fashioned in an artisan, cottage industry style business, but, really, truly made in someone's own kitchen.

The sib and I shared a platter of salmon sandwiches which were generously served with fresh, cool salmon and crumby white bread. We went for the home-made chocolate fudge cake which was as gloopy and sweet as you would expect. The whole atmosphere is very welcoming, very friendly and the food is great. I mean, if you are on your way to punch some Lancastrian lights out, it's a good place as any to stop off for refreshments.




Access: *****