From Lynn Maudlin:
I was recently asked about the actual Bird & Baby, the British pub called The Eagle and Child in Oxford. Since I've never been to Europe, I referred the question to several others, and Lynn Maudlin and David Bratman copied me on their replies, which they have graciously consented to have posted here. (Andy had asked about whether he should visit the pub while in Oxford, and these were the replies):
Oh, Andy, definitely go! When I'm in Oxford I often go there for lunch - they do a decent pub lunch. The Eagle & The Child is on the west side of the Woodstock Road just as the Banbury Road is forking off of hit, about 1/2 mile north of the city center. They have a lovely display of photos of the Inklings but they'd done some remodeling the last time I was there and the lyrics to "The Baby and The Bird" had been taken down - perhaps they'll be back up (or ask!).
An English pub is quite different from an American bar - I don't think we have anything equivalent. It's a "public house" - they often serve very good food (but, as above, re: Bird & Baby, lunch is served in a narrow window of "lunch" hours - you can't get "lunch" at 4 p.m. and I don't think they do dinner...) and they serve as a community meeting place. I'm sure some folks get drunk there but I've never seen it. The British *do* drink more than the Americans, just in general, but there are nice things you can drink which are non-alcoholic. Or you might try cider, which is slightly alcoholic and you can get it sweet or dry (personally, I prefer the dry) - you can get a rather interesting drink called "shandy" which is half beer (lager or ale) and half lemonade - but don't worry! Their "lemonade" is what we call Seven-up!!! It's rather nice. They don't tend to have very decent wines, so I stick with cider usually.
Some pubs are better/nicer than others, some are downright posh. But the Eagle and Child is rather homey in a very pleasant way, not dank at all. There are two front rooms (you enter through a hallway between them) one has a fireplace, then the ordering area (you go up to the "bar" and give your order; look around for the chalkboard with the food specials on it) and the Inklings room is part of that room, then it continues to the back and they've added some rooms to it, so it's larger than it used to be.
Definitely go. And be ready for rather miserable weather in January - mostly wet and cold but, if you're lucky, some lovely bright days, too. ENJOY!!! We're with you in spirit.
-- Lynn Maudlin --
From David Bratman, rev. 3/15/99.
English pubs are often smoky (the Bird has one small nonsmoking room), and at peak hours they can get pretty crowded, but otherwise they're quite unlike bars in America. Americans who avoid bars because they dislike being in the company of loud obnoxious drunks can feel quite at ease in many, probably most, British pubs. I've been to all the pubs that the Inklings frequented, and never had any problem there, and I'm someone who avoids American bars vehemently.
Pubs serve non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic drinks (but if you drink alcohol at all, by all means try ale or cider - quite unlike American beer and much better), and they also serve food. The best, indeed often the only, place to get a good hearty British lunch is in a pub. When in Britain, I eat almost all my noon meals in pubs. Often the only alternatives are often slightly fancy restaurants or el cheapo takeout (the streets of Oxford are littered with what are called kebab vans, which sell pita-bread sandwiches of varying quality).
Finding the Bird: Get a map of Oxford, you'll be lost without one. There's one in any guidebook to the city. Notice how short the streets are. (Or more accurately, how the street names usually apply only to short lengths of street.) For this reason, street numbers are rarely needed (or even findable on the buildings) in many towns. Find St. Giles, extending north from the town center. The Bird and Baby is on the west side, just before it splits and becomes the Woodstock Road. Ask any local, too; they'll know the street and probably the pub.
Don't forget the Inklings' other favorite pubs. They didn't go to the Bird only, and these are also good (and have better and a greater variety of food than the Bird, too):
New comments from Mike Foster.
Re The Bird & Baby:
I can only embellish what others have said. The Young's Best Bitter is the quaff of choice there for the malted. Good pub grub.
Better is found at The King's Arms, right across from the Bodleian on Parks Road. Good variety of beers & ciders & non-smoking front room is a relief after the mining-disaster gloom of the White Horse. Good steak & kidney pie, Yorkshire pud, mushy peas and a Scotch egg for the brave; VG bacon tomato cheese sandwich grilled on crust bread, like a -Cubano- bread; chutneys; front room is smoke-free & is Canterbury.
On our last day-trip to Oxford in late May, we grabbed Annie Haward at St. Peter's, down the Broad to the KA for lunch, then she back to her college, then we had a pint @ the B&B before fissshhhhh & chipsssss at Brown's.
Don't forget the Turf, down Catte Lane under yet another Bridge of Sighs--smoke free back room; the food is all right but the Scrumpy Jack cider may be the best draw in Oxford.
The Mitre spoiled by those confusticated & bebotherational video games though Jo liked their food best.
'Ware: English pints are bigger and you need to read the offering carefully, since cider can go from 2.8 ABV like John Courage all the way up 8.4 ABV in Merrydown Extra Dry. Anyone who drinks what Ms. Haward once called 'that wesel-piss Boodveeser' in Oxford will probably eat at the McDonald's.
This research conducted in '92, '94 '96, & '98. Someone had to do it.
Lamb & Flag lost its charm for me when the jukebox kicked in with
the doors, but I still savor the Strongbow cider the Longs kindly bought
me at the Centenary
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