This is the fifth and last post in the series Winter in London. Other posts include Bob, Bob, Ricard, Kitchen W8, Fernandez and Wells, and The Turf Tavern and Jamie's Italian.It's sort of awe-inspiring to stand in an old, old building that is so replete with rich history.
Welcome to the Trout Inn, an old, storied pub in Oxford that's been around since the early 1600's (!). The Trout Inn faces the Thames River and is a fantastic place for outdoor dining in the summer. The food's solid and the ambiance inside is warm, cozy, and all around really inviting.
There's so much more to the pub, however.
Because it's so close to Oxford University, it has a ton of cool history associated with it. For example, did you know that on this same riverbank Lewis Carroll (a lecturer of mathematics at Christchurch College) entertained Alice Liddell and her sisters with imaginative stories that would later become Alice in Wonderland?
Or that the Trout Inn was one of CS Lewis's favorite hangouts, where he and his literary buddies would often "sit on the wall with the Isis flowing below us and munch cheese and French bread"* ?
For some reason, knowing that these literary greats used to hang out at the pub makes it that much cooler to visit. It's like you're experiencing a bit of the past when you step into that warm, cozy bar.
I absolutely loved the ambiance inside this place. It was warm, cozy, and had the perfect blend of old and new. The building is quite large, but it's split up into so many smaller rooms (including a fireplace in one!) that it doesn't feel cavernous at all.
I'm not really familiar with European beers, especially English ones, so I relied on the bartender and my gracious hosts for helping me pick out a beer!
We enjoyed a drink in the front before heading into one of the cozy back rooms for dinner.
Cool wines in one of the cozy dining rooms.
Although the service was woefully slow (I've noticed that service all over Oxford in general seems slower than in the US), the food was quite solid. I loved the roasted garlic that came with the fresh, homemade bread.
The hamburger was decent, though in general there are much better hamburgers to be found in the US!
I ordered a fish pie, something that I had never tried before which seemed decidedly British. It's sort of like a shepherd's pie in that there's a baked mashed potato topping. The bottom was a mixture of a white fish and shrimp. I thought it was alright, but not something I would order again. I think I like shepherd's pie more!
I will say that we did all loved the strawberry and black currant crumble with vanilla custard (pictured at right). The vanilla custard was my favorite part -- warm, creamy, and super rich, it tasted more like hot vanilla made from fresh, heavy cream than a typical egg-based custard. I swear, the milk here must have a higher fat content or something, the cream here always tastes so good.
At the end of the day, you don't come to the Trout Inn specifically for the food. If you did, you may be disappointed (unless if you just get that crumble, hee hee). The food is fine but nothing that particularly stands out. Instead, the draw of this place is the cool history, incredible ambiance, excellent bar, and the unique Thames-facing al fresco dining experience.
Winter in London Series
This ends the Winter in London Series. I'm not sure when I'll return to London again, but I typically have opportunities from time to time (I work with those UK folks a lot!), so hopefully soon! Until then, I have many more series in the queue (several are travel related, but one is Boston-focused), so stay tuned!
* Collected Letters, Volume III, p. 1481
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