In its Georgian prime, Oxford was peopled not only with academics but country folk driving sheep across a very narrow Magdalen Bridge to the town’s cattle market. Even then the King’s Arms public house and its resident ghost flourished on the corner of Holywell St. and Parks Road.
During a recent visit we encountered no ghost but did enjoy a tall draft alongside a dog that jumped up and sat on the adjacent barstool. He seemed to be a regular.
Also on hand in the back bar were today’s Oxford graduates in robes and white bow ties, brandishing their newly minted MBAs and ready to take on the world.
Amid these circumstances, who could resist the starter course of “breaded white bait with homemade tartar sauce.”
How do you disguise bait on a plate?
Well, you don’t. The dish arrives with a lineup of popeyed little minnows gazing at you. After that, the wild boar & chorizo burger with chili mayonnaise is a definite anticlimax. You might want to settle for a pie in the English style ranging in choice from steak to game.
Even in England’s finest dining rooms, the wine we were served came with bottle caps. As an added touch of class, you are invited to sniff the cap once it has been unscrewed. It’s a whiff right out of BBC’s Rumpole. We dubbed it “Chateau de King’s Arms.”
At the KA they also pull a mean selection of draft beers. Perhaps it was the atmosphere, because I never tasted a Guinness so flavorful.
Since 1607 when it was named after King James, at various times in its history the KA has served as a venue for the production of plays and an adjunct schoolroom for Oxford’s thirsty tutors. At those times the KA claimed the highest IQ per square foot of any British pub.