Monday 26 October 2009

Oxford Diary: The Eagle and Child Pub

Ever since we had come to Oxford I wanted to try out the traditional British fish and chips. For someone growing up reading English literature, fish and chips was a much read and much salivated over dish.  Finally yesterday we went to this pub called The Eagle and Child on St Giles Street. The menu said that this pub has been in operation since 1650s but was refurbished or changed hands or somesuch in the eighteenth century. Since then it has been extended also, though the space was not much and there were lots of twists and turns and smaller rooms 'snugs' tucked inside making the place really interesting. 1650 in Indian history means the Mughal times. Oh how I wish there was a mughal sarai (guest house/resting house something like the British inn) still operating.You get all these places in Delhi like Ber Sarai, I am sure there used to be Mughal inns, which got destroyed over the period of time. All we have got left are the forts and the gardens. Anyways, to get back to the English pub, this watering hole has been frequented by many famous names, one of which I still remember reading in the menu. It was none other than J.R.R. Tolkein the author of Lord of the Rings. Sitting in a place like that made me feel that I could just reach out and touch history. Just having finished a regency novel which had inns and charter houses mentioned in abundance my imagination took a flying leap.

This photograph is that of the famed fish and chips, served with tartar sauce and a slice of lime. This fish is what we Bengalis call fish orlay, in a much bigger size. Thanks to the popularity of Anglo Indian cusine this is easily available in many of the resturants of Kolkata, especially Park Street side. Other than Park Street another place which serves fantastic fish is Kwality Resturant in Ballygunj Phari. Also Bengali wedding menus are hardly complete without the fish fry or the orlay. Eating this fish I realised how predominantly colonial our food still is! This fish we had was most probably cod. Bhetki with which Bengalis make this preparation is way more tastier. But I must say this was the best tartar sauce I have tasted so far-- very light and just right. You get fish and chips in Mumbai also  in  Gaylord Resturant in Churchgate. Soumitro had taken us there when we had gone to Mumbai.
The glass of beer is Wychwood Hobgoblin. For my husband Indranil beer is a passion, he keeps visiting beer festivals and various pubs and goes into a hypnotic state drinking his favourite stuff. This is supposedly one of his favourites. This was a little expensive that the other pubs in Oxford but he says it was one of the best.
I had cider for the first time. Pretty sour, has a zing, it is definitely an aquired taste and by the time I finished the glass (with Indranil taking 4/5 swings in between) I almost liked it.
Other than the fish and chips the menu had  all kinds of traditional sounding dishes locally called the 'pub grub'.  There were soups, various kinds of sanwiches and flat breads, main dishes had selection of pies, something called pork belly, salmon, prawn, ham, beef and some vegetarian options as well. The pies were all served with mashed potato and seasonal veggies. Sundays are roast special with options in beef, pork and chicken as far as I remember.
Their christmas menu is also out, looks very traditional, just what I want to try out.

These guys actually keep reconrd of the number of pies and pints of ale they sold in this black board. Isnt this lovely? Now I want my own baclkboard too!

Inside of the pub. It is nicely lighted and pretty cozy and thankfully well heated.

Where we sat (it was originally a conservatory) the ceiling was of glass so we could see outside. Since we were there is the late afternoon we saw dusk coming and then darkness enveloping the world while the bulb gave us light.
When we entered the pub was not that full. But along with our food a gang of teenagers arrived, who sat right next to us and were taking at the top of their voices. Of course the girls were shouting more than the boys which started our discussion as to why women have to talk louder than men.
All in all it was one of my one of my memorable experiences so far in Oxford.

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