On a wet, cold, windy Wednesday, I was expecting us to be the only customers at The Anchor in North Oxford as we made our way there in the rain.
The anchor was so busy that if we hadn’t booked we wouldn’t have got in at all
Wrong, wrong, wrong, because on arrival not only were we greeted by a packed tent of buzzing diners and drinkers enjoying the vibe and a socially distanced bite to eat, but if we hadn’t booked we wouldn’t have got in at all, proving that those who have invested in their outdoor spaces are now reaping the rewards.
It’s been a while since I visited The Anchor, it’s sister pub The Crown in Woodstock being nearer my neck of the woods, but it was lovely to be back.
And what a scene greeted us, the huge outdoor tarpaulin stretched around the front and side, every available bit of space lit up with colourful lighting, heaters, tables of friends and family eating and enjoying being out, singing happy birthday and catching up. It was lovely to hear the sound of laughter again, truly a scene to warm the cockles of you heart.
The rain meant that some of the tables right at the front and back not protected by the tarpaulin were out of use, but otherwise it was business as usual.
And what The Anchor has done is produce a fun hybrid of street food pop-ups on Monday nights (I’m Japanese), Tuesday nights (Soleluna, wood fired pizza), Sunday afternoons (Taco Island) as well as the Duke cocktail bar pop up on Saturday & Sunday (owners Julian and Justine Rosser also run The Duke on Little Clarendon Street).
those who have invested in their outdoor spaces are now reaping the rewards
However, on Wednesday- Saturday it’s the Anchor’s own chefs and menus on duty, currently producing some fun and interesting food perfectly suited to the current indoor/outdoor experience.
Think kebabs, salads, burgers, chicken wings, steaks and flatbreads – stylish BBQ fodder if you like, which really appealed.
Sat right next to a lovely heater in the red bricked space; snuggly, warm and dry we ordered a delicious bottle of Provence rose and some starters to tide us over – the torn mozzarella, mixed roast peppers, heritage tomato and caper salad which was a much needed little reminder of warmer climes, and the whipped feta with roast cherry tomato, honey and thyme crumb with flatbreads, chosen by my fellow diner. She loved hers, perfectly balanced apparently, not overly garlicky, and novel. The salad was huge, colourful and moreish with a delicious dressing.
Unwilling to rush the evening, enjoying the ambience far too much, we passed before the mains arrived: The Beyond 100% plant based burger, fries and slaw (a very reasonable £12) which was recommended, (apparently the staff often choose it over the carnivorous version) and my friend watched enviously as I tucked into the generous, juicy burger, hard pushed to notice the difference once it was enveloped in pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, onions and sauce.
the anchor is a perfect reminder that life does go on, and a good time can still be had within the rules
The Buttermilk chicken and red peppers shish kebab, pickled lemon, lemon yogurt, salad, homemade flatbread £13 was moist and well seasoned, although the accompanying salad could have been more exciting, and the two made for a top notch supper.
We were so well looked after by the amazing staff there, in particular the GM Piers Rhys-Lodwick and our waitress the ever cheerful Charlotte Kershaw, their next question equally well received: Would we like dessert? The in-house sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream or the Barefoot salted caramel brownie (a bargain £3), which I know from The Crown is always a winner, which won, and we shared.
Our taxi home arrived too early, even though we’d booked it, the pub staying open until 11pm, and the fun was still melting out of the tent as we left, a perfect reminder that life does go on, and a good time can still be had within the rules, rain or no rain.