Thursday, February 27, 2014

Raising the bar

So the Duke of Edinburgh in Oxford, formerly just the Duke, is "closed for refurbishment" again. Not much of a surprise there - hopefully the staggeringly naff neon sign proclaiming that "The Duke is cool" will be the first thing stripped out and lobbed into a skip.

The place has been on a downward spiral for the past few years, but when I first moved to the city it would have been a shoo-in to feature in my Reasons To Be Cheerful series: a few good ales, unusual but tasty pub snacks, Sky Sports, friendly staff with good taste in music (who at one point had a very welcome obsession with Holy Fuck). It all goes to show the perils of messing with a successful formula.

Speaking of which, I paid another visit to the Art Bar last night to see Royal Blood. Like the Duke, it's been renamed and smartened up and now serves cocktails. The decision to get rid of the Bullingdon brand is understandable (who wants to be associated with Cameron and his cronies?), but calling it the Art Bar makes what is one of the city's best venues sound pretentious. They've also done away with draft ales in the gig room, though in fairness there's a decent selection of bottled ales in the fridges by way of compensation and the venue itself still has plenty to recommend it, including the sound quality.

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