THE GLOUCESTER ARMS – Gloucester Green, Oxford

The last time I was in The Gloucester Arms in Oxford was probably about seven years ago. Going back for a wet Monday afternoon session last week I noticed that the place had not changed one bit. The place proudly advertises itself as ‘Oxford’s Number 1 Rock and Biker Pub’ and it is difficult to disagree. Especially since there is not really a rival occupying slot number two.

The rock/biker theme is consistent throughout. Rock is covered nicely by the jukebox (eight different AC/DC albums give you a vague idea) and the selection of yellowing posters on the ceiling. Notably nothing newer than a Pearl Jam one, the pub is still resolutely Old Metal. The average clientele look like members of ZZ Top – the ones which aren’t Frank Beard. The biker chic is in the wall decoration, plates of old Norton’s and Harley Davidson’s. All of this I suppose could be a touch intimidating, if it wasn’t for the generally nice staff and the fact that it is very difficult to be intimidating on a wet Monday afternoon. We sat by the roaring fire and helped ourselves to five rounds of the very cheap booze.

The roaring fire, as I suggest before, was roaring a touch too much and was pretty uncomfortable – but beer and hangover fatigue had set in. The only move we were willing to do was to the well appointed toilets, which came replete with plenty of blackboards. There was a raging discussion on the merits of Deep Purple who had played Oxford the night before – which yet again confirmed my suspicion that for all their scary exterior Metallers and Bikers are the softest people in the world. Even the banter between us and the other people skiving off work in there was good natured.

It strikes me that having a central pub in a town like Oxford cannot always be eay to conjure up any sort of ambience. You are too open to the vagaries of tourists, office and shop workers as well as potential genuine locals (students). One was creating that kind of community is to theme the pub, like this was. The theme here though was completely organic, had come out of the landlords own interests and therefore people who liked his pub, liked him and he liked them back. I do not usually like theme pubs, and it would be rude to lump the Gloucester in that group. This short trip had certainly won me over from my previous trip there where I lost two quid in the jukebox. But maybe only for a Monday Afternoon.