Now closed. (summer 2006)
The first rule of Wharf House is, you don't talk about Wharf House. I almost don't want to tell you too much about it because it's so good I want to keep it for myself.
I would like to say that I'm a regular at this pub, but I only go two or three times a week. Regulars go two or three times a day. At the end of the day in some pubs the landlord will shout "Don't you lot have homes to go to?" but Tony Flatman at the Wharf knows better, as a reasonably high percentage of the clientele don't.
There'd be sawdust on the floor if the pub could afford fresh sawdust.
It's bare, it's unwelcoming, it's violent, and it's obnoxious. But it's the best pub in Oxford. No, no, I don't mean that. I mean, it's a local pub, for local people. It opened in 1851, and is "one of only two original buildings in the ancient St Ebbe's parish". Karl Marx used to drink here, allegedly.
First, there's always two interesting guest beers on, as well as the regulars of Pitchfork and Hook Norton. The Oxford brewery are trying to get their ale as a house beer, but last I heard Tony was unimpressed. The beers are cheap - well, they have to be.
Second, there's always a fantastic range of continental bottled beers, a reasonable number of which are on the shelves, but some you have to ask Tony about.
And then there's the music. There are very occasionally live acts, with regulars playing blues guitar and harmonica. But most of the time, it's Tony and his extensive music collection, plus whatever people bring in. The last few times I've been there, it's been Renaissance (all together now... "The northern lights are in my mind...") plus various bits of folk-rock, Ry Cooder, Richard and Linda Thompson ("My dreams have withered and died") and Eddie Reader. You will hear new - and very good - music here.
Oh, and mind the dog.
Colin, 29 September 1999
Very quiet pub. Even on a Saturday evening. This is more to do with the location than anything else. It's very good. They do two real ciders or perries, which are kept in polypins, but aren't usually on the bar in summer on account of the heat. All the students I have ever seen in here have been ones I've brought or been taken by.
Red-painted benches out the front where you can sit in the sun, and an Aunt Sally (Hook Norton) out the back on [Butterwyke Place]?.
Mark Dickerson, 12 January 1998
I really like the Wharf House; but it should be moved by God to the centre of Jericho. Where it is means that a lot of people have never heard of it, and I'm afraid the regulars are "characters". This used to be one of the most frightening pubs in Oxford, and then got done up; the locals are sometimes still intimidating, but I've never had any problems.
Mind you, I don't walk around in a boater and college scarf.
Decor is stripped pine, rather like the Evening Star in Brighton; the pub is about the size of the [Carpenter's Arms]?. The owners are friendly, and the beer selection quite superb, though the bottles are expensive (£1.50-£6.95, mostly around £2-£3). Draught beer is normally Hook Norton Best and RCH Pitchfork, plus two more obscure guests; for lager fans Bitburger; also draught Hoegaarden and a scrumpy. Bottles usually include Orval; Chimay Bleu (and sometimes the others); Guinness foreign Extra Stout; Rodenbach Ordinaire; Adventinus; perhaps 15-20 more.
Basically, go with a quietish group, perhaps on route to the Head of the River or the Folly, and give it a try. Coachloads of Camra fans turning up are usually a good sign (if not actually when you're there).