The Eagle and Child

Price guide: Mid-range

49 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LU

Price guide: Mid-range

The Eagle and Child

By Adrian Mourby, your Oxford expert

I write for Classic FM, Evening .... Read more
#27 of 27
expert-rated restaurants in Oxford
Expert overall rating:3.3 out of 5
Food and drink:
3.8
3.8
Ambience:
4.2
4.2
Service:
3.7
3.7
Location:
4.3
4.3
Value for money:
3.7
3.7
Recommended for:
Backpackers / Students, Culture vultures, Mature travellers, No fuss, People watching

Expert review of The Eagle and Child

The No.1 literary pub in Oxford.

This narrow 17th-century pub positively drips with history and myth. It’s claimed that when King Charles I tried to rule his kingdom from exile in Oxford during the Civil War, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was lodged here while Cromwell's troops kept watch from Summertown. Certainly the royalist lines ended north of The Eagle and Child, so it's possible.

More believable is the story that the pub was the literary home of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis and their writers’ group, the Inklings. They met in a private lounge at the back of the pub known as the Rabbit Room. It was here in 1950 that Lewis showed his friends the proofs for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was all innocent fun in those days, no condom machines or TV, just good honest pints and lost of pipe smoke. Today the Rabbit Room displays Inklings memorabilia but one wall has been knocked through to create an extension so its sense of seclusion is now lost.

Incidentally, the curious name of this pub dates from 1684 and is probably a reference to the coat of arms of the Earl of Derby, which in turn references a dubious story about one of the family’s babies being found in an eagle's nest. More informally the pub is also known as "the bird and baby", or even "the fowl and foetus".

Food and drink: 

Good solid pub fare. The vegetable risotto and sticky chicken are about as far as the bird and baby goes when it comes to foreign food. Expect - and enjoy - Cumberland sausage, club sandwich, beef casserole, Scottish salmon, fish and chips or a Hereford-beef burger. 

Recommended dishes: 

The pieces de resistance are the Great British Nicholson's Pies.

Ambience: 

There's still a sense of authenticity about this drinking hole. The fireplaces and settles at the front of the pub hark back to the days when dons wore tweeds and spent very little time with their wives (assuming they remembered they were married).

Service: 

Reasonable. No-one expects to feel loved in a British pub.

Location: 

Towards the top of St Giles, a wide street (in reality three running in parallel) that heads north from the Martyrs' Memorial as far as the parish church of St Giles. For centuries The Eagle and Child was owned by University College. It was recently sold to St John's College, just opposite, for more than £1million. An extraordinary amount of Oxford is owned by the university’s older colleges who make most of their money from financial investments (the education of students is a business that only breaks even).

Price advice: 

Breakfast is good value at £5.50; sanwiches £4.95-£5.95; the 10oz rib eye steak costs £9.95.

Tables to book: 

Keep to the front unless you are a lover of conservatories.

More information on The Eagle and Child:

Price guide:
Mid-range
Type:
Pub
Food:
British
Address:
49 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LU
Telephone:
01865 302 925
Serves:
Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Dinner
Opening times:
Sun-Thurs 10am-11pm; Fri-Sat 10am-midnight; breakfast served till noon, sandwiches until 5pm, main courses from noon-10pm.
Accepts Credit Cards:
Yes
Reservations:
Not possible

Have you been to The Eagle and Child? Would you recommended it?