I used to love the Prince of Wales in Iffley. It was a proper pub with proper beer, a proper fire and proper alcoholics propping up the bar. Though not a regular, I used to always get a warm welcome from Peter and Lona when they ran the pub, and Peter was one of the few people in Oxford with whom I could discuss Scottish championship football.
I was hoping the new owners would take the pub onto even better heights. Sadly despite some fantastic investment from them, I fear they are going down the wrong route. The new extension and cream paint job makes the pub very bright, white and airy. It ‘feels’ more like a coffee shop or cafe than a cosy pub. The selection of whiskies and rums has been cut back and the emphasis on food has increased.
Now look, running a pub is a tough business and food makes more money than beer, so I’m fine with that. Sadly, a meal there last night confirmed my suspicions. The Prince of Wales has become a pseudo-Gastro Pub. By this I mean that it offers a cut above ‘honest pub fare’ but doesn’t quite have the execution to pull off the dishes in the same way pubs like The Magdalen Arms, J&F or The Mole can. Thus what you end up with, is an expensive-ish meal (£50 for 2 mains incl 1 bottle of wine) that leaves you thinking….’hmmm I probably could have cooked that better at home’.
To be fair, the old Prince had very ropey food at times, but this was balanced by the fact that it had a great pub atmosphere. Now I just don’t know where to stand. I ordered the Chorizo, black pudding and mushroom salad with poached egg. The egg was cooked well, and everything else was delicious but it wasn’t really cooked with any skill – just a big fry-up in a pan chucked in with some leaves. Emma had plaice in some lobster sauce (that tasted distinctly like it had come from a jar) and some fairly basic looking veg. The wine was server warm at first, and when we asked for an ice bucket they didn’t really know that it also needs water in it or the bottle can sit.
I don’t know if my attitude makes me sound like a snob, but this is what I hate about pubs like this. If you are going to be a pub…then be a pub. Focus on serving great beer and hearty food. If you want to up your prices and try to be a gastropub/restaurant then you need to have the skills, staff and service to deliver against this.
I really want the Prince of Wales to success. It’s an essential part of the village and despite my current grievances, I wish it no ill. I’m sure I’ll continue to drink there and the new owners seem like great people. I just hope the shock will wear off and it will soon regain my affection. However, currently I really don’t like the new approach and decor and the affect it has all had on the atmosphere… it leaves me feeling a little bit homeless when it come to knowing what my favourite pub in Oxford is.