Local, homely and proper: The Star delivers on drinks and atmosphere
I’ve been on a quest to find my new favourite watering hole ever since pubs reopened this year. Oxfordshire is not short of stunning outdoor venues and you can read all about that in our comprehensive guide to pub gardens. Enter The Star on Rectory Road: a traditional pub with lots of character. On the eve of the pubs reopening back in April, I caught up with new managers Gus and Anna.
“The Star had always been our favourite pub in Oxford,” says Anna. The acquisition was not without controversy – acolytes of the pub grew suspect that a big commercial chain had swooped in, and a petition soon started doing the rounds. Gus previously managed both White Rabbit pubs in Oxford and Bristol, but having met them I can’t imagine a more humble and lovely team of publicans.
The Star remains a proper pub.
That is to say, no food menu in sight aside from your classic pub snacks like scampi fries. They are, however, encouraging patrons to bring takeaways into the pub garden. So, if you do get peckish, Cowley Road is just around the corner with no shortage of great choices. This reverse-BYOB scheme is a simple yet great idea – if you and your partner can’t decide on whether to have a curry or pizza, why not have both at the Star? A Bitten dream come true! Look out for their street food pop-ups as well.
The new owners have been hard at work refurbing the pub in the intervening lockdown months; Anna’s mum even chipped in with the gardening! “We have two little resident robins that keep coming back here,” says Anna, “I love them – I talk to them when I do the garden.”
The garden is beautiful and spacious, providing a welcome sanctuary within the urban sprawl of Cowley Road. It’s positively idyllic. Or as Gus puts it, “It’s probably the best green-space pub garden around Cowley.” He’s right. The interior is as charming as ever, and there’s always a bubbling, friendly atmosphere that makes you feel right at home.
Beer-wise, they’re keeping it local, with pints from Loose Cannon in Abingdon and Siren in Berkshire. In addition to this, there’s draft Beavertown Neck Oil and a rotating guest tap. For the non-beer lovers, there are plenty of brilliant wines and spirits up for grabs. “Five shots of Fireball whisky for £10” is emblazoned in the centre of the menu – I’m saving this order for a special occasion.
Regulars of the old Star will remember another classic pub fixture – the pool tables. Unfortunately, these weren’t included in the sale of the pub.
My burning question is whether we’ll see cue sports in the Star again. “They’re coming back, my friend!” enthuses Anna. “When we’re allowed. None of that ping pong.”
The Star is a bookings-free zone and you can stay for as long as you like, so just rock-up – perhaps with your favourite pizza takeaway from Cowley Road.
21 Rectory Rd, Cowley, Oxford OX4 1BU