College Bar Wars: Clare versus St. John's

Image credit: Jessie Mathewson

It’s highly likely that you will have visited your college bar at some point this week. They’re often the centre of college life in the evenings, as a space in which you can relax, have a laugh with friends and forget the day’s essay crisis / problematic problem page / disastrous supervision.

But have you ever been to another college’s bar?

Some are admittedly easier to get into than others – especially during the first few weeks of term when people don’t know if you belong to their college or not. But make a couple of friends from other colleges and invite yourself over one night. You might be surprised at what you find.

Over the course of the term, I’m going to be making my way around as many college bars as possible. This week, I visited Clare and St John's.

Clare Bar / Clare Cellars

Almost everyone has heard of Clare Ents, the Friday night music/dancing/drinking extravaganza in Clare Cellars. Clare wins points for architecture – right underneath the chapel, supported by large stone pillars, the Cellars are the place to be if you’re looking for an atmospheric place to end (or begin) your evening. But you’ll need to go early, because the bar reaches its capacity quickly and can get quite crowded later on in the evening. It’s a good place to come for pre-drinks before you take advantage of the discounted tickets they sometimes sell for Life and Cindies. During the day it can feel a bit cold, gloomy and lifeless. They don’t do food or hot drinks either, which didn’t bother us until we realised how many other colleges sell snacks and toasties in their bar.

Having said that, the bar hosts a lot of events throughout the term; as well as Ents (Fridays) and Clare Jazz (Saturdays), during Michaelmas they’re also holding a Film Night, Cocktail Evening and charity nights in support of Movember. Of course, a visit to the Cellars isn’t complete without Clare’s speciality drink: a Stone Cold. Lurid green and consisting of a mixture of whiskey, cider and who knows what else, this drink doesn’t taste particularly appetising (to my palate anyway - there are a few who would disagree). And at £5 per glass, it’s not cheap either. Buy one to share, then stick to the £1.50 shots.

Atmosphere: 4/10 during the day, 9/10 in evening

Value for money: 7/10

Overall: 7/10

Emma Rutter

St John’s

St John’s is a pretty imposing college at best, and even more so when you’ve never visited it before and you’re trying to work out where the bar is. But by following the sound of laughter and clinking glasses, you should be able to find it. Having said that, there’s no guarantee you’ll get in if you’re not with a member of the college, so make the effort to talk to that person beside you at lectures - you never know who you might meet!

If you do manage to enter into the bar, a real treat awaits you. It’s bright and friendly, and offers a great selection of hot food and desserts (I recommend the toffee apple pancakes) at bargain prices. They’re currently running a deal which would make the perfect afternoon pick-me-up: if you buy a cake at full price - Chelsea bun or raspberry-almond tart, anyone? -  a hot drink will only set you back £1.25. Even better news is that their ‘signature drink’, the St John’s shot, costs less than Clare’s Stone Cold and, in my opinion, tastes much better. In typical John’s style, it’s lavishly decorated with cream and sprinkled with some sort of sweet dust - something I think Mary Berry would like very much.  

There are quiz nights in the JCR every Friday this month and, whilst the bar doesn’t seem to hold many events of its own, it makes up for that with a wide selection of board games.

Atmosphere: 8/10 during the day, 9/10 in the evening

Value for money: 8/10

Overall: 9/10

Emma Rutter

blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories

In this section

Across the site

Best of the Rest