College Bar Wars: Downing versus St. Catz

Image credit: Emma Rutter

Downing Bar/The Butterfield

The Downing Bar feels like an exclusive clubhouse. Completely separate from the rest of the college buildings, furnished with chunky leather sofas, dart board and pool table, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in an Ivy League university in New England. It sells Costa coffee during the day and transforms into a bar at night; and what’s more, performs exceedingly well at both. They make up for the lack of bops with themed nights throughout the term, and also run pub quizzes. When we visited, it was ‘Tropical Takeover’ night and the bar was kitted out with inflatable parrots, a live band and coconutty cocktails at rock bottom prices. Keep an eye out for their promotions, such as Tequila Tuesdays (£1 per shot) or Frothy Fridays (£2 Budweisers). In fact, Downing is the perfect place for pre-drinks because you can buy queue jump tickets for the main clubs every night of the week. Don’t forget to try the ‘Downing Machete’ – a potent blend of cherry sours, whisky and port that tastes deceptively sweet and fruity but will have you on the floor after just one pint.

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

Value for money: 9/10

Overall: 8.5/10

St Catharine’s

The bar at St Catz is another café-bar hybrid, selling cooked breakfast and pastries in the morning, paninis at lunchtime and the usual array of drinks in the evening, including the occasional craft beer. One thing that makes it stand out from the rest, though, is the salad bar: a way to increase your vegetable intake without spending a fortune in Pret. It makes a good place to study during the daytime, with plug sockets for chargers, relatively comfy seats and of course, a wide range of refreshments. Plus, they’ve even got their own eco-friendly Catz travel mug, so you can take your coffee on the go. Food and hot drinks are good value, and they’ll occasionally offer meal deals such as Mexican night, where you can grab a portion of chilli with nachos and a drink for under a fiver.  (Speaking of drinks, if you’re looking for something different, try out the St Catz Fire Engine, mixed in great batches at bops: a combination of vodka, gin and Ribena.)

I imagine that the bar looks quite exciting in the evening; it’s underground, with shiny surfaces and bright white and blue lights, though this feels a bit artificial and cold during the day. They run quiz nights and comedy evenings, and there’s a TV and pool table so you’ll always find something to do, whether you’re attempting to study there or not.

Atmosphere: 7/10 during the day, 7/10 in the evening

Value for money: 8/10

Overall: 7/10

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