Characterful free house undergoing constant refurbishment. Homemade cakes and cream teas, local beers, limited home-made hot meals (call to check hours). Room for hire. Canoe hire and boat storage. Cash payment only - no cards accepted.
Opening hours: Summer (April - August): Mon-Wed closed; Thu 4-11; Fri 12-11; Sat 10:30-11; Sun 10:30-9; BH Mondays 10:30-9. Winter (September - March): Mon-Thu closed; Fri 12-11; Sat 10:30-11; Sun 10:30-8. Food served: 12.30-2.30 & 6.30-8.30pm (8pm Sundays). Dogs allowed.Private room for hire.
Private room available. Cuisine: British & Veg/Vegan friendly.
Real Fire, Real Ales, Children welcome, Food served, There are sofas & Live music events
Capacity: 160. Equipment Spec.: In-house PA, 16 channel mixing desk, indoor & outdoor ('Tree')stages & some equipment (mics, stands) for live gigs (in the Barn). No soundman (you will need to bring your own & set up the room for use from scratch before each use). PA & small desk for djing in front bar (also requires setup).
The Towing Path
Iffley / Rose Hill
Summer (April - August): Mon-Wed closed; Thu 4-11; Fri 12-11; Sat 10:30-11; Sun 10:30-9; BH Mondays 10:30-9.
Winter (September - March): Mon-Thu closed; Fri 12-11; Sat 10:30-11; Sun 10:30-8.
Telephone: 01865 243854
Coming soon to The Isis Farmhouse:
Bonfire Night at the Isis Farmhouse Fri, 7th November 2014: 8pm (doors 6.30pm)
Bastard English Folk Session Fri, 14th November 2014: 8pm
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Latest venue reviews
+ This week at The Isis Farmhouse >>>
We called at the Isis when on a caravan break to Oxford for the Easter weekend. Actually, we called in 3 days running. What a wonderful pub - in the process of being refurbished - but full of character. The owners we found very friendly, and they chatted about the history of the pub. The food was lovely - beans on toast - brilliant! If ordering for small children probabaly one between two would have been enough. Real Ales and cider. We even called in on the Monday when we were leaving to have scones and coffee, and will certainly be returning when we are next up from Wales.
jano (Unverified), 22/04/14
The Isis were the perfect venue for a large family lunch (22 guests plus 4 kids). We booked a couple of large tables in the barn at the back. The food was delicious, promptly served, filling and good value. Jonathan was a prompt communicator. Yes, he's certainly not ingratiating, but he was very helpful throughout the process (even going so far as to suggest a range of other venues when we considered self-catering).
Anon (Unverified), 25/01/14
I emailed the Isis farmhouse twice, once to ask about holding a wedding and once about New Year's Eve. Both times I was responded to the same day, with full and helpful information. Regarding the wedding, the manager was very friendly and jokey, giving us advice on how to save money and even a list of alternative venues if the Isis didn't suit us. I have yet to meet him, but first impressions were very favourable.
Letlozz (Unverified), 21/12/13
The Isis is a gem of a pub. The venue is gorgeous and the home made cakes are delicious. I don't know what the fuss is about the manager, I have always found him to be helpful and polite. I highly recommend this pub.
Tinkerbelle (Unverified), 18/12/13
Have to agree with the negative reviews I'm afraid; yes, a great location, shame about the service and the manager's attitude about a good customer experience.
This place is magical. Don't listen to the whingers down below. If you go, make the time to enjoy it. Food is delicious. Not cheap, but excellent quality! Do remember to bring cash.
HappyCustomer (Unverified), 08/11/13
Avoid. It is in a lovely location and a lot of excellent work has been done, the gardens and barn are great and getting better. But I would rather spend my money elsewhere, the attitude of the manager appears to be, we don't have to give good service, if you don't like us, go elsewhere. Shame since it could be a top pub in the country. He should get someone else front of house. Very expensive as well. I won't be going back.
Farcelona (Unverified), 28/10/13
I went to The Isis for a wedding reception recently. Whilst it's a lovely location, I don't think that's enough to carry it. The service was, I found, pretty poor. Staff seemed frosty at best and appeared uninformed about the food.
Jax (Unverified), 01/09/13
I have been to the Isis many times and would concur with the numerous comments about the easily irritated owner. But I would like readers to know that the I believe the 'owner' is in fact an XT220 Proto-Android, that boffins at the university are testing as part of their research into machine intelligence. So far the XT220 has simulated the following human responses: sarcasm, over-reaction, intolerance, poor judgement, arrogance and peevishness.
Pelican Joe (Unverified), 17/08/13
In my opinion it's only the location that saves this pub. I found the owner pompous and rude.
MYeti (Unverified), 14/08/13
Just another voice in the conversation.
Hellwyn Ballard (Unverified), 05/08/13
We held a wedding reception in the barn of the Isis Farmhouse at the beginning of June 2013 - the Isis is a pub we love and visit as often as possible, and everything about our experience was just as spectacular as we'd expected. Gorgeous location; lovely barn that we were able to decorate just as we wanted and had plenty of space for dinner and dancing; huge portions of delicious seasonal food; and finally the relaxed, informal, happy atmosphere we'd hoped for. The Isis is, most certainly, the best pub and event venue in Oxford.
cec7 (Unverified), 03/08/13
Basil Fawlty is alive and kicking at the Isis Farmhouse. The pub is only open from Thursday afternoon to Sunday and the owner is pompous and seems to think his customers are honoured to be in the place. In addition, we sent our 'slow cooked' pheasant back as it was completely inedible!
Joe (Unverified), 01/08/13
The food is simple and very good quality - especially the baking.
kingfisher (Unverified), 30/07/13
SO... I play in an Oxford based covers band. We've been gigging for years and have met hundreds of events organisers/managers/co-ordinators during this time. We've been booked to play at The Isis twice and our most recent experience urged me to write this review...
Oxfordband (Unverified), 27/07/13
Had been trying to go for ages but the irregular opening times make this very tricky. Great location and really great beer selection, food good too. Sadly our experience was not great and more than just a touch of "British grumpiness" as I don't think I have ever been spoken to so rudely by a member of staff before for absolutely no reason. Considering how many great pubs there are in Oxford which offer equivalent standard food and drinks AND give you great customer service, I would really not bother going back, nor recommend it to anyone.
tigger (Unverified), 11/07/13
There was a pub called The Isis
Where we'd heard the cakes were the nicest
We cycled on over
Past the river and the clover
To find indeed t'was the finest
But enough of limericks! My son and I cycled over to The Isis Farmhouse on a drizzling Saturday afternoon last week. We saw the Landlord as we walked in and he was his usual polite self. I ordered a drink and some crisps and a piece of fruit cake, the size of a small Double Decker Bus but far more delicious, while my little boy sat by the log burner warming himself and his gloves. We then sat in the very relaxed atmosphere and enjoyed our tasty crisps and amazingly good cake. There was a mix of people from Oxford as well as different parts of the world, different ages and also some other children there. The only disappointment was having to leave and go back outside into the cold.
Goosey (DI User), 17/02/13
My favourite pub! I know people have complained about bad service, but my experiences have always been totally opposite to those complaints, Not too long ago I got caught out in the rain, and even worse, my very young daughter for some reason became scared of the umbrella. I rushed to the Isis to get dry and the owner's wife quickly produced a fresh and clean towel, and the bartender lent me a children's umbrella which she wasn't scared of.
Even on an extremely busy and sunny Sunday, we got three lunches delivered in seven minutes flat.
It's an efficient, well run establishment, with good staff.
Charlie (Unverified), 23/07/12
We held a private party with 100 guests at the Isis in June 2012 and had a wonderful time. The food and drink was excellent - our friends and family were all very impressed. The landlord took care of everything and was keen to help and so we received great service. The children had plenty of space to run around the garden and the barn was nice to sit in when it got cooler in the evening. Highly recommended as a venue.
SimonJenny (Unverified), 25/06/12
We recently organised a wedding reception at the Isis and the service we received on the night was exceptional throughout.
We hired the barn at the back and on a warm summer's evening it was a perfect setting - eating great food, playing aunt Sally and dancing in the barn with the sunset in the background. The staff were friendly and professional at all times, and many of our guests commented on how well run everything was.
We had very few problems with the manager - there were times when he was slightly slow to respond to emails when setting things up, but everything that we asked for was exactly in place on the night, and he was extremely helpful in setting up/packing away decorations etc.
We'd thoroughly recommend it.
OxfordRiverside (Unverified), 28/05/12
Best pub in Oxford, cosy and intimate, in a lovely location by the river.
Don't forget to take cash though as there is not a cash machine or means to pay by card!
ISIS Fan (Unverified), 24/05/12
Avoid. The Isis has the unfriendliest manager of any Oxford pub, food and drink is overpriced, service is slow. A great pity, as the location is truly lovely.
Local person (Unverified), 18/04/12
I realise that what I am about to write is somewhat out of date now, but having read through some of the reviews below I thought it might be useful to try and provide some balance to the views on "Bonfire Night".
I, too, have been visiting the Isis for at least a couple of years, and it is my venue of choice for a cosy and spontaneous get-together. The drinks menu is excellent and the cream teas are the best in Oxford - even better than can be had a The Old Parsonage, which is really saying something in my view.
Almost every time I've visited the Isis it has been extremely busy, and it can take a little while for service at the bar. However, when I say busy, I mean busy, and consequently it is nothing short of miraculous that service is given as swiftly and efficiently as it is; and the fact that the Isis has never run out of scones (at least not when I've been there) on a warm sunny day when it is at its most busy is testament to the commitment of the owners to its success. There is usually a large wood burner in action, too, providing a lovely warm atmosphere on the less than sunny days. All in all, then, a really lovely venue in my my opinion and my experience.
But... The bonfire night was a bit of a disaster! Not alone because of the lack of fireworks and the unfortunate wording of the promotional literature.
Firstly, the music was sorely let down by a lack of amplification. I can only assume that there was a problem with the PA, but with solo acoustic artists on the bill, this was next to impossible to accommodate in a large room. Also, because the bands were playing in the converted barn and it was bloody freezing outside, the doors to the bar had to remain closed. This meant that there were three choices available to punters: 1) sit inside in absolute silence while the whispery acoustic acts tried to make themselves heard (and possibly sitting on the stone floor, as the stage was set in the middle of the room facing the opposite side, rather at one end of the long room); 2) sit outside in the freezimg cold where there were the remnants of a frankly rather pathetic and fenced off bonfire - a bonfire which gave off about as much warmth as my bottom; 3) go inside the pub and forego the advertised events.
In the end, the final option was the only one worth picking for me and for my friends, though by this time, the pub was rammed. My £5.00 (which would have been negligible had I bought anything at all) was thus a bit hard to justify parting with.
Had the Isis planned things a little more thoroughly (something I am sure they intended to do), then the evening could have been a roaring success. A nice warm fire and audible music might have been quite magical, but instead, it was a disjointed and misrepresentative muddle.
All this said, I am still an enormous fan of the pub, and I am in fact on my way there now with my infant son! I only hope the pub's full potential is realised, as nights like Bonfire Night will cause its deservedly excellent reputation some serious damage if they are not learnt from.
berlake (Unverified), 15/04/12
The Isis is great. Lovely place for families and despite other reviews, the landlord has always been very pleasant when we have visited. Given its location and how hard the margins are for pubs nowadays, we need to support local gems like this as much as possible. Usually good music/events are put on monthly and the food is generally very decent (though usually there are only 1-2 main dishes on offer).
Probably the best place to have a beer in the sunshine in Oxford.
Oxbod (DI User), 11/04/12
I do not agree with the comments about the manager of the Isis. I have always found him reasonable and often friendly. If you ever have a problem I suggest you talk to him.
The Isis is an asset to Oxford - fine homemade cakes, tea and coffee better than most pubs, an unique atmosphere. If you have never been there, do not be put off by any of the critical reviews, I suggest you try it!
Joe N (Unverified), 09/04/12
Sorry to say that I've witnessed poor behaviour from the landlord too. He runs a good pub in a beautiful location, but just comes across as snappy. He was so unpleasant to a table of people on Saturday that they left. Luckily I haven't encountered it first hand, but have witnessed it more than once.
Not desperate to leave a comment like this regarding anyone's independent establishment in these difficult times, but what happened on Saturday afternoon was quite out of order, and obvious enough for us to hear at a nearby table. Basically, whatever he thought of his customer's (perfectly fine) behaviour, he didn't handle it well.
Definitely won't rush to go back (keep giving it a chance and more than once have witnessed this from him).
I've been an irregular visitor to the Isis for the past four years or so and in my mind it's one of the top pubs in Oxford.
This weekend I hired the rear 'barn' venue for a simple group party and the service we received was exceptional. The venue was set exactly as we required, the staff were friendly, helpful and welcoming. Several people in our group were new visitors to the Isis and all remarked on what a fantastic place it was.
The drinks range was great, the food was the delicious and the atmosphere perfect for a cold winter's evening.
I make no apologise for the slightly gushy tone of this review - it is rare to find somewhere that hits so near to my view of a perfect pub.
We will be back.
Jarethshair (DI User), 12/12/11
In response to the unhappy customer who wrote the last review - I don't work for the Isis, but I was the promoter of the bonfire night event. First off, I'm genuinely very sorry to hear you didn't have a good evening! We did our best to put on a good show. However, a lot of people I spoke to seemed to think they were coming to a different event. We tried to make it clear that this was an indoor music event with a bonfire at the beginning, rather than a fireworks display. And we tried to make this clear on the posters, on the Daily Info listing, and we even put a breakdown of what was happening when on the tickets website, so it did specify that the fire would be lit at 7pm, and the music would start at 8:30pm.
But perhaps the title 'Bonfire Night @ The Isis' was misleading, and in retrospect I wish I had added 'this is a music event - sorry, there will be no fireworks'. I can appreciate that £5 is a lot to pay for just to see a bonfire, but it's hopefully not an unreasonable amount to pay for 2 hours of music. Either way, I hope you'll understand that this was a promotion issue, and not the fault of the Isis as a venue. All the best - James.
James Bell (DI Reviewer), 09/11/11
I went to The Isis at the weekend for an event billed as an evening of bonfire and folk bands and felt conned into paying £5 for tickets.
I don’t think I’ve been quite as disappointed from a night in a long time. I came to this event as it seemed less ‘tacky’ than other local bonfire events. Little did I know it would be a complete wash-out. We got there at 8.30pm to be told that the bonfire had been ‘put-out’ and that we should have been there at 6.30pm when it was lit. Other people at the ‘event’ told us that they had been there since 7.30pm and they hadn’t seen any bonfire and were also disappointed. There were also no fireworks, allegedly because they couldn’t be bothered to work with health and safety regulations.
They had outdoor stages, that in previous years they had had fire poi dancers and such-like, this year they were bare.
The whole night was completely underwhelming. I will not be visiting The Isis again in the near future.
**** (Unverified), 07/11/11
We have been coming to The Isis for ages. It's the pub of our choice in Oxford. It has a wonderful atmosphere. Although there is not a massive menu, they serve one meat, & one veggie per day the food is gorgeous. It tastes like proper home cooked food. And the cakes are to die for. I love the fact that there is an extensive drink menu. I can have a pot of Earl Grey, whilst my partner has a Wheat Beer. It's a very special place.
august23 (DI User), 14/05/11
I was walking at Iffley Lock last Sunday and my little boy needed the loo. We were very close to The Isis Farmhouse and took the liberty. As the day was windy and a bit wet the Isis wasn’t too busy which was nice for us. A group of elderly people were leaving as we arrived, one in a wheelchair all looking very happy and laughing. The toilets were very clean and my little boy enjoyed looking at the amusing rowing picture on the wall.
We then stayed on and had a packet of crisps and the most delicious large piece of gingerbread cake. Unfortunately my children (aged 2 and 4) both loved the cake so I could easily have done with another large slice just for myself! However a slice of apple and raspberry crumble cake was also on hand – delicious! And they really are homemade, not ‘bought in homemade’ that you will find in other pubs and restaurants.
The Isis Farmhouse has a wonderful warm and cosy atmosphere, with a welcoming quiet about it with low lights and real fires. The staff are friendly and the landlord very cheerful. It is dog and child/pushchair friendly. A very lovely place to stop off at while on a walk or cycle
Goosey (Unverified), 20/01/11
We love it. The beaten up interior is cosy and brilliant, the food good and simple, the staff fun and friendly, and best of all - you can't drive there! Hurrah for a pub for walkers, boaters and cyclists!
Quest (Unverified), 16/01/11
The Isis is easily the best pub in Oxford. All the staff work extremely hard and do their best to accommodate requests. The rustic food and the cakes are fantastic. There is a wide choice of beers and ciders on offer all perfectly kept. Bit by bit the landlord and landlady are improving the inside of the pub. We like the pub so much we walk along the river from Wolvercote just to have a couple of pints in the Isis. As for the landlord being criticized, I just don't understand it. He is a perfectionist and perhaps 'does not suffer fools gladly'. We find him extremely friendly and knowledgable, a pleasure to speak to and always very, very welcoming!
PatnTed (Unverified), 02/01/11
Cozy November evening at the Isis with a box of paints and the collected works of Yeats. It was cold on the towpath and warm in the candlelit farmhouse. Lingered for hours by the fireside drinking pints of the dark lager. This is a perfect pub.
Kate (Unverified), 14/11/10
This is an amazing place: best pub in Oxford, easily. The good points? Individual, un-corporate, grown-out-of-itself atmosphere, reflected in everything from the decor (down at heel but charming, an odds and sods accumulation, canoe on the ceiling with fairy lights etc.) to the eclectic opening hours to the food to the superb and very local beers and ales to the occasional live folk music. The location: near a beautiful village with an ancient church, and next to a river with willows drooping over it, fronting onto the pub garden. I was surprised by some of the negative reviews and will address them, very quickly, here - though I could equally have incorporated them into the plus-points!
1) the supposedly frosty landlord. This surprised me. He's always seemed perfectly nice, polite and relaxed to me. Ditto the staff. Then again, I think the comments from one reviewer about politeness getting politeness back probably holds water.
2) it's cold in winter. Yes, it is, and I think it's great. The whole pub is about getting out of the safe, monotonously samey, mindlessly easy culture that's grown up around us. It's cold in winter because winter is cold. You therefore sit near the fire, if it's lit (which it almost always is, in winter), or keep your coat on - and relish the contrast between getting warm and being cold. No central heating: but then, people seemed to survived without it for most of human history ...
3) Food. It's not Raymond Blanc, no. But it's hearty, tasty, homemade, hot and filling. Moral of the story: this is not some twee Country Life gastropub you ponce out to in a rangerover, thinking you're having a nice day out in the country like your yeomen forefathers. If you want that - well, get in your rangerover and go somewhere where they have heating and take cards!
poortom (Unverified), 27/10/10
Ah, the lemon polenta cake - even moister today then ever. No-one makes it better. The last owners had turned the poor place into a shadow of its former self - scampi and chips, burgers, etc. Jonathan and Jane have rescued it and turned it into something unusual and full of character. I really like the fact that there is a limited menu, and once it's gone that's it for the day - OK, sometimes I have turned up late and the best cakes have gone or the hot food is sold out, but that is the price you pay for Slow Food of this quality. So if you want a quick meal that's mass-produced and the same every time, don't go here. If you want a relaxed outing with excellent and unusual home-cooked food (and of course a walk by the river) there is nowhere better. I'm bemused by comments that the owners can be 'frosty' - just because you're reserved doesn't make you frosty, people. I've always found them polite, helpful and interesting to talk to. All hail, Isis Farmhouse.
LL (Unverified), 15/08/10
We went to a wedding reception here recently - what a great venue for it.
Town hall wedding, walk to the river and then a trip on the ferry to the Isis.
Service and food excellent, a superb time was had by old and young together.
Thanks Isis team, would recommend you to anyone.
Brian (Unverified), 04/08/10
I'm really surprised that people complain about the landlord - I've never had any problems with him. Maybe that's coz I always remember to bring cash - (remember that one if you are going there!)
I went in there with my husband a few minutes before closing and he gave us free tea and cake because it was our anniversary and we'd arrived too late to eat. Yes, the cake was probably going in the bin anyway - but who cares? I've been in many a pub where the landlord would have just told us to go away.
It's a uniquely lovely place in Oxford, and frankly if the people who only appreciate false politeness and plasticised menus stay away after reading the comments here, then great!
Claire (Unverified), 03/08/10
Great place. A real find and totally un-done-up or over-gentrified. It was packed in the big garden on a sunny Sunday, lovely and peaceful- no big roads nearby. Distant hum from the A34 but hey ho this is the 21st century.
shezma (Unverified), 26/07/10
We went to the Isis Farmhouse on Sunday. I had looked at the OS map and decided it might be a nice walk from Iffley (despite not having been there before) to Oxford. Luckily I was right, not only is Iffley a beautiful little village but the lock is interesting and the walk is perfect for a Sunday afternoon.
Apart from the village and the lock, the 'Farmhouse' was a definite highlight. There was one meat, one fish and one veggie dish when we went. We shared the meat and fish dishes and they were delicious and not expensive. Also tried the beer and cider and it was great. On the way back from Oxford, we popped in again - this time for tea - and the cake was also delicious.
So ignore all the negative comments and try it - if only there were more pubs left like this in an un-'done-up' state.
Tim (Unverified), 21/07/10
Have frequented the Isis, well, frequently, and reading the reviews here, I'm a little bit surprised to hear the owner is regarded as unfriendly etc. He's certainly not "Have A Nice Day" but I think that's a good thing.
The decor is definitely shabby chic. I'm not shabby chic myself (just shabby) but actually it I think it suits the atmosphere of the place.
Never tried the food. Instead I tend to smuggle in Monster Munch from the Co-op.
Mr T (Unverified), 09/07/10
What a wonderful place! I had the pleasure of attending a private function at the Isis, and the landlord couldn't have done anymore to serve us. The food was excellent, I shall definitely be returning.
Ld (Unverified), 27/06/10
A beautiful summertime pub. I'd live here if I could. Local ales from the keg, bottles of English cider, outdoor tables under the shade of the trees by the lock or out the back to watch the sunset over Iffley Meadows. The Landlord/bar staff are always extremely friendly and welcoming to me.
middleclaire (Unverified), 22/06/10
What a brilliant atmosphere! And saved from Greene King's destruction and neglect. This haven is off the beaten track and away from the tourist hoardes of central Oxford and yet only a stones throw away. Lovingly tended by the couple who run it with improvements monthly. We love coming back to see the gradual transformation from cumbling farm house to quirky welcoming pub. Great home-cooked food and proper ales.
elle (Unverified), 18/05/10
Sounds like the below comment may have been written by the landlord himself? It's certainly in line with his attitude towards paying customers. I visit fairly often, and it seems more often than not he treats his patrons like a nasty rash that he's keen to see go as soon as possible. If there is any problem with your food, don't both complaining, it's more hassle than it's worth...
On the plus side, the beer selection is very good, and not too pricey, and the atmosphere can be great, especially as many of the other visitors are extremely friendly. The likelihood is that many of them will also have received a verbal thrashing from the landlord at some point, which breeds a strong sense of companionship!
DJ (Unverified), 30/04/10
Good food, good beer, good prices, good location, and good riddance to corporate mentality.
If you're completely unable to cope with the price of all this being a bit of traditional British grumpiness then please go somewhere else. Somewhere where the food's probably shite and the location a bit dodgy, but the walls are all painted magnolia and the landlord sells his beer with the cost of his inflated bonhomie factored in.
Don't complain, enjoy. This is the only pub worth the name left in Oxford. Eccentricity is priceless, for everything else there's Weatherspoons.
shev (Unverified), 19/04/10
There is general theme across all of these posts which is summed up, I think, by my own view that this pub has charm and a beatiful location, but can be let down by its customer service.
Beautiful location to sit in the beer garden and watch the river activity.
A lovely walk to reach it in either direction, and nice not to be able to drive to the door for once.
Honest home cooking at reasonable prices
Fair prices on drinks too and well kept beer.
Shabby decor which may be shabby chic, but a few hundred quid on a decorator would make a world of difference (why did they spend all that money on the ladies loo, and not on the main room of the pub?)
The landlord seems reluctantly helpful to his customers at best on a very good day, but more often than not seems to find us all an inconvenience. I have witnessed him being rude to pefectly well behaved customers who raised a reasonable query about their order. If he wasn't the owner, and someone else employed him, in my opinion he would be sacked by now.
It seems that the landlords find the business a stress to run, and this gives us all the feeling that this (great) business idea is all a mistake but they are now stuck with it. The other partner in the business seems to be the inspiration behind the kitchen, although she doesn't deal with front of house.
I dreamily go back each time and enjoy the Isis for the location and the food, but more often than not the landlord's attitude leaves a bad vibe in the air which takes all this enjoyment away, and I leave disappointed.
With a little investment, and training of staff to care and nurture their most valuable asset - their customers - this place could be thriving, rather than just surviving.
BH (Unverified), 08/04/10
The Isis is great in many ways. wonderful cakes, great toast, nice atmosphere, but I've been there dozens of times and the service is uniformly awful. Sure the staff are sweet, but they are so slow it's maddening. There is always a queue, which would be fine if it weren't avoidable. A till and a system for communicating with the kitchen would resolve so many problems and prevent there being so many disgruntled customers - and there are many of them. I see them every time I go there. Management can be very rude, too. Again - I've seen it many times.
It could be truly great, but they need to sort out the service issues.
BW (Unverified), 14/03/10
This is a great Oxford place to be, walkers, thinkers and nice people... if you like the George Street lager houses, you'll hate the Isis. Show me food that tastes that good at that price anywhere else? Of course the choice is limited - it didn't come out of a packet.
So good to see this place rescued from Greene King.
Pliny (Unverified), 13/03/10
I have been to the Isis many times, the new owners have taken this pub and turned it into a welcoming pub (it can be a bit cold if they do not have the fires going).
I work in Ireland and when I get home for along wekend it is the first pub I call into. This is an old pub by the river and is great for getting away from the world at large, just do not expect too much from it, as a lot of work still needs to be done.
Burn (Unverified), 04/02/10
Third time I've been here, first time it's actually been open and only knew it would be open this time as I preordered a ticket. Not impressed. The rooms were freezing, the staff were rude and clueless, I don't feel the landlord dealt with me in a professional manner. The only decent thing was the music in the "room" they have for hire at the back, but it was also freezing in there.
I would not recommend this place to anyone.
Tom (Unverified), 02/01/10
I have been to this pub on a few occasions since the new management took over, namely for Truck's Harvest festival & several of the brilliant "Queen of Clubs" nights, (both of which sadly no longer take place at this venue).
Unfortunately, on all these occasions I have found the management as frosty as stated in previous reviews and I have been left wondering why the manager here decided to run a pub at all, as he seems extremely put out whenever customers arrive and makes no secret of the fact. It feels very unwelcoming which is a real shame as the pub is in a beautiful spot and has so much potential.
After my repeated bad experiences at the Isis, I decided to give it one last chance and attend the New Year's Eve bash as several of my friends had bought tickets. I didn't arrive early enough to eat but apparantly the food was decent, although the choice was limited with just 2 dishes on the menu - one veggie and one meat. The evening itself was wonderful, there was a disco with a lovely friendly vibe, and live music from a great Irish band who played a gorgeous version of "Fairytale of New York" which sounded much like Shane and Kirsty in the original! The male singer also lead a rendition of "Old Lang Syne" at midnight which really got people into the party spirit! However, as soon as the party really started the music was forcibly turned down and the DJ was treated to a very public telling off by the chef!
Myself and my friends then retreated to the bar where there was a very subdued atmosphere and the staff seemed grumpy and like they couldn't wait to get rid of everyone. Despite this we found a corner and carried on drinking, only to find out that the whole place closed at 1.30! This was apparently due to the fact that they had to (begrudgingly?) open for New Year's day, but in our opinion this was very early to close on New Year's and dampened our spirits somewhat.
I won't be returning to the Isis unless it comes under new management - this lot couldn't organise a drinks party in a brewery.
Jen G (Unverified), 02/01/10
Both my boyfriend and I love the Isis, in fact it was during one of those wonderfully relaxed wasted Autumn afternoons that I realised that we would be continuing to have such magical afternoons for many years to come. The second I walked through the door, I felt instantly at home and relaxed, and have felt more so every visit (of which there have been many more since!). Whatever the season, it is a pleasant distraction and change from all the faceless attempts at gastropubs that litter towpaths along the Thames. Stocking fabulous local beers, a great selection of affordable wines, amazing range of teas and coffees and delicious organic home-cooked food, this is a real gem, which refuses to cater for the majority. It may seem like arrogance to the uninitiated, but the management have supreme confidence in what they do, and deservedly so. We have always been treated as welcome guests by bar staff and owners alike, and I would drink there above any other pub in Oxford. Combine this with live music and poetry, and you have (in our minds) the perfect watering hole. Bonfires in the winter, and family friendly festivals in the summer, what more could you ask for! xx
Rach (Unverified), 05/11/09
I have to agree with the majority of people who have mentioned the frosty reception from the owner - assuming the chap behinf the bar is the owner. I have been in several times and his attiude is dismissive and unfriendly. The service is appalling - it is cold, slow and generally not a good atmosphere. I love the Magic Cafe type of place with home made organic vegi food - it is a great idea for the Isis but is run by people who don't seem to know how to run a business that involves dealing with the public. When I first came to Oxford around 2005, the place was thriving, packed in the summer,with a relaxed atmospere and friendly staff - as much as I love the idea of local beers, organic food etc - I 'd rather go to a place with atmospere and a friendly face any day. A real shame for a place with such potential.
I love the Isis. Whenever I am in Oxford: winter, spring, summer, I go there. Last week: sitting in the garden, enjoying tea and cakes, reading the Sunday paper. Last autumn: sitting inside, eating funny kale-cakes. The Isis offers me cherished moments.
Willemien (Unverified), 19/08/09
I completely agree with Kate's review below, and can only add one or two comments of my own:
I understand why other reviewers have been disgruntled at the often overbearing management, but surely it is the customers too who can be overbearing. The kind of aggressive and bullish behaviour that one often finds in pubs is actively discouraged here. Speaking as a woman who likes to sit in beautiful pub gardens alone with a quiet pint, I welcome the management intervention against the louts who spoil the tranquility for everyone else.
I recall an occasion in early spring when I was in the (almost empty) pub, lunching with a friend. There was a group of three drinkers on the sofas and the girl on the bar on her own had to constantly ask them to keep their dog from trampling on the sofa. She was treated with increasing rudeness, until one of the men started shouting at her, and she asked him to leave. Surely in this case it was the customers "oppressing" the staff and others, rather than the staff oppressing the customers.
I can only speak from my own experience, but I find that most "good old-fashioned pubs" can have an "oppressive" atmosphere that the staff of the Isis work hard to eliminate from their pub. My only complaint is with the music - I was there for several hours the other day and the same cd was on repeat for the entire duration. A little tasteful music planning would work wonders on the atmosphere indoors. Trashy pop is not in my opinion the best accompaniment to excellent locally-brewed ales!
oxford 1 (Unverified), 16/08/09
We came across the Isis Farmhouse quite by fluke while walking on the towpath. We were seduced by its quiet, almost mournful, neglected air of a farmhouse fallen upon hard times which has opened its doors in a last ditch effort to remain in its family's ownership. Whether this is, or was, the case I don't know. What I do know is what a gem it appears to be. I was immediately taken in by its informality, atmosphere, music ('sensible' jazz / blues) and the quality of the beer (Appleford). We were so enamoured that we decided to include it as our lunch stop on the next day's walk. So imagine our surprise, not to say disappointment to find it closed at lunch time on a week day! What a lost opportunity given the current economic climate with people not going away for their holiday but staying home with the odd treat here or there. Undaunted, we fully intend to visit in the future for a meal, on the assumption it will still be in business, given some of the other reviews on this page! All I can say I found the barmaid to be utterly charming. PS. No sign of the management!
Hurryhome (Unverified), 25/07/09
This is all getting rather personal and, it seems, biased. Lots of people leave the Isis having whiled away a pleasant hour or even a pleasant day, and come back the next week or even the next day for more. I am one of those many people, and there seem to be more and more of us.
The Isis is clearly a tricky place to do business - there is no road access, for us or for them - so trade must be highly variable, and the effort to import supplies is presumably significant - beer is heavy! In that context, to be able to buy a gin and tonic for £3.00 in one of the most beautiful parts of Oxford is impressive. If your budget can stretch to £10, and mine usually does, then you can get the gin AND a hearty, home-made meal, with fantastic just-cooked bread and local free range meat/veg. This is frankly incredible value, especially as there are lovely new ladies' loos, and free newspapers and magazines.
I go here a lot, sitting quietly with a book, often for 2-3 hours, watching what is going on around me, and I'm shocked at the liberties that people take in what is a) a space to be shared with many other people, and b) a space that is owned by the owners, and not by the people of Oxford. The pub was in danger of closing for good, and I feel privileged that I can still sit in its garden. Thanks, owners!
It's nice to have a place to go where those running it have a firm line on bad behaviour and don't rely on signs to state the obvious. I've seen the owners 'oppressing' customers who have had uncontrolled frisbees, dogs or children.
Try it out - take a tenner and a book and a hat to the Isis, have a drink and a meal, and enjoy the lovely, relaxed, outdoorsy, family-friendly atmosphere.
Kate (Unverified), 23/07/09
I love The Isis and it will always remain one of Oxford's gems. It has been run before by very relaxed folks who had the tenancy for years. It is lovely to see it now in the hands of someone who has the potential to make it a pub very much unique to Oxford by welcoming its cultural varieties. However, many people have left The Isis disgruntled at the attitude they have experienced here. I suggest the landlord does some serious market research and gains a thorough understanding of how pubs work, how to relate to people, how not to create an oppressive atmosphere. He may currently own this delectable spot, but it isn't his front room at home. It is our Isis and we would all be supremely happy to support his endeavours and would like a little respect in turn for doing so.
Parsnip (Unverified), 16/07/09
The Isis is in a lovely location by the river, and a definite improvement since new management took over. There are wonderful cakes and the food, though very limited in choice, is excellent.
My only - serious - complaint is the frosty management. Often, though not always, cold and unfriendly (although not the bar-staff or female chef), which is a real shame as this place has huge potential. My friends have a running joke about the number of "DO NOT DO XYZ" signs that seem to keep appearing! I hope they learn soon the importance of a warm, relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Also in the winter it can be very cold. Still, it's a gorgeous spot for tea and cake in the summertime.
ashcat (DI User), 23/06/09
We have walked past this place so many times during our many stays at Iffley but never ventured inside. Easter Monday we took the nephew to feed the ducks at the lock, a lovely sunny day, saw the crowds sat outside so in we crept. A fantastic atmosphere awaits, decor may not be everyone's taste (!) but the cakes have to be. :) Lovely waterside setting, fantastic beers and cakes, very friendly staff!!! Don't walk by like we did, go inside, it's fab.
nick (Unverified), 15/04/09
This place is as quirky as Fawlty Towers with staff to match but it has the kind of appeal that just keeps pulling you back without you being able to work out why. It can't just be its fabulous situation on the river at Iffley Lock, with big riverside front garden and massive rear garden (mostly a building site while the owners slowly redevelop it, doing most of the work themselves as far as one can see); or the delicious homemade cakes and hot meals; or the way the venue looks like a private house, its only signs being faint chalk on small blackboards; or the way the bar area desperately needs redecorating, the lighting is sometimes just candles, and the service is painfully slow because every transaction gets written down on paper; or the real log burner that provides most of the heating for the front bar (though I notice they've just installed heating units in there and in the rear venue, the barn, where top-notch gigs including Stornoway and the amazing end-of-the-monthly Queen of Clubs Cabaret take place - in fact they have a new bar there now too); or the way you can watch the sunset over Iffley Meadows Nature Reserve from the side decking area; or the way the loo lights are activated by motion sensors; or the outdoor stage in the back garden which is built into a tree. Maybe it's all of those things - I just don't know - but I know I'll be going back. :)
Leslie (Unverified), 31/03/09
Really like the food and the cakes at the Isis. Service is VERY slow but staff are pleasant (though the owners seem very frosty!). The place could really do with a lick of paint and as it is a family pub why are there so many dangerous things (like rusty saws) lying around? The back garden is an accident waiting to happen - all it has is a small 'closed' sign, why isn't it fenced off? As for not taking cards - this seems ridiculous as they will miss so much passing trade. However, I will definitely be back as I like the food and the location!
Maggie (Unverified), 27/02/09
The Isis is like Marmite - you either love it, hate it or desperately want to like it but just can't. So some punters may love the damp smell of the place, the peeling paint, the icy cold and the fleeced up punters desperately clinging to their cups of coffee to stay warm. They also may enjoy the lack of a till, or a card machine, the inexplicable queues even when quiet and the random opening hours. I just can't. I want to love their simple all home cooked menu of local and organic produce - even if it tends to be rather "stew heavy" and lack some subtleties in its taste - and to fall for the baked beans on toast that is always on offer. But something just holds me back. I want to love The Isis like I want to love Marmite - and I do love the Cotswold Lagers they have on tap - but I just can't.
Mark (Unverified), 06/02/09
Interesting that James Attlee - author of "Isolarion: A Different Oxford Journey" - chooses the Isis as his "place to meet friends for a drink" in his recent article about Oxford in the Telegraph. See:
I guess that is hardly surprising. Attlee clearly delights in finding and enjoying the eclectic best of Oxford.
The Isis is not mainstream, but it is great. Well done.
SpinDoc (Unverified), 04/02/09
One good thing – in fact the only good thing about the Isis Farmhouse is that it allows dogs in, but then again, so do other hostelries which have many other selling points, the main one being that they are not afraid to put the heating on. I suspect that the dog concession is constantly under review – the landlord seems to make a point of frowning whenever he sees one come through the door.
During the summer, when you can sit outside and enjoy the wonderful location, then you can overlook the slow service, seriously limited menu, irregular opening hours and insistence on cash only – even though it’s located miles away from the nearest cash point. These things are much harder to overlook when it is freezing outside – and remains freezing inside.
I went there yesterday with my friends Posh and Bex after a brisk walk along the river bank. The opening hours were displayed, as usual, on a board at the gate. On three days the Isis is closed altogether, on the other days the opening hours seem to have been arbitrarily selected – we noticed that on one night it closes at 10pm, on another it said “around 9” – why? Most people who are in a pub at 9pm are there for the evening, they don’t want to relocate for the last hour or two. However, if they are going to insist on keeping such bizarre hours, then surely it would be fairer to display them closer to civilization, to walk all that way and then find out that it is either closed – or soon will be – doesn’t seem very sporting of the owners.
Anyway, back to yesterday’s ordeal. The Isis Farmhouse has gone for the car boot sale chic much-loved by East Oxford’s glitterati (think Magic Café - only not as grand). We made our selection from the plethora of wobbly trestle tables and ordered our drinks. Gin and tonic was out of the question for Bex as they didn’t have any ice – they never have, even when it’s tropical outside, so she had to slum it with lager. Posh was happy enough with his wheat beer and so was I.
We did not plan on dining – I won’t eat anywhere where it is too cold to take off my coat – but we did look at the menu which comprised the following: Pheasant casserole £4.50; lentil and something curry £4.50; beans on toast £4.00. Apparently beans on toast is always on the menu, I’m not sure about the target audience, presumably it’s not for the vegetarians’ benefit, they’ve got the lentils to look forward to, so I guess it must be a sop for the kids, the place was teeming with them and for one horrible moment I thought I’d walked into Donnington Doorstep.
Half way through her drink Bex put her woolly hat back on – I didn’t need to, I hadn’t taken mine off. The staff seemed to finally take the hint and lit the stove fire, but it was all too little too late – the Isis Farmhouse is a big place and it doesn’t warm up in five minutes; the fire should have been on all day.
We finished our drinks and left – as we walked out into the icy winter evening, it seemed slightly warmer.
Judith Davies (DI Reviewer), 03/02/09
This is just a stunning pub. The food is fantastic. I had a vegetable soup with kale and beans and you could tell from the taste and smell that it was fresh and homemade. I much prefer one or two homemade dishes to a ream of options that go straight from freezer to microwave, which is standard fare in most pubs.
As to the service, my visit was busy, and I queued for a long time, but it was obvious that the bar staff were working as fast as they could. The girl who served me was friendly and polite despite being rushed off her feet. My advice: be patient and enjoy the atmosphere while you wait. The food itself was brought very quickly and with a smile.
One word of warning: the music can be excellent, but can slso be terrible. A place like this needs laid-back music, especially on a wintry sunday afternoon: classical, jazz or (good!) country music. No more cheesy 80s pop or (worse) dance music please! It completely spoils the atmosphere of a beautiful country pub.
oxford1 (Unverified), 19/01/09
Just a great, great pub - ignore any carping reviews you see that mention the service and queuing (go to a chain pub in town if that's your main concern) and set your sights instead on the quality ales and cider, good food, atmospheric and idiosyncratic decor, wood fires, laid back and friendly landlord (the service is fine, incidentally), the fact you have to walk there and earn your pint, coffee or cake, the riverside location, the lack of traffic noise, the sense of an individual and uncontrived pub CHARACTER - what's not to like?
Well, actually, one thing: the music they play can be both out of place, horrible frigid cafe del mar style stuff, and a bit too loud. But still - pretty much a pub as pubs should be.
Look guys you have done an amazing job of the restoration of this place to stellar beauty and you can cook so why not treat us with more prompt professionalism and take the baked beans off the menu and replace them with a proper veggie choice! Then I will bring EVERYONE ok?
Sam (DI User), 03/01/09
As far as we are concerned this is one of the best pubs in Oxford albeit a tad unconventional. The food is limited but good if you are vegetarian or like home cooking.
The pub is being renovated but it is perfectly acceptable with an atmospheric ambience in the evening. Good to cycle or walk to; if you drive go to iffley and walk.
Wine is very reasonable. If you are a beer drinker there is real ale and usually chilled bottles of interest. Cider available.
Lovely place, great food but thoroughly disorganised and badly run. Queued for ages, I would hate to go there when they are busy! Also charged £1.50 for a pint of soda which they only sell from the bottle. They don't accept cards which is just daft as there isn't a cash point nearby.
Food was very tasty peasant fare, served simply and thankfully quickly. The menu was limited but all this added to the charm of the place. Good selection of bottled beers but the barrels were off. Lovely large garden and right by The Isis, a short-ish walk from the city of Oxford. Staff friendly but I couldn't face going up for a second round of drinks and queuing for 20 minutes behind 4 people; there didn't seem to be any mitigating circumstances either.
The queue and the sting of the price of soda somewhat took the pleasure out of a really lovely evening. I would go again certainly but only when I had bags of time.
David (DI User), 26/07/08
Wow. It is fantastic - they have now got all of the Cotswold Brewery lagers including the Wheat Beer! What a nice way of spending a Summer's day or evening.
Mike (Unverified), 01/07/08
It's fab to see this pub up and running again and there is huge potential for it to go on to new strengths. The beer is good and I enjoyed my lemon cake very much! A word of caution (to the management really) - they need to learn how to run a pub quickly else customer goodwill will run out, if as yesterday you have to queue up outside the pub to get to to the bar.
I know the re-launch is in early days and it's a lovely pub but the staff had moments of mild chaos yesterday handling customers and we've not started summer proper yet; the punters will revolt if that chaos continues into full summer with even more customers.
Go and support the Isis lovely pub. But management beware - managing large numbers is an art form and needs to be done well if you're going to make a real go of it.
Like the previous reviewer, I think the new riverside café incarnation of The Isis is brilliant and a huge improvement on the several sorry previous pub ventures run from here recently.
I ate from the short menu (a choice of 2 dishes - and one of them was beans on toast!) and found the food to be delicious. There are also some fabulous ales from the Cotswold brewery and some even better bottled ciders, courtesy of Henney's.
I do think, however, having a choice of just 2 items is a little restrictive, no matter how good they are. It is also pretty pricey - £5.50 for a vegetable, pine nut and feta bake. I realise these dishes change daily and I guess you are paying for the dining location as this is one of the biggest selling points. It's situated next to the Thames in quite a peaceful spot (you can only just hear the distant hum of the bypass!)
I would highly recommend a visit, particularly on the a beautiful summer's day, but if you want to eat something other than crisps or cake, be prepared to make small sacrifices.
Joe B (Unverified), 09/05/08
I went there yesterday to take advantage of the early summer weather. The surroundings are beautiful, as is the Cotwolds beer. They only had one meal that they were serving throughout the day, but it was absolutely delicious (and organic). I would rather go to a place that did one meal really well than a long sub-standard menu.
I recommend going here. It's my new local and I live two miles away.
jd (DI User), 09/05/08
This is a very special pub, and it's great to see that it's now in good hands. I'm looking forward to seeing how the owners develop it, and have faith that they will do a good job! A good range of local beers are on offer, plus all the yummy cakes, coffee, etc. Highly recommended. I enjoyed my walk to Iffley Meadows on Wednesday to see the Fritillaries, followed by a beer in the pub's garden - made me full of the joys of Spring!!
Mary (Unverified), 25/04/08
Oh wow, this really is what this long-neglected venue has been waiting for. On a Sunday afternoon walk we reached the boathouse after its usual closing time (5pm) to find a sign redirecting us to the tavern - hooray! The relief. Sadly they'd run out of all but one of their excellent cakes, so we settled for a capuccino, a Fentimans ginger beer and two fat slices of just-baked wholemeal bread with butter and damson jam. With the evening sun streaming through the window onto us and our table and some chilled-out dance music playing in the background, this was a perfect end to our weekend - and with the cakes all gone and the venue still buzzing with people (and they've only been open 2 weeks!), it's obvious that this is what quite a lot of other folks are after too. I can't wait till they start doing dinners - and we're going to try to get there earlier next week in order to catch the scones.
Shame they've lost the bar billiards table though - I wish the the new owners could have bought that from the brewery along with the building!
Roo (DI Reviewer), 10/03/08
Good news! The Isis Tavern is open again - under new management. It's going to be run by the same people who run the excellent coffee shop in the old Isis Boathouse a couple of doors down. They've already started tidying it up and it looks better already...I know the food is fantastic in the coffee shop so things might well be looking up.
Amy (Unverified), 22/02/08
Excellent cakes (as good as any I've had elsewhere) and a very nice environment - I've been there a few times now and plan to go back lots more.
Danny (Unverified), 15/02/08
What a lovely welcome, having negotiated the wet and slippery tow path in teeming rain. We had delicious home-made cakes (gingerbread and coffee/date/walnut - both of which I'm already planning a return visit to scoff again) and I was delighted to find that they have a wide choice of teas including herbal. There's a wood-burning stove to warm feet/dry out sodden rainwear whilst lounging on the sofa and they didn't object to the dog either. Altogether a very pleasant experience.
Previously, at the The Isis Farmhouse...
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