Visiting The Three Goats Heads makes you feel like you're going back in time. As you head up the steps to the bar, you can imagine Victorian undergraduates stumbling the other way, or the Inklings gathered in one of the comfy cubbyholes inside (although as far as I know, there's no evidence they ventured away from St Giles and found themselves in this split-level pub in St Michael's Street). Despite the old-world charm of the pub and its decor, however, the menu is bang up-to-date.
My companion and I visited The Three Goats Heads on a Monday evening during the recent heatwave, so the bar was quiet; clearly most people had decided on a pub with a garden. This was nice, though, as The Three Goats' dedication to real ale (the main feature on their drinks menu is Samuel Smith beer) can mean that this pub gets rather crowded at times. Although we were indoors, the bar area was cool, and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. I ordered a pint of Double Four lager, which was crisp, refreshing and exactly what I needed on a bright summery day, and we settled in for dinner.
We started with the Gruyere and beer croquettes, which were pleasantly crispy and gooey. The flavour of the cheese was good and strong, although I couldn't really taste the beer. I tried a few bites with the Branston pickle that came as an accompaniment, but it wasn't really necessary - the croquettes had plenty of savoury bite on their own.
For our main course, we both ordered burgers - my companion went the traditional route with beef, while I opted for southern fried chicken with bacon and cheese. We decided to share a side of onion rings, which were excellent - they had a perfect crunch without being greasy. My chicken burger was thoroughly enjoyable; a generous portion of meat, well-seasoned and tender, with crispy bacon and a slice of cheese that was far more flavourful than the usual kind you find in burgers. Good portion size was clearly house policy; my companion described his burger as a 'massive wodge of meat', with a good beefy taste. The accompanying chips were the weakest aspect of the meal, tasting more oven-chippish than freshly-fried, but the burgers were so filling that neither of us minded.The service at The Three Goats' Heads was quick and friendly, without being overbearing (always a risk when a place is quiet). By the end of our meal, my companion and I were very full and thoroughly happy with our choice of food. I'd certainly wander up the steps to The Three Goats' Heads again, to try more of their varied but affordable menu.