Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ha!Ha! said the clown

The one time I've been done by a speed camera was driving down Botley Road, so being on the same stretch last night I stuck religiously to the limit. Which made it unnerving and annoying to be overtaken on the inside by the Seacourt park-and-ride in the bus lane.

Anyway, to Oxford last night for the first of two divisional Christmas dinners (the advantage of working for two divisions!) at the oddly named Ha!Ha! in what was formerly Oxford Jail/Castle. And all I can say is wow. They've done the place up nice - where once men toiled and groaned in captivity we now have a secluded, swish looking precinct full of trendy wine bars and expensive apartments that could actually make me want to live in the centre of Oxford ... if I was very rich. I could actually feel like a thrusting dynamic IT professional out on the town with colleagues rather than a jobbing editor slumming it in a day job until the phone call from Spielberg.

Ha!Ha! has nice food, reasonably priced, good service, high quality crackers with useful key rings and facts rather than corny jokes, music maybe a bit too loud. And the interesting feature on the left - a bowl of gas fire. My one suggestion would be that they turn the external lights on. You can take the dark, secluded look a bit too far - I only found it eventually on the second circumnavigation of the castle. Though the first circumnavigation was very instructive.

We also popped into Malmaison just to gawk - that's the hotel and restaurant in what was once the main jail building. You too can spend the night in what was a jail cell! And though this also looks very swish, with thick carpets and indirect hidden lighting ... by 'eck, you want to obey the law.

Nor was I the only one thinking of Noel Coward's last scene in The Italian Job.

Next week, Le Bistro Celte in Abingdon ...

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