Given over 99% of the public weren’t privileged enough to attend either Oxford or Cambridge, and then only small proportion of those rowed competitively, it’s a little odd that the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race somehow evokes such strong passions. Maybe it’s the wry amusement of watching our so-called betters flogging their guts out for something utterly meaningless. A sort of X-Factor final for posh people. But if you’re looking to don a pair of red trousers and Hunter wellies, throw on a stripey scarf and get very drunk and argue over which college had the best quidditch team, then you’ve come to exactly the right place. Choose a shade of blue and order a bottle of Bolly, it’s the boat race. Here’s where to enjoy it…
The only moment when the boat race is a precise tie is when you’re sat in the Thai and it’s waiting to start. Thai Square at Putney Bridge is without doubt the best vantage point to enjoy the initial, and often decisive, strokes of the this national institution. And while you enjoy some tasty Asian bites the live broadcasts of the action will ensure you don’t miss any of the drama further down the course. Once the race is over, the fun continues well into the small hours with celebration and live music until 2am.
The Crab Tree, a Victorian boozer that’s been gastro’d up and heads into its fourth year of boat race excitement with what the bill as the biggest riverside party on the Thames. The live music begins at 12:30 and trundles into the small hours, with the DJ taking over as the party approaches the small hours.
The boat race is old, starting in 1829, but The Dove is older, dating back to the seventeenth century. Expect the usual colourful flower boxes to be hastily stashed away as drunken boat race supporters enjoy the real ale, fine wine and tasty food of this Hammersmith riverside spot.
Halfway down the course comes The Old Ship in Hammersmith. With great views of the river, it significantly has one of the longest views along the river, meaning anyone settling down at The Old Ship will get more than their money’s worth in boatrace terms. Enjoy the maritime decor and boathouse feel as you guzzle down the obligatory Pimm’s.
The White Hart is within spitting distance (albeit figuratively, this is a friendly sport) of the finish line. Reservations are taken in the first floor restaurant (though they need to be booked weeeeell ahead), but in any case the best view is from the terrace outside. The obligatory outdoor barbecue will, of course, be running to keep watchers burgered and sausaged up.
Close to the finish line in Barnes, this riverside pub is a great place to meet, enjoy a pint or meal before heading over the road and to the riverside to watch the rowers pull past on their final stretch toward Chiswick Bridge.
Proximate to the action, if not directly overlooking it unless you kink your neck and sort of squint, lies Bistro Vadouvan. The Middle Eastern restaurant is the perfect place to grab a bite of BBQ sea bream with black garlic, Middle Eastern shakshuka and sage plus yoghurt marinated tandoori poussin before donning the obligatory wellies and Barbour jacket and wandering down to watch the action from the bridge or riverbank.