Not the ‘Circus’ (bar review)

Jerusalem Post, Billboard; March 14, 2008

Herziliya Pituach is home to some dozen bars and dance bars, and while a good number of them demonstrate the design sophistication of bars in Tel Aviv, they have never really enjoyed the mega-trendy, ultra-cool vibe of Tel Aviv establishments.

Oxford Sq. is trying to change that. It’s a bold attempt, but based on a recent visit there, one that falls short. The dark, narrow bar mimics Britain’s Underground subway station, with graffiti painted on brick walls and a long bar where one would expect to find subway rails. Sounds likes an impressive concept, but read the tiled “Oxford Sq.” on the wall to realize that something is missing from the get-go – the correct name, which is Oxford Circus.

The concept wasn’t extended to a small lounge area in the back of the room where my friends and I gathered for a birthday party on plush, leather sofas. Oxford Sq only opened at the start of 2008, and the service reflected a lack of time-honed proficiency. The waitress took 20 minutes to bring me my cocktail, an unwise delay for any bar which should try to get the ladies tipsy as quickly as possible.

Finally, my drink came, so I relaxed and sat back to people watch, as we often do in subway stations. It was about 10:30 pm, and two monitors screened a basketball game, making Oxford feel more like a sports bar. Men with buzz cuts were transfixed on the game, despite the pretty blondes by the bar who should have lured their attention.

But not long after the screens rolled up, the music got a little louder, and Oxford Sq. began to turn more into the circus it should be. Still, the dancing was only in aisles that are as unpleasantly squishy as a central subway station during rush hour.

The menu, while serving a respectable choice of beers and hard liquors, has a meager cocktail and food selection. The people exuded an impenetrable Herziliya snobbiness that made it difficult to make friends. However, I noticed some people didn’t seem to mind the crowdedness and ultimately found their groove. It’s quite possible however, that I just didn’t drink enough.

Oxford Sq., can apparently rely on its novelty, good PR, and haphazardly executed concept to attract initial crowds. I give it two years before it crashes. As for me, my friend and I boarded the train and left early – about 1 a.m. – while lines were still long outside.

Oxford Square, Abba Eban 4, Herziliya, (09) 950-2371