As the Oxford Literary Festival gets under way next week at Christ Church, visitors to the city may find themselves looking for restaurants and bars with suitable connections where they can relax and eat during the event. They would do well to try The Oxford Retreat, in Hythe Bridge Street. This handsome pub could boast - if it knew of it - an interesting link with Evelyn Waugh, whose celebration of Oxford in Brideshead Revisited remains one of the most potent, if misleading, pictures of the city and university.

During Waugh's misspent days as a prep-school master - after he left Oxford and before he made his name as a novelist with Decline and Fall - he was a regular patron of what was then the Nag's Head. (He may, indeed, have been one while he was a student, although this is not recorded.) His diaries make three specific references to the place, which back in the 1920s, I suppose, was new (or old and awaiting demolition?).

The first is in an entry for September 15, 1924, in which he writes: "We spent the evening saying goodbye to everyone at the Nag's Head." The next day he is back, after a "disgusting" dinner at the George where, in order "to make things less disagreeable a friend had insisted on arranging with the waitress to lie with her after the meal". He continues: "Even the pubs were not comforting because, since we had made so many farewells, we could hardly return to the Nag's Head and were forced to go to the Paviours Arms actually Pavier's, an old Oxford Times favourite in St Ebbe's."

Then, on November 12 of the same year he writes: "I went on to the Nag's Head where I had arranged to meet Lord Elmley. Claud Cockburn turned up there with mad Yorke- Lodge and a beastly man in an eye glass, all very drunk. When we were turned out we went to see Mrs Heritage and then to the old Hypocrites' rooms for the drinking of whisky . . . after about this stage of the evening my recollections become somewhat blurred."

It would be good to think that today's generation of undergraduates - who appear to be making a beeline for the sprauncily renovated place - are maintaining the same standards of fun. I rather doubt it, however.

After a somewhat dismal period (latterly at any rate) as the Antiquity Hall, the Oxford Retreat is now very much a place to see and be seen in following a smart revamp by its young owners Rachel and Stuart, who reopened it in November. They have the services of a charismatic manager in Andrew Webster (Webster', as he likes to be called) and an excellent chef in Mark Harris. All are old muckers, I understand, from Marlborough - the town not the college.

I have so far patronised the pub three times: the first as a meeting place for a large group of friends before dinner at the nearby Sojo restaurant; the second for a tête-à-tête dinner with Rosemarie on the last Tuesday in February, and the third for a hastily grabbed lunch last Saturday. All proved to be most agreeable occasions, proving the place to be one of those rare establishments that manages to be most things to most people. One hopes that it stays this way rather than becoming subsumed in the 'club culture' that surrounds it.

Yuri Anderegg's pictures well illustrate the new look of the place. The best has been made of its traditional features - including elegant panelling and open fires - while paying due attention to modern taste in the styling of the bar and its fittings.

We ate dinner in the 'restaurant' end of the room which you can see above, where our table commanded a good view out into the buzz of Oxford nightlife in one direction and, in the other, through a wide hatch into the kitchen. From here, with pleasing dispatch after ordering, came our starters, mine a rich fish soup - actually more of a creamy bisque with wine and shellfish - and Rosemarie's a big pot of shell-on prawns, with mayo to dip. (There was also white bread - she would have preferred brown.) My main course, from the specials board, was a splendid bowl of linguine with chunks of bacon, black olives, tomatoes and sage. Rosemarie chose one of the half-dozen dishes on the main menu, 'chicken supreme', which proved to be a chicken fillet, wrapped in strips of courgette, and served with roasted shallots, bacon and tarragon jus. Other dishes included calf's liver and bacon, red mullet and sirloin steak.

We shared pudding, believing - rightly as it turned out - that toffee and mango meringue, with vanilla cream and raspberry coulis, would be quite enough for both of us.

We drank a delicious Australian chardonnay, another bottle of which we enjoyed at Saturday's lunch. Here a robust garlicky chicken stew (me) and a first-class cheeseburger with perfect chips (Rosemarie) earned a deserved message of praise to the kitchen.