To open a new business just one month after the end of lockdown may seem a big gamble, but Katie Warnaby and Fitzroy Davis are optimistic enough. They took over the Fox in February and were already looking for another before the pub, then called simply Home, was closed in that same month.
Abingdon Road was down to just one pub at re-opening in July – Greene King’s large and busy Duke of Monmouth – as the White House, up near Folly Bridge, shut down last September. Even in the 1970s there were still half a dozen pubs in the side streets, now long gone, while another casualty was the Fox and Hounds on the main road where Tesco Express now stands.
But with Hubble & Home now open and Tap Social hoping to re-open the White House by Christmas – see PROFILE – things are looking up. The new business keeps a link with the previous owners by retaining “Home”, but where does “Hubble” come from? Katie isn’t saying, although it conjures up images of the hubble-bubble or shisha pipe that can be smoked at Oxford’s more exotic venues.
Hubble & Home is the latest incarnation for this solid looking building, owned by Hawthorn Leisure which acquired it from Greene King. A former Morrells pub, it was called the Berkshire House or Berkshire for most of its existence – recognising that Abingdon Road was actually in Berkshire back then – before being re-branded the Crooked Pot in 2010.
The new business retains the light and airy design of Home, and has a pleasant patio garden which has proved a major plus point. Up to three real ales will be available when it has become established, and on the day of my visit Wells’ Bombardier and Banks’s Amber were being served. A branded house ale will be produced (actually Ringwood’s Razorback), and the plan is to keep Bombardier as a regular with the third pump for a guest ale, as Hawthorn pubs have access to the SIBA range. St Austell Tribute, Oakham Citra and Loose Cannon Abingdon Bridge have also been on.
Katie must like hard work as when she’s not running the two pubs, she’s an academic who specialises in neurosciences! Fitzroy has a background in pubs having worked at the Plough in Wheatley and the Six Bells in Oxford, and he is a trained chef.
The menu has a good selection of starters from £7 and mains from £12, with children’s meals and desserts also from £7. Vegetarian dishes such as spiced cauliflower steak are included.
“Home was more of a gastro-pub, but our aim both here and at the Fox is to provide good pub food, good beer, a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, and good service,” she said. “The Fox was quite run-down when we took over in February, and although we were soon hit by lockdown, we got to know the locals by providing a take-away service.
“We’ve got to go with the situation today and ensure everyone is safe. We’ve fallen in love with this place, and although things aren’t the same we hope the pub trade will get back to what it was.”