Locals delayed by the works along the Botley Road these past few weeks (months… years…) have at least been able to take a moment to observe with interest the steady renovation of the Holly Bush on Osney Island. One evening two weeks ago the Wife and I walked by and pressed our noses to the windows to see what the fun was about, when Nick the manager kindly opened up and showed us around.
We’re new to West Oxford since the pub was last open, so we were keen to have a peep. The new décor is serviceable in a clearly “designed,” ersatz hip sort of way, tropical wallpaper meeting muted tartan with lots of lightly finished wood, interesting enough if slightly hokey poster art. The large main room is divided into three areas (one focused on dining, another dog-optional), plus a nice garden off to the side. One area features wing chairs, in another there are a number of banquettes: both are good things.
This weekend the pub reopened, with free food and drink for locals. Additional good things.
For beer drinkers, the Holly Bush offers maybe five pumps and ten different chilled taps. (We stuck with beer, but the bar resembled a bar in pretty much every bar particular so we’ll assume non-beerists will also find something to enjoy).
The pub will offer Sunday roasts, but this weekend it focused on its regular menu, which is centred on a wood-fired pizza oven. Pizzas (£8.50-£12.00) are interestingly topped – including a seafood pie that led to probably the most middle class exchange we’ve ever had: “wait, before we head to Waitrose, do I have samphire stuck in my teeth?” – and good. (Vegan and gluten-free available). “Dirty”ish dishes form the bulk of the meaty and vegetarian menu otherwise, including chicken wings, meatballs, ramen, lasagne, mac ‘n’ cheese (£7.00-£11.00). And three good-looking salads: we’re not barbarians out West.
While we were there during these early days, service was a bit uncertain. When we presented ourselves to be seated for our reservation, the member of staff checked the list, looked up at us, checked the list, looked up at us. We looked at each other. We looked at her. “It says ‘four’. [She looked up at us once again.] Oh. Four is your table number. [She did some quick mental arithmetic.] There are just two of you.” (Which we did not even try to deny.) We didn’t find napkins on the table – I’m a messy eater – and I found myself sufficiently confused by the resemblance between the handles of the steak knives and the handles of the forks that I went in search of a fork. But to be fair, it’s hardly the pub’s responsibility if I can’t distinguish between cutlery. But the pizzas arrived, hot, tasty, timely. Which is the main thing.
Altogether, the Holly Bush would probably not warrant a special trip from too far afield (although if one were braving the Botley Road, there is probably sufficient time to leave the car idling in the Road and duck in for a quick bite before the manual signal changes… although you’d probably have to skip pudding). But it shows promise both for food and for drink, and we are very pleased with the addition the Holly Bush makes to our eating and drinking options. We wish them well.