Dodo Pubs started out in 2009, when we found a down and out boozer in the back streets of East Oxford. The pub stank of smoke and old dog, it looked like granny’s old living room and the garden was more like a scrapyard…so naturally we shrugged our shoulders and took it on.
Depleting what little savings we had and maxing out a couple of credit cards, we managed to scrape together enough money to tart up the tired wooden floor, buy a few old tables and chairs and refit the bar. A subtle change of name was next, and the Rusty Bicycle was born.
Within a few months, the neighbourhood seemed to have embraced the Rusty and before we knew it the place was filling up nicely night after night. The money rolled in and straight back out into better furniture, better lighting and more booze. Within a year, the Rusty had gained critical acclaim, but most importantly was flourishing at the centre of the East Oxford community.
Having found our footing, it was time to try our hands at something new.
To us the obvious next step was food to accompany the booze. We began by digging out an old electric 4-hob range cooker that looked like it’d fallen arse end out of the 1940s, cranking her up and baking daily beer bread for our homemade sandwiches. It wasn’t long before word spread and we were packed for lunch as well. Within six months, the demand on our little domestic oven was too much, and as the menu grew we quickly realised that we’d need something more heavyweight to cope with our future plans…so we bought a kitchen.
By the end of the second year, the Rusty Bicycle was firmly established at the heart of the local community, and it continues to be a neighbourhood pub through and through: a place to meet, eat, drink and be social.
By the end of year two, there was talk of a second pub. Conveniently, the Radcliffe Arms in Jericho soon came up for sale. Like the Rusty had been, it was run down, poorly maintained and being sold on for development as flats. We placed a modest bid on it and before we knew it, to our complete surprise, we found ourselves with another pub…time to get busy again!
This time we secured a bigger bank loan, but the story was basically the same: we bodged together some crappy secondhand equipment for a kitchen as well as tables, chairs and a few light fittings, bought a load more booze, and opened the doors.
This time we thought we’d try something a bit different, and the Rickety started life as a gastropub, with a fancy menu and a focus on the food. It was fun for a while: we got a Michelin Bib Gourmand a couple years in a row, made it into the Good Food Guide too, and cooked some really nice food. But after a while we began to realise that we didn’t actually like the whole hoity-toity gastropub thing very much. It just wasn’t us.
So we decided to be true to ourselves and replicate the Rusty’s success. We underwent a redesign (for which we were shortlisted for an award – see here) and started serving up a more straightforward menu of delicious woodfired pizzas, burgers and bowls.
Today the Rickety is another neighbourhood space to eat and drink. It sits in the centre of Jericho, a thriving pub where you can walk in anytime with friends and family and grab an honest plate of food and a drink or two. Most importantly, it’s a pub for the community again.
After many years of trying to find ourselves, we now have a strong sense of who we are, what we like, and what we want. Our mission is to set up unique neighbourhood pubs for local communities, all the while continuing to develop our interest in good food, good drink and good design and sharing this passion with our wonderful and loyal customers.
This is the story so far...
The Dodo Family
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