“There’s only one reason we used to come here,” my taxi driver smirked, smacking his lips in appreciation, “A pint and a fight, usually in that order.”
We peered around, the fog swirling around the very unjolly looking Jolly Postboys in Florence Park, formerly famous for it’s reputation more than anything else.
“What are we doing here again?” my friend whispered from the sanctity of the taxi.
“It’s been taken over by the same guys who run GAF and endless coffee shops and it’s doing a roaring trade already,” I said confidently, opening the taxi door and venturing out into the mirk.
The front door looked fortified, the kind that could probably withstand a good kicking, the Jolly Postboys sign creaking ominously, its camp message ironically mocking us.
But once inside, what a transformation. It was like entering a speakeasy; from the outside utterly deceptive, while the interior was bright, bustling, packed with tables jostling for space, punters packed in like sardines, chefs glimpsed scurrying around like crabs at a Full Moon party, producing some fantastic food for the endless customers.
It was obviously a Friday because the smell of fish and chips permeated the air, but the specials board offered lots of alternatives.
It’s trendy rather than smart, decorated in pale blues, greys, swanky lighting and an amazing retro/brasserie feel about it, with a mishmash of chairs and tables as is the trend these days. You have to look hard to see the vestiges of the former premises.
Not that any of its customers were remotely concerned, delighted instead to have such a wonderfully, welcoming, fun, busy, foodie pub launched right on their doorstep, when so many others are being turned into flats.
There to greet me was also one of my favourite general managers Jade Konz from Burcott’s Chequers, and it was lovely to see her cheery face again.
With eight nibbly starters for £20 we ordered a bit of pretty much everything and got stuck in. The beer battered gherkins with tomato relish I kept all to myself, batting off any threatening fingers from the other side of the table, the crispy batter, then the crunch of the pickle, the sharpness of the vinegar, the perfect first hit.
The Longhorn meatballs with a salsa rosso were pungent, juicy and saucy, the jerk chicken hot enough to have you yelping like a dog tied up outside a supermarket, the black pudding sausage rolls a bit dry and the baby mozzarella with tomatoes and basil a tad ordinaire. Throw in the piquant marinated anchovies with lemon and parsley, some Old Spot chipolatas, and the wonderful and memorable four cheese arancini which we could have imbibed they were so good, hot, crunchy and oozy, and you can see that as a stand alone starter board this alone would have sufficed. And at £2.50 a pop brilliant value for money.
Throw in a few pints and it’s a good cheap dinner for four right there in front of you.
But the mains beckoned, and we were there to see what head chef Pius Aberbregeh (former head chef at Door 74) was all about. And so we moved on to some castelluccio lentils with basil dumplings and onion cerviche (£12), which had great depth of flavour, if slightly worthy.
The Barnsley lamb chop came with a heavy Northern accent, a heavenly potato and leek rosti, buttered swiss chard and a salsa verdi (£15), a beautifully balanced dish and stylishly presented, if a bit sparse on the meat.
The beef tagine on the specials board was served with a wonderfully delicate, fragrant, fluffy, fresh, herbed lemon couscous. The tagine seemed rather heavy in comparison, but then we were already stuffed to the brim.
We declined dessert but they managed to talk us into sharing a plate of the lemon drizzle cake served with marmalade sauce, yoghurt ice cream and an almond crumb and a lovely lemoncello shot on the side and we staggered back out into the cold dark night, now enveloped in a warm foody glow.
The residents of Florence Park must be laughing into their pint glasses. What a brilliant result. If only all our forlorn, lonely, abandoned estate pubs could be given such a glorious make over. As for the rest of us, it's worth venturing in whether you live there or not.
“That was so much better than I expected,” my friend agreed as we got back into the taxi. “Maybe I’ll give it a go then," our taxi driver piped up. “Well I’d like to see you having a fight after eating all that lot.”
22 Florence Park Rd, Oxford OX4 3PH
NO website as yet
Opening hours: closed Mondays
Tues -Fri open 5pm-11pm, food 6pm-9pm
Sat food noon-3pm, 6pm-9pm
Sunday noon-4pm food, open until 8pm