ONE of the most popular destinations on Cowley Road this weekend was not a pub but cafe Za’atar Bake.

Owner Mahmoud Al-Hadad said he believed the bustling atmosphere, despite capacity being halved to ensure social distancing, was down to the work they have been doing to help people during lockdown.

He said: “We have supported people and now they want to support us.”

Also read: A cautious reopening for East Oxford's pubs

Mr Al-Hadad has given away more than 60 kilos of baklava in exchange for donations to volunteer service Oxford Hub. He also hands out entire meals for free to anyone who is in need.

To keep people 'mentally and physically strong' he has also encouraged customers to take part in a lockdown challenge: if people completed 30km either walking or running they could get a free meal.

The baker added: "I knew it was going to be busy today, we had so many messages on social media asking when we would be reopening. People remember what we have done and I think that is how we are going to survive this as a business."

He is also working with neighbouring pub The Cowley Retreat to set up a tented area in the back of both to extend their serving space.