A refurbished and revamped pub in Oxfordshire is struggling to hire enough staff to run the venue.

The Muddy Duck in Bicester – which was forced to close during Covid – is having to stagger its reopening due to a shortage of experienced staff.

The site boasts a pub, two fine-dining restaurants, and a unique interior of which Gemma Harris, Co-owner, said “If it makes you happy it doesn’t have to make sense.”

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Oxford Mail:

Difficulties in hiring staff has meant that Gemma and her husband, Nigel, have only been able to open the pub thus far.

Despite having a talented kitchen team ready to go – including three-star Michelin chef Pierre Koffmann – Gemma and Nigel do not have enough experienced staff on board to open their fine-dining restaurants.

Gemma said: “We simply can’t recruit enough front of house staff. We have a lovely young team, but we need five or six more experienced staff.

“Before opening, we reached out to people we know who have previously worked for us, but they are all now in different industries.

“The interior is done. The kitchen team are raring to go. But we can’t open the restaurants until we have enough staff.

“Brexit and Covid haven’t helped, and nowadays the younger generation can work from home in their pyjamas, so enticing them into hospitality is tough.”

Oxford Mail:

Pierre Koffmann has done a lot of pre-development work for the venue as the patron chef.

When the restaurant opens fully he will be at the Muddy Duck on a regular, hands-on but ad hoc basis.

The daily running of the kitchens will be taken care of by Christopher Lindsay, who was previously trained by and worked with Pierre at The Berkeley, London, and more recently the Ritz.

Gemma said: “We’re so grateful to have Pierre on board. He’s so passionate about bringing the next generation of chefs on.

“He’s desperate to get into the kitchen with them. He’s such a big name, we couldn’t have asked for more.”

The interior of the venue is clad with starry ceilings, space station models, forest trails, secret cupboards and mood-lit seating alcoves.

Gemma said: “We were going for sensory overload. We’re hoping for the element of surprise. It’s very rustic and ethereal.

“The toilets are NASA themed because we wanted people to open the door and be hit with a completely different experience.

“Everybody goes out less now, so we want to make people smile again.”

The pub, or ‘lodge’ is open from Thursday to Sunday, serving lunch from 12-14:30, and dinner from 17:30-20:45.  

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This story was written by Matthew Norman, he joined the team in 2022 as a Facebook community reporter.

Matthew covers Bicester and focuses on finding stories from diverse communities.

Get in touch with him by emailing: Matthew.norman@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @OxMailMattN1