Oxford’s award-winning restaurant No 1 Ship Street is expanding, having taken on The Chequers in Fingest on the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire borders.
“We’ve been looking for a new site for two years and we’ve found a cracker,” Ross Drummond, tells me en route to his new pub.
After trying to buy The Swan Inn in Thame which fell through at the last minute, he finally found what he was looking for in The Chilterns.
“It’s a super site. I know it well and the countryside is so picturesque. It’s an absolutely fabulous pub, I fell in love with it instantly, ” he adds.
“I would not be doing this if I thought No 1 Ship Street would suffer in anyway, but now is as good a time as ever to open up a new site”
Opening this weekend, it’s been a really fast turnaround, as Ross only got the keys last week, so it’s all systems go to get ready for the Jubilee weekend.
So what was the appeal? “The garden for a start. It must be 350 yards long. You can sit 90 inside and 150 outside and that’s only if you use half the outdoor space,” Ross says in excitement. “And it’s already got a massive pizza oven out there ready to use.”
“The Chequers is in great shape so we will personalise it and make it our own, but a lot of money has already been spent on it, and there’s planning permission for rooms.
“We are already thinking about introducing a farm shop and opening the space here for events. We just want to elevate what The Chequers has to offer, but the potential is vast.”
Food wise top chef Will Patterson, formerly of Killingworth Castle and The Wild Rabbit, has been brought in to serve the kind of food No 1 Ship Street is famous for, and with GM Steve Jones, who did such a great job at The Plough 38 in Oxford on board, the team is ready to rumble.
“We will be serving top end pub grub – from burgers, pies, sandwiches and fish and chips to oysters and garlic snails at the bar, so really smart pub food,” Ross explains.
No 1 Ship Street’s many fans will be enormously excited about this new development. To give you an idea of how favoured they are, No 1 Ship Street won our Best Restaurant award in the Ox In A Box Food Awards in 2022 and 2020, thanks to its great atmosphere, seductive decor and top notch food (courtesy of chef patron Owen Little who is a fellow partner in The Chequers).
So will No 1 Ship Street suffer as a result? “No, not at all. People think I will take my eye off the ball, but actually the opposite will happen. I will float between the two sites, but No 1 Ship Street is absolutely flying at the moment, we are permanently full and obviously keen to maintain that. It’s been phenomenal because we have a fab team there and I’m confident its success and growth will continue.
“We want to integrate with the local community and involve the whole village to give them a really special village pub”
“I would not be doing this if I thought No 1 Ship Street would suffer in anyway but now is as good a time as ever to open up a new site. Of course there’s a risk involved in opening any new site but we are 100% confident in what we are delivering.
So how is Ross feeling about the whole thing? “We are having to turn things around really quickly but I am super excited. We want to integrate with the local community as much as possible and involve the whole village to give them a really special village pub.”
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