Despite the universal impact of the pandemic on businesses around the world, in the midst of lockdowns, Kim and Mark Morgan took a brave leap of faith and came to Oundle from Torrevieja in Spain to take on one of Oundle’s oldest pubs, the Rose and Crown.
The Morgans are no strangers to the hospitality business. They not only ran a hotel in Blackpool but also a bar in Spain before coming to Oundle.
Their hospitality has long been inspired by retro Americana themes. “We started going to America with an empty suitcase and going to all the thrift and secondhand shops there. We’d come back with a full suitcase,” Kim said.
The memorabilia filled the walls, and it was not long before they decided to match the menu and music to a 60s theme. “It appeals to every age group,” they said.
They ran the hotel in Blackpool for 18 years and then took their suitcases of vintage treasures to Spain for a few years. Although the weather was a great attraction, it was not enough to keep them away from home, and the Morgans decided to return to the UK when the opportunity to run the Rose and Crown was offered.
They arrived in the middle of the pandemic lockdowns, which was a challenge for the business, but also an opportunity to make changes in the pub. When they got the keys, Mark said the décor was “50 shades of grey”. They unpacked their suitcases, covered the walls with their vintage finds, and installed comfortable booth seating, transforming the pub into a vibrant social venue and dining destination.
Another big change is the extensive menu, which is all homemade in the pub’s kitchen, even the pastry for her famous steak pies. All the recipes have been developed by Kim. She recommended her Thai red curry with sweet potatoes and chickpeas and chicken. “If you like something with a bit of a kick to it, that’s my favourite. Mixed kebabs are popular, I make it all myself, spice it all up.” For those who are vegetarian, there is a vegetarian version of the curry, as well as various pies.
The Morgans have designed the restaurant to be family and pet friendly, with a range of affordable menu options. Irresistible for both adults and children is the jolly ice cream cart heaped with sweets and toppings for build-your-own sundaes.
There is also a buffet menu option for special events in their function room.
The Morgans are keen to revive the tradition of pub music when so many musicians started their careers in pubs. Evening special events at the Rose and Crown include jam sessions on Monday nights, with amps, keyboards and guitars on hand. Any musicians who come not only get to show off their music prowess, but also get twenty percent off a pint. Karaoke is available on demand, and they host sold-out musical bingo and quiz nights with live music on Zoom from Spain.
Their “rock-n-roll” cocktail menu has an exciting line-up. Kim said they have the best prices in town, with the cheapest pints and good deals on special cocktails. For those wanting something on the sweeter side, the “hippy hippy tipsy shakes” are an option, with drinks such as the “mocha round the clock” and “coco cabana”.
With their covered outdoor space in the courtyard, there is plenty of room to enjoy summer afternoons and evenings with food and drinks. Special offers are listed on their website and Facebook.
Despite the upheavals of the last year, they have done well. “We’ve smashed all our targets,” Kim said. And now, having long passed the milestone of their first year they are looking forward to a full year without pandemic restrictions, and are excited about doing business in Oundle where there is already a loyal local following.
And the word is out among visitors to Oundle, who are not shy about posting rave reviews online about the food and, above all, the helpful service and warm welcome.