Former 'smokey local boozer' named Pub of the Year after rave reviews from regulars

  • The Cock in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire has won the top accolade
  • The 2013 Good Pub Guide finds Staffordshire has the best value pint at £2.56
  • Pubs are opening earlier, selling coffee and offering cooking classes to cope with recession

By
Emily Allen

02:26 EST, 4 September 2012


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04:20 EST, 4 September 2012

A pub once dubbed a ‘smokey local boozer’ has become the best pub in Britain, turning itself around in just 11 years.

The Cock in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire, has bagged the top spot in the 2013 Good Pub Guide after receiving hundreds of good reviews from regulars.

The guide praised the traditional pub and its top restaurant, saying: ‘Getting rave reviews from our army of reader-reporters, the Cock offers the best for all its customers.

The Cock at Hemingford Grey

Number one: The Cock in Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire, has bagged the top spot in the 2013 Good Pub Guide after receiving rave reviews from customers

‘This well-run, pretty pub is just the sort of place that pub-lovers return to again and again as it cleverly manages to appeal to both drinkers and diners.’

Oliver Thain, 40, the Cock’s
co-licensee with chef Richard Bradley, 42, described the pub as a ‘smoky local village boozer’ when the pair took it over in 2001.

He said: ‘It was just that. I’m not saying it was poor, it was just the sort of pub that needed investment and it was the only pub in the village.

‘You literally walked in and it was filled with smoke. But we’ve kept the local pub, we’ve kept the restaurant separate and we don’t do any food in the pub so it keeps that local pub feel.’

The Good Pub Guide

Bible: The Good Pub Guide lists 4,700 pubs, including more than 250 new entries despite years of closures

Father-of-three Mr Thain said the pub’s ‘warm welcome’ was its biggest asset.

He said: ‘People often say it is like walking
into a second home.’

Former area manager for Scottish and Newcastle pub company Mr Thain jumped at the chance to snap up the pub when it came on the market, and knew the area well after growing up nearby.

He decided to team up with Mr
Bradley, also a father-of-three, who was working as head-chef at the
Anchor at Sutton Gault, Cambridgeshire at the time, after meeting him at a
wedding. 

The pair now have five pubs and a catering company to their name – although they describe The Cock as their ‘baby’.

Mr Thain said: ‘It’s a lovely village, right on the banks of the River Great Ouse. It’s quite well to do, but there’s a good mixture of housing. We were pretty busy from day one, I think it was needed in the village.

‘Our most popular dish is our duck parcel starter, it’s been on the menu since the first year and if we take it off people get a bit upset.’

Chase at Upper Colwall, Herefordshire, was named Best Newcomer of the Year, which was praised for its ‘gorgeous sunset views, good drinks and cost-conscious food’.

The Fat Cat in Norwich won the Beer Pub of the Year accolade, with reviewers describing a visit to the pub as ‘a bit like coming to a private beer festival.’

Outside Loo of the Year award – introduced for the first time this year – went to the Tram Inn at Eardisley, Herefordshire.

The prestigious Good Pub Guide lists 4,700
pubs, including more than 250 new entries despite years of closures amid
the increasing price of a pint.

The Fat Cat in Norwich

Watering hole: The Fat Cat in Norwich won the Beer Pub
of the Year accolade, with reviewers describing it as ‘a
bit like coming to a private beer festival’

Researchers found that pub landlords are more upbeat about their prospects as increasing numbers of people go to their local rather than a restaurant for a meal, according to a new report.

It said there were clear signs of a turn-around.

Co-editor Fiona Stapley said: ‘Most strikingly, the mood among publicans themselves is changing.

‘Although it is extremely hard work, for the first time in over 10 years most landlords and landladies have been more upbeat.

‘People are choosing to spend
weekends away in country pubs and customers like to eat out in pubs as
opposed to restaurants because the atmosphere is more informal – and the
food is just as good, if not better.’

BRITAIN’S TOP LOCALS

1. The Cock, Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire

2. Masons Arms, Cartmell Fell, Cumbria

3. Watermill Inn, Ings, Cumbria

4. Merry Harriers, Clayhidon, Devon

5. King’s Head, Bledington, Gloucestershire

6. Oliver Branch, Clipsham, Rutland

7. Crown, Southwold, Suffolk

8. Running Horses, Mickleham, Surrey

9. Potting Shed, Crudwell, Wiltshire

10. Blue Lion, East Witton, North Yorkshire

Guide authors said that in England,
the North/South divide is stark, with the price of a pint of beer in
Surrey and London around £3.50, but in the Midlands and the North, pints
average under £3.

Staffordshire had the best value pint, where pubs charge an average of £2.56.

In addition, researchers said they had received fewer complaints from readers about service and more and more pubs were welcoming dogs.

Many pubs have been looking at new ways to draw in customers during the recession, including opening earlier, with more serving morning coffee and even breakfasts.

A handful of pubs have turned their hand to serving other goods, including jams, chutneys and sometimes bread.

The guide said: ‘Other pubs are branching out in different ways’ a new venture is the pub cooking class or demonstration letting pub chefs show their fined honed skills, and pubs are starting to make something of a specialty of their cream teas.’

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