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The Blacksmiths Inn, Westow


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So what happens when a foodie/internet food geek that's spent the last few years telling everyone how to run their businesses takes the plunge and has a go?

Should i be booking my slot on Kitchen Nightmares team or nervously awaiting the publication of the michelin red book :laugh:

It's been a thought i've had for a long time now, in fact for as long as i can remember i've wanted a licensed premise of some description, from a bar / club when i was younger to a country pub now i'm getting past late nights, and now it is a reality. A very big oh-my-god-what-have-we-done-reality!

The pub is a grade II listed freehouse in Westow which is between York & Malton, quite close to Castle Howard, it was renovated a couple of years ago and has all the typical 'gastropub' accoutremonts but to me at least, retains a lot of character and atmosphere. It was originally a blacksmiths smithy and retains the original fireplace where we now have a big wood burning stove, you've got to have fires in a pub in my book! We've got 3 dining rooms off the central bar and can seat about 45 so its a reasonable size.

we got it at a good time too as it was voted Yorkshire dining pub of the year 2006 by the good pub guide and we're in the michelin pubs & sawdays special pubs and inns too which is a good start!

The kitchen was designed by a chef with seemingly little budgetary constraint so we've got the lot, flat top, 6 burner stove, hot pass, under counter fridges, walk in fridge, full pot wash, hobart mixer, ice cream machine etc. Every chef who's had a look has generally issued expletives on seeing it, i think that means it's better than expected for a country pub!

The kitchen was staffed by agency chefs recently but i've now got a full time team on board who are producing some excellent food. We're lucky in having access to some excellent produce on our doorstep and have some great suppliers, for example our meat is all local, the beef is dry aged for at least 21 days and the pork is all free range.

I use the same wine supplier as my local , the st vincents arms and we have what i think is a very good value list, we don't operate on a fixed margin, to get the industry standard 70% gross margin you have to sell the wine at over 3x cost. That makes any half decent wine astronomically expensive, wheras i've tried to build a list from a customers point of view rather than a purely commercial one, so you can drink mature 97' nuits st georges at £28.50 and if you want to splash out i doubt you can drink 96 dujac morey st denis at £59.50 or '99 Les forts de Latour for £55 in many places!

Given my documented love of raspberry beer at anthony's we've also got a small range of begian beers hoegaarden, chimay, cherry & Raspberry liefmans.

Although obviously the conoisseurs drink Fosters lager :wink: we do have cask john smiths, tetley's and landlord, you have to have real ale in country pub, remarkably given i don't drink it, i get a lot of praise for the quality of the bitter, luckily i have friends who are experts in the cellar and have shown me the ropes, i no longer spend saturday mornings reading the papers i'm busy cleaning the lines out!

As if that wasn't enough to take on, we've got a six bed room B&B to look after also, so sarah is now a dab hand at cooking 6 full english breakfasts at the same time!

we've been there about six weeks now so it's starting to make a little more sense, given i know quite a few people in the trade i thought we'd gone into it with our eyes open, but there really is sooo much to get to terms with. Not suprising given we'd not even pulled a pint in our lives before we bought it, and for a few weeks i was ready to throw the till out of the window every night!

Anyway, enough waffling from me, you can have a look at what we've got here.....www.blacksmithsinn.co.uk although the email link is not yet operational.

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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Hey Mr. Marshall!

Congratulations! I know your new gig is going to be a smashing success! It is really quite refreshing to know that a person can still live their dreams!

Looking forward to you posting ongoing stories about your experiences, provided that you can find the time!

Again- Congratulations! It's quite a step to take, and I can only imagine what you must be feeling...

Sincerely,

Paula

"...It is said that without the culinary arts, the crudeness of reality would be unbearable..." Leopold

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really nice website, such a novelty for a pub to have a site that is encouraging rather than offputting! the photographs are great, atmospheric yet authentic, the whole skillfully avoids looking like the product of some annoying agency. the menu sounds spot on.

good luck with your brave leap to the receiving end of criticism. I do hope your cask ales selection will take a more eclectic focus on small brewers over time (not that I'm exactly a regular through westow, so what does my six penneth matter? :wink:)

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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Congratulations on the purchase Gary!

Even though I live in Manchester now I was brought up in a pub in North Yorkshire (Gilling East) until I was 17 so can definitely agree that the produce around there is great. My Dad lives in Pocklington so think I may take him along for a meal sometime in late Dec / early Jan assuming you'll be open then of course!

Good luck with it all though :smile:

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I'm in Helmsley this week and now have somewhere to go for lunch! Do I get a free glass of something for being a member of eGullet (albeit not in the clicky club)

i'm sure i can sort something out, do you like yorkshire water? :laugh:

we're open saturday & sunday for lunch this week, hopefully we'll be doing more lunches in the new year as we finalise the kitchen team.

you don't win friends with salad

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Congratulations on the purchase Gary!

Even though I live in Manchester now I was brought up in a pub in North Yorkshire (Gilling East) until I was 17 so can definitely agree that the produce around there is great. My Dad lives in Pocklington so think I may take him along for a meal sometime in late Dec / early Jan assuming you'll be open then of course!

Good luck with it all though  :smile:

ahhh, i know that pub!

we're closing from monday 2nd jan and re-open wednesday 11th Jan.

you don't win friends with salad

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But how is it that you can build a wine list like this, while so many others cannot?

well we've not had the books done yet so it's early days!

the 70% margin mantra is fixed in many operators minds, and many aren't wine afficionados so they see it purely as a profit centre and not from an enthusiasts point of view. Most of the wine merchants i spoke were trying to get people away from fixed margin.

To my mind i'd rather have a few interesting bottles that will make someones day at the price and sell it for £10-15 cash profit than have it on the shelf at 70% margin. Margin means nothing if you don't sell it!

A fine wine rep from one of the big wholesalers came in and reckoned he couldn't supply us the les forts de latour at trade price for the price we were selling it at!

you don't win friends with salad

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So what happens when a foodie/internet food geek that's spent the last few years telling everyone how to run their businesses takes the plunge and has a go?

Everyone he's ever said unpleasant things about makes a b-line for his door with the express intention of slagging him mercilessly on the internet the next day!

This really is great news Gary, many congratulations. If the food is as good as it sounds then you are certainly on to a winner in that department. As someone who spends a great deal of time trying to extract information from restaurant websites, yours is a model of well designed restraint.

So who's going to make it there first? Bapi?

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So what happens when a foodie/internet food geek that's spent the last few years telling everyone how to run their businesses takes the plunge and has a go?

This really is great news Gary, many congratulations. If the food is as good as it sounds then you are certainly on to a winner in that department. As someone who spends a great deal of time trying to extract information from restaurant websites, yours is a model of well designed restraint.

So who's going to make it there first? Bapi?

thanks andy

with the website i've tried to give what i'd like as a punter ie bit of background and ethos of the place, up to date menu, wine list, directions and opening hours.

i'd like a few more photos on there too.

Bapi & Yin have had the pleasure of Sunday lunch, i think they're coming back so it can't have been too bad :laugh:

you don't win friends with salad

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Congratulations - sounds great.

I hope you manage to stick to your ideals - a lot of places start off with good intentions but gradually the menus get more pubbified and the drinks get dumbed down.

I'd love to visit and sample your Ale but it is a bit remote - not being a driver it might be a bit awkward.

Looks like you have made a bit of effort with the house wines too - personal bugbear of mine that most places see it as an excuse to get even higher profit margins. Menu sounds excellent, shame you are a bit far away for our work Christmas lunch!

Excellent website - you have cunningly bypassed the usual restaurant pub design of lots of swirly graphics but no actual information.

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Bapi & Yin have had the pleasure of Sunday lunch, i think they're coming back so

Sorry - didn't get time to post earlier but I can confirm that it was very good indeed. The pub itself is warm and homely, hospitality from Gary and Sarah gracious and food is well executed. Special mention must go to the Oxtail faggot I had that day - sweet sweet shreds of meat - just lovely!

Am sure Gary and Sarah will do very very well - they certainly deserve to!

and I'll be back ASAP!!

Yin

X

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Bapi & Yin have had the pleasure of Sunday lunch, i think they're coming back so it can't have been too bad  :laugh:

Think again Sunshine :wink:

I am glad you have finally "outed" yourself as our very own Al Murray :raz:

It's a gem of a pub and Sarah, being both the brains and the brawn of the operation, will ensure that things go swimmingly. Well done matey. :smile:

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  • 1 month later...

After the christmas/ new year rush we closed and treated ourselves to a weeks holiday, and came back just in time for a serious session with bapi, rosie, slacker and curly fi

i think our chef andy did himself proud with his tasting menu he concocted for us, if only i could remember it, i'd write it up, and of course modesty permitting, i'll leave it to the others to post!

after a week closed the bookings as expected looked a bit light, but further explained when punters were coming in saying they'd been trying to ring and it was just ringing out. A quick call to BT ascertained the line had been down, they re-booted it but couldn't say how long it'd been down! Not happy.

friday night was luckily busy, but saturday was looking a dead loss, 10 booked in at 9am, about 20 by 6pm (4 of those being sarah's parents feeling sorry for us i think!). My dad called at 6 and i said come down we're dead. Also sarah was away on a hen weekend so i was doing the bar solo.

long story short, after 6pm phone goes mad, walk-in's galore and get to the point of turning away punters! We eventually stopped at 51 covers! Menu got turned over completely as no way had the kitchen expected anything like this last minute rush.

sunday lunch was a continuation, 57 done everything sold, if this continues then i'll be very happy, as well as completely knackered!

sarah picked her weekend off very well!

if my home broadband wasn't down, i'd post some menu's they're coming on leaps and bounds and the minute.

you don't win friends with salad

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Gary

Congratulations on the move - apologies for the delay, I didn't see earlier posts.

Hope it works out really well for you (& that you dont eat/drink the profits away).

Cheers

Tony

thanks tony

i'd love the time to eat & drink the profits, i've never eaten/drunk so little since we bought it!

i'm losing weight (although that could well be the stress!)

cheers

gary

you don't win friends with salad

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Best..its a really tough trade.

Capital intensive, labour intensive, top end limited, fickle

Its also surprisingly unsocial...

I hope you bought the freehold...or at least a long lease.

thanks,

all very true, especially the social aspect, although we aren't a million miles away from our home patch the lack of friendly faces, especially over christmas has been quite hard.

i do laugh now when reading agents details '....country pub, fantastic lifestyle opportunity' :laugh:

we have got the freehold

you don't win friends with salad

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