Tony Rowen finds that the re-opening of a village pub is proving a very popular move indeed
PYTCHLEY has got its pub back. Having been closed since April, The Overstone Arms reopened towards the end of July under the ownership of Trevor Jones, who some will remember previously ran The Royal Oak at Walgrave and The Tollemache Arms in Harrington.
In recent years, village pubs have been susceptible to the economic conditions, with many closing never to reopen. Happily, this is not the case with The Overstone Arms as Trevor and his son Chris identified the potential of the only pub in the village, which has some 500-plus residents.
Their bold decision reflects the current climate. As Charles Church of Underwoods reports in his article in the Property Portfolio section of this edition, the licensed property sector is performing well, with vacant pubs being bought and refurbished.
Before reopening, the pub underwent some alterations to the restaurant and kitchen areas as well as being deep cleaned and it is still a work in progress, with the bar being the next on the list to receive the makeover treatment.
Trevor felt it was important to get people back in the pub as soon as possible before the villagers completely forgot about their local, and was delighted when they turned out in force on the opening night.
"Fortunately, it was a good evening weatherwise, and within half an hour the bar and garden were packed and there was money in the till," said Trevor.
Happily, since then, it has proved not to be just curiosity value, and as the word has spread that the pub is open again many former regulars have returned, together with others discovering it for the first time.
After many years in the footwear trade, Trevor entered the pub industry, starting at The Alexandra Arms in Kettering before taking over The Royal Oak in Walgrave (1999 to 2002) and The Tollemache Arms in Harrington (2000 to 2005).
His involvement in pubs really came about through his son, Aaron, who, inspired and encouraged by his mother, Ann, trained as a chef. He now runs the Vane Arms in Sudborough.
Now, in partnership with his other son Chris, Trevor is revitalising The Overstone Arms and following the same formula that made his other ventures so success - providing well-cooked and well-presented food at reasonable prices.
To achieve this, Trevor has enlisted the services of Mark Law, who was his head chef at The Tollemache Arms, and renewed his long-standing allegiance with his butcher in Rothwell and other local suppliers.
The Overstone Arms menu features a selection of eight starters and nine main courses while desserts are selected and prepared daily by the chef. There are also daily blackboard specials.
When my friend Anita and I visited The Overstone Arms on a perfect summer's evening last month, it was immediately apparent that the novelty value of the village pub being open again hasn't worn off. The top car park was full and there were several vehicles in the overspill car park.
We were shown to our table in the spacious restaurant - it can seat 60 - by waiter Mark Watson who was being kept busy by a healthy attendance of other diners.
Starter choices featured soup, tempura vegetables, home-smoked chicken and duck salad, baked camembert (for two), and garlic mushrooms, but Anita and I chose the two fish options - seafood cocktail (fresh prawns, poached haddock and crab meat with salad, Marie Rose sauce and brown bread and butter) and Gravadlax salmon (home-made to a Swedish recipe and served on rocket with lemon and a dill dressing). Both were delicious. Prices for starters range from £3.50 to £8.95.
Our main course selections were lamb cutlets on herb potatoes with cauliflower cheese and a rich leek and red wine gravy and belly pork with sauté of cabbage duo and mustard crushed new potatoes and sweet onion marmalade. Again, both were superb and the portions were very generous - three large lamb cutlets were presented on Anita's plate, while my belly pork was topped off with superb crackling.
Other main course choices are fish and chips, The Real Burger, ham, egg and chips, stuffed chicken, mushroom and polenta steak, fillet steak and Porterhouse blue. Prices range from £8.95 and £17.95.
I had no appetite for a dessert but Anita couldn't resist the mango bomb.
Two days after our visit, a Sunday carvery was being introduced. It is now available between noon and 8pm every Sunday, but the one difference from other carveries is that the potatoes and vegetables are freshly cooked for every diner and delivered to their table as they return from the carvery area.
The Overstone Arms is back in business and in the hands of people who know what they are doing. The people of Pytchley have got their pub back but the indications are that they will have to be prepared to share it with people from a wider area.
The Overstone Arms