If there is one thing that’s ‘in’ in 2016, it’s the trend of finding unusual places to eat out. This historic country pub took the winning prize for Most Stylish Dining in our 2015 Style Awards for being a truly unique and unusual venue; we spoke to owner, Tim Bird, about the inspiration behind the pub’s quirky and rustic design.
For more inspiration on restaurant interior design, download the Hilden Style Guide now.
The Church Inn at Mobberley
The Church Inn is a charming eatery establishment based just outside the village of Knutsford, Cheshire which can be dated back to the 18th century. Located opposite an old Church on a quaint country lane, this establishment re-opened in 2013 after being acquired and renovated by its current owners, Tim Bird and Mary McLaughlin.
The room that stole the show in this beautiful venue was the George Mallory private dining area. This exclusive dining room is dominated by a large wooden table to accommodate for private parties and wine tasting events; the beverage of choice for this local. The room is named in tribute to George Mallory, a local villager and son of an old Church priest. George died climbing mount Everest in 1924 and his story is perfectly told via newspaper clippings and artefacts on show throughout the establishment.
What is the story behind the Church Inn and why did this particular building catch your eye originally?
Like many pubs these days the Church Inn had fallen upon very hard times, despite its lovely position opposite St. Wilfrid’s Church in the picturesque village of Mobberley in Cheshire. The pub was owned latterly by Punch Taverns and many lessees had failed to make the pub work. Punch closed the pub and put it up for sale back in 2012. Enter industry veterans Tim Bird and Mary McLaughlin who own the award winning Bulls Head also in the village of Mobberley. They purchased the freehold of the pub from Punch Taverns and set about the restoration of this pretty pub. The building catches the eye on a number of counts, its position opposite the Church, its rural position within the village with farmer’s fields to the rear and the potential for terraces and gardens to the side and back of the pub. Although very tired the pub had great charm externally and just needed a little love and care.
Talk us through the renovation work you completed and how this led to the design we see today?
The Church Inn is a grade II listed public house, so one really has to work with the historic shell of the building. The exterior was already charming it simply needed authentic signage and redecoration. The inside needed a lot of work. The interior is stripped back to the bare bones to hopefully uncover some historic treasures such as fire places and old walls. The design had to fit the heritage of a pub from 1715 and while retaining the old dining rooms on the ground floor openings were widened to ensure the bar could be seen from most parts of those dining rooms. We didn’t move the bar but ensured it reflected its heritage as an old country tavern.
What or who inspired the design and trends that we see in the pub currently?
We create pubs with our design and build team that are individual in their own right reflecting their heritage and ensuring they become little institutions for people to enjoy for many a year. The pub itself inspired us in how it needed to be treated and all our experience as a team came together to ensure the design doesn’t ever date at all. Also we continue every week to add more and more points of local interest within the pub so over time there is an eclectic mix of wonderful and relevant talking points.
What challenges did you come up against when renovating / styling the property? What advice would you give to others who may face the same challenges?
Make sure you have enough money…… if the scheme takes longer than you first thought and then costs end up more than you at first thought you have to find extra cash flow. It is always the same when you take over any closed down or low volume pub that has belonged to one of the big pub property companies such as Punch…when you begin to put the building under pressure a lot of things can go wrong, such as boilers, drainage, gas pressures, electricity and central heating.
Also you may think you will find something charming under plaster but it doesn’t always work that way! So allow for these consequences otherwise you will have a pretty pub with no heat and blocked drains! Getting full drain surveys is imperative as part of any restoration. However when you do uncover a ‘jewel’ make sure you include it in the final pub finish. For example we found an old horse hair and lime plaster wall under wood chip wallpaper in our private dining room so we have retained it as a major feature.
The judges comments included that they liked the fact you had left ‘no corner uncovered’ – did you find it difficult to come up with fresh ideas for every room/space in the pub?
No not really…..the ‘fresh’ ideas have to keep coming well beyond the day you open and you have to be brave on changing things if you think they aren’t right. We intended to add four guest bedrooms and in the end we didn’t think they would work so we waited, thought about things and then added two private dining rooms instead. A lot of points of interest have been added to the Church Inn since we opened as we find relevant artefacts or are given historical items. All the pictures and cuttings relating to George Mallory were given to us by a local gentlemen to have copied and framed to honour George Mallory within our private dining room.
What do you think it was about your venue that inspired our judges and made you this year’s winner?
I think it has to be the attention to detail and care we have all put in to ensuring an exceptionally comforting dining environment for our guests.
What do you think sets your venue apart from others?
The pub is truly cared for with longevity at the heart of the original restoration but critically our people and the quality of our food and drink all have to work exceptionally and consistently.
Do you have any advice for any establishments wanting to enter the Style Awards in 2016?
Yes, find something within your establishment that’s wonderfully original and you are very proud of and take a great photo of it, make sure the photo does it justice and then send it in….you never know it may just lead to you becoming a winner!
Read more interviews like this one and see what’s trending in hospitality design, in this year’s FREE Hilden Style Guide.