Historic Michelin coup in the offing

Related tags Michelin star Gordon ramsay Michelin

by The PMA Team A trio of young entrepreneurs look set to make pub catering history by winning a Michelin star for quality food at two different...

by The PMA Team A trio of young entrepreneurs look set to make pub catering history by winning a Michelin star for quality food at two different pubs. Ben Jones, Marcus Welford and Sean Hope, all in their early 30s, won a Michelin star at their pub, the Olive Branch in Clipsham, Leicestershire last year ­ less than two years after buying it. The pub became only the third inn ­ along with the Stagg Inn in Herefordshire and Star Inn, near Helmsley, North Yorkshire ­ to be given a Michelin star. It puts the pub's food quality on the same footing as Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at Claridges, Gary Rhodes at City Rhodes and swanky London sushi restaurant Nobu. In June last year, the trio bought their second freehold pub, the Red Lion, in Stathern, Leicestershire, in the Vale of Belvoir. The latest edition of the Michelin Red Guide has given the pub a Bib Gourmand for its food after just six months of trade ­ regarded as the halfway step to a full Michelin star. Welford said: "It's incredible to think that we only opened six months ago and we have a Bib Gourmand so early. To get a Michelin star there as well would be fantastic." The trio's success has been achieved despite starting with little capital. The Olive Branch had been closed for two years before they bought it in 1999 for £190,000. Four villagers in Clipsham chipped in with £30,000 toward the purchase price. The pub was re-opened with a modest £50,000 investment ­ £30,000 on refurbishing the neglected interior and £20,000 on re-conditioned kitchen equipment. The pub's style of food is described by Michelin, with typical brevity, as: "varied, seasonal modern cooking, intelligently judged and full of flavour". The trio plan to open a "collective" of three pubs eventually, with each partner offering consultancy services to each other. The opening of the Red Lion has seen Jones move over to the new site and the recruitment of Phil Lowe, formerly second chef at Hart's restaurant in Nottingham, as head chef. The menu at the Red Lion is similar to the Olive Branch with delightful touches such as hot, freshly-baked speciality Rearsby loaves served as an appetiser. Both pubs serve food in a pubby way rather than a stuffy restaurant style. A three-course set lunch is available each day for the £11.50. Jones said: "We tell people who ring to book a table in the restaurant that we don't have a restaurant. But we do have a separate dining area. We tried very hard to keep away from that restaurant perception." The trio's pub partnership was founded after 10 years of experience in the catering industry. They all worked together a decade ago at Hambleton Hall, next to Rutland Water, Leicestershire. Jones, whose role is front-of house, later worked in France and as head waiter at Harts restaurant in Nottingham. Chef Hope has worked at Marco Pierre White's Criterion in London and the Feathers in Woodstock. Welford is the wine specialist with time spent at a vineyard in France. Telegraph praises stunning choice Of the Olive Branch drink offer, the Daily Telegraph said: "The jaw-dropping choice of drink clearly plays a big part in the success of the Olive Branch. Not only do they have the usual selection of spirits and ales on tap (including a hammily-named olive oil) but there is also an excellent wine list (helpfully divided into light, floral, weighty, easy drinking, mellow and full), not to mention blackboard menus for Champagne, sherry, pudding wine and special-occasion bin-ends.

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