Case study: Another kettle of fish

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Related tags: Wellington pub company, Seafood

If you had to hazard a guess at the meal of choice of a regular at the Blacksmiths Arms, you might go for a thick crust pie crammed with steak, or...

If you had to hazard a guess at the meal of choice of a regular at the Blacksmiths Arms, you might go for a thick crust pie crammed with steak, or perhaps freshly caught grouse, pheasant or duck from the local shoot, all washed down with a pint of fine real ale.

While such hearty meals are instrumental to success at the North Yorkshire inn, which sits in the conservation village of Lastingham, in fact more than a third of its dishes these days are a lot more fishy.

Licensees Peter and Hils Trafford took on the pub five years ago on a free-of-tie lease with Wellington Pub Company. Trade was quiet, to say the least, with a fairly standard pub menu.

To attract more of a cross section, including walkers and tourists, the Traffords wanted to start sourcing Yorkshire ingredients from the region's producers, they needed to include seafood from the coast just 30 minutes away.

Today, regulars on the menu include homemade Scarborough haddock bake, herb crusted oven baked salmon fillet, and pan fried halibut or monkfish with crab and potato cake.

Hils says: "We now attract more couples and families as we pride ourselves on being a warm-hearted place which makes well-behaved children feel they are part of the human race, not alien beings.

"We cook everything from scratch and advertise the fact our fresh, smoked trout comes from a nearby Pickering farm and our fish and seafood comes straight off Icelandic trawlers into Whitby and Scarborough, delivered to our door within hours. We recently moved away from cod because of higher costs, but the jumbo haddock we order is perfect for our crispy, lightly coated, beer battered haddock and chips."

The Blacksmiths also has the market leading scampi producer on its doorstep, Whitby Seafoods. "To make a business like this work, you have to have confidence in the products you buy," says Hils. "We even have a regular who loves it so much, he has double servings."

The Blacksmiths' rejuvenated menu, combined with fantastic fine real ales and its now-legendary Magic Crock Pot of homemade soup by the open fire has seen the pub named Abbot Ale and Daily Telegraph Pub of the Year in 2006 and Moors and Coast Tourist Awards' Pub of the Year in 2007.

"We have turned a quiet little inn into a busy attraction, with real ale and a good reputation for food," said Hils. "When we arrived, the menu was limited, poorly priced and food wasn't selling but things have changed dramatically and we now serve up to 600 covers a week. We have become pretty renowned due to our commitment to quality."

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