In association with Fever-Tree

My Pub Garden: ‘This is how we created a G&T Garden’

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

My Pub Garden: the Castle Inn, Lulworth, Dorset
My Pub Garden: the Castle Inn, Lulworth, Dorset

Related tags: Gin, Gin and tonic, Garden, Tonic water

Set in the idyllic Dorset countryside, the Castle Inn, in Lulworth, has a sprawling garden and a terrace ripe for drinking a quenching gin and tonic. But general manager David Hargreaves-Putt explains there’s even more going on beyond the pub’s boundaries.

The Castle Inn, Lulworth

The Castle Inn reopened on 23 March after a three-month-long refurbishment, which cost between £1m and £1.4m.

It’s a 16th-century thatched inn with 12 guest rooms, which Butcombe Brewery bought in October 2017 and has fully restored. We have 25 covers in the heart of the pub and around 160 outside across the front terrace and the garden. It is a large operation.

Before Butcombe bought the pub, it was family-owned for about 30 years and not much money had been spent on it.

But money has now been spent throughout the pub to open up the downstairs and modernise the interior, and in a way where we’ve brought back a lot of its character and taken out the 1970s décor we inherited.

We have rethatched it and whitewashed the outside too, so it looks spectacular.

We are a tourist trap, but also a local pub. We cater for tourists who want to experience a piece of West Lulworth, which is where the pub is in Dorset. However, we are also a community hub, so it’s important we look after the locals too.

I have been at the Castle Inn as general manager for 10 weeks. Before then I worked in Canada opening restaurants.

Sales mix

We’re a 40:60 wet:dry split, which evens out on sunny days when customers are happy to sit in the garden or on the terrace and have another drink or two after their meal.

Our head chef Ashley Walcott, who came from a local estate and has been working with Butcombe for the last eight months, drives food.

He combines pub classics with modern twists and has developed great vegetarian and vegan dishes, which have created a bit of a buzz around the area.

David Hargreaves-Putt the Castle Inn
The GM: David Hargreaves-Putt has been at the pub for 10 weeks

It is hard to tell how important the garden is to business at the moment, as we have a limited trading history. Now, it is contributing between 25% and 30% to overall trade.

Drink makes up the biggest part of sales in the garden currently and there are plans to develop that and bring in more food takings too. The previous owners didn’t allow food to go outside.

I think spend in the garden is so big because we have made it comfortable for customers.

The garden

Making the garden what it is now has taken a lot of work. We have had to cut back existing plants that were here as well as introduce things like a herb garden into a rockery we uncovered during the renovation.

The head gardener of one of our other properties came down to plan it and next we are putting in a chef’s garden – the groundwork for that is being put in now. 

The herb garden is currently sensory and that is important so we can introduce what we are trying to do here, which is to use local suppliers.

An important part of that message is also the chef’s garden, which will have vegetables. It will not be fully sustainable, but it shows our intent and that we care about our locality.

The entrance to the garden sweeps along one side of the building. There is a rose bed as you come in, which creates a welcoming country image for people.

The Catles Inn pub Lulworth
The pub: the Castle Inn, Lulworth, Dorset

You come to the pub and see the thatch, the roses and we have picnic benches on a fully-grassed garden area.

Because of the easy access to the garden, everything is serviced from our kitchen and we use recyclable take-out boxes and cutlery, so there is not a lot of crockery coming out.

This also creates a different dining experience in the garden. We have picnic blankets so people can come up here and spend the day. They are not just coming and leaving, but enjoying themselves.

There is also a unique element to the garden; over the hedge and off into the distance there is an Army firing range, which you can sit and listen to occasionally. It is something quite quirky and different.

It is not active all of the time and more often than not you can sit out and hear birdsong, but occasionally you can hear a rumble from the firing range, which gives us a bit of added interest and quirkiness.

Fever-Tree

Because of our English country feel, gin and tonics are an important part of our offer, which we are looking to grow.

Currently G&Ts account for about 10% of our drinks sales in the garden, but a lot higher in total when you take into account the number sold in the pub.

Since we have reopened, Fever-Tree has helped us look at increasing our G&T sales, with point-of-sale material and other ways of incorporating them into the garden.

Fever-Tree, as part of a national rollout, is looking at gin garden locations, which is good for us because we want our garden to be seen as less of a ‘traditional beer garden’.

We want customers to see that we have a gin garden, that we are going that extra mile and that we are different.

Gin and tonic chat
Gin chat: create the perfect experience

There is going to be a Fever-Tree gin garden location tool online, which will give our pub more exposure. Fever-Tree and ourselves will be shouting about the relationship too.

We have branded parasols and caddies and we are going to back up the gin garden with a special food offer.

We are looking at doing things like G&T oyster shooters and G&T-cured salmon and G&T sorbet. It is not just a garden where you can drink a G&T, but you can also have one in food.

For us here, the fit of a G&T garden is right. Maybe it is not right in every garden, but it works with the nature of our garden.

We are in a part of the world where sitting in a suntrap garden with a refreshing G&T is the perfect match.

Gin and Tonic

Gin is going through massive growth, with smaller producers coming onto the market. But also the number of tonics on the market has grown too, which means customers now have a big choice of gins to consider as well as lots of tonics.

A garden garnish
Garden garnish: bring the drink outdoors

The different Fever-Tree tonics will lend themselves to various styles of gin that we offer. We have worked with Fever-Tree to pair our gins with tonics so people can choose a drink based on their preferred flavour profile. It might be a floral gin, so we might match that with a Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic.

Tonic pairings advice

For pubs looking to create G&T gardens, I’d say really look at the pairings of the gins and the tonics together because the sum is greater than its part. That’s really key.

It’s all very well offering choice, but without any guidance it can be baffling to customers to have so many gin choices and then so many choices of tonic. Pairing helps and people feel much more comfortable.

Find out how to create your own​ G&T Garden of Eden.

This sponsored feature was brought to you by The Morning Advertiser in association with Fever-Tree as part of a summer-long campaign to create beautiful Gin and Tonic Gardens in pubs across the UK.

Related news

Show more