Facts 'n' stats
Name: the Devonshire Arms Inn at Beeley
Address: Chatsworth House estate, near Bakewell, Peak District National Park, Derbyshire, DE4 2NR
Tenure: Continual lease from Chatsworth House, The Duke & Duchess of Devonshire
Year founded: 1747
Licensee: Andy Morris
Staff numbers: 27
Wet:dry split: 43:57
This is an 18th century village inn on the Duke of Devonshire’s Chatsworth House estate. Only a short drive away from the main house, the inn would originally have been a place for the estate workers in the village. It was one of three village pubs back in the day, now only this one remains. Its rumoured that King Edward VII used to have trysts here with his mistress Alice Keppel, and Charles Dickens was also a regular when the inn was a popular coaching inn.
Fourteen years ago, the inn returned to the ownership of e Duke & Duchess of Devonshire, under the management of the Devonshire Hotels & Restaurants group, and the inn now has a well-established reputation for gastropub dining and quality, boutique style accommodation.
My career in hospitality has included running a two Michelin-starred restaurant in Lancashire, to opening sites in every major city in the north-west.
In 2004, I was employed as general manager by the Northcote group to open their first pub under the Ribble Valley Inns name. Under the influence of Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft, the Three Fishes at Mitton won many of the accolades within the pub industry, including The Morning Advertiser’s Publican Awards and number three in the Top 50 Gastropubs (we were in the top 50 for 10 years) and many more.
I have always worked in good-quality, food-focused businesses so, for me, the added challenge of the Devonshire Arms was to manage a gourmet pub with rooms.
With having Chatsworth on our doorstep, we are lucky to have a constant stream of visitors to the area, either day-trippers or residential. This affects the summer season massively although, in the low season, we obviously invest much more marketing to sell the rooms.
One thing that remains important to me is that we keep the ambience as a ‘village pub for locals’ as well, so although we have made dining a key part of the business, there are still plenty of folk that like to come in for a pint with their friends, or walkers to stand at the bar in their muddy boots.
We welcome dogs, and their owners have dining options in the bar area, or in warmer months, outside on the terrace, this area has proven to be a real winner for passing trade, with chairs and table outside, and patio heaters and blankets to enhance guest experience, it has optimised our capacity nicely during the busy season.
What's on the menu?
Wye bakehouse bread, Pugliese and rye sourdough, butter, balsamic vinegar - £4
Hand-picked Devon crab, Granny Smith apple, mango, spring onion, sesame seeds, coriander - £13
Shredded spring salad, maple and lime tahini dressing (vegan) - £7/£14
Pig ‘nose to tail’ – braised pork belly, chipolata, honey-glazed cheek, black pudding fritter, grilled spring onion, baby carrots, mustard mash - £18
Feta gnocchi, yellow and green courgette, tomato purée, olives, mint, lemon (vegetarian) - £15
Beer-battered haddock, triple-cooked chips, marrowfat peas, grilled lemon - £14
Sticky toffee pudding, rum-soaked raisins, butterscotch sauce, vanilla ice cream - £6.50
British cheese – a selection of cheeses from English counties, served with apple chutney, celery, grapes and crackers - £10
We take our food offering diligently and are proud to have retained a AA rosette rating for several years. That said, we ensure that we have a variety of options to suit all tastes to cater for a wide selection of people coming through the door. Head chef Lewis Thornhill has been with us now for two years and he has really brought a new vitality to the seasonal menus with his passion for simplicity but interesting flavour combinations, along with the pub classics.
We have a total of seven full-time chefs, and Lewis is great at mentoring his team and encouraging them to reach greater heights, for example, our chef de partie Callum Lewis has recently been shortlisted for a Young Chef of the Year award.
With produce from the estate and local producers, there is always something new to incorporate into the menus that change every three months, in addition to this we offer a nice selection for both vegan and vegetarians, and food intolerances can be catered for too. Produce that is directly sourced and where possible locally sourced and named, such as Cornish crab and Wye Valley asparagus, has enabled up to maximise customer spend (up 83p per cover year on year). Chef ’s signature dish is the rump of Chatsworth lamb with seasonal accompaniments.
We have recently enjoyed success with promoting our desserts and cheeses on a separate menu, which we have found to tempt more diners.
In addition, we have optimised profitability on cheese selections, by no longer offering the three-cheese option, and upgrading it to a five-cheese selection only – our selection includes local varieties such as Lincolnshire Poacher and Colston Basset Stilton from local artisan producers.
Desserts sales are up 18% year on year and cheeses 23%. We change our menus every three months, and recently introduced vegan ice cream, which has been popular – this is an example of us harnessing the latest trends.
I inherited a good team of staff when I started 18 months ago and I’m fortunate and proud to have retained the majority of them, enabling Lewis and I to build and strengthen our team to provide the opportunities for development, and to provide a really good consistent level of output and knowledgeable service.
The majority of the team are local but we do accommodate five team members in a staff cottage. Staff turnover has reduced by 65% over the past two years, which is most encouraging because we have strived for better organisation and work-life balance.
As an inn first and foremost, drink is central to our hospitality. Our wine list consists of 20 white and 20 red, of which we have a selection of six of each by the glass (three different sizes) and we have retained the quality by purchasing a Vere de Vin system.
I am constantly looking at new wines and recently introduced a Peruvian Chardonnay to the list. Because of the popularity of sparkling by the glass, we offer Champagne, Prosecco and a rosé.
Wines of the month are always on offer to give clients even more value for money and range from £20 to a tempting £80 per bottle.
We offer four cask ales, three of which are sourced within a five-mile radius. And 30-odd gins (and growing) for which we suggest various seasonal serving suggestions and a variety of tonics, of course.
Now we have 18 rooms because we have recently acquired a cottage across the way. No 1 Devonshire Square has been converted into four additional en-suite bedrooms, including a room suitable for accessibility requirements.
With two more cottages, Dove and Brookdale (where our dog-friendly rooms are) as well as the main inn, our accommodation is unique and varied. Each of the rooms is styled by our company interior designer (Rachel McLane) with influence from the Duchess, far from being conservative, she brings her love of quirky fun elements to the rooms’ inherently country style.
We would like to target being the one of the best gastropubs in the region, our ambitions are moving steadily in this direction and we would like to fine-tune our menus, with the addition of perhaps afternoon snacks and sharing plates; we had good take-up on vegan dishes, so we now offer a separate menu for this.
We are looking to create a more convivial, family-friendly environment, e.g. offering board games to play after dinner or while having a drink. We have interjected humour into our menus to demonstrate more of our personality and make people feel at home and relaxed.
Our green policy remains at the core of what we do, for example, investment improved sourcing of fuel to aid efficiency and mindful waste disposal. We are community spirited and keen to embrace sustainable measures. There are plans to introduce a ‘Green Ambassador’ to each of the businesses in the group, including Beeley.