My Pub: the White Hart, Lydgate, Greater Manchester

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Hart of gold: it’s not remote but it’s not on a main road. Check out the White Hart
Hart of gold: it’s not remote but it’s not on a main road. Check out the White Hart

Related tags: Pub, Alcoholic beverage, Public house

Charles Brierley has been at the helm of the White Hart for a quarter of a century and built up the business, including adding rooms and constantly upgrading the restaurants.

The pub

Facts 'n' stats

Name: the White Hart

Address: 51 Stockport Rd, Lydgate, Oldham, OL4 4JJ

Licensee: Charles Brierley

Wet:dry:accom split: 45:45:10

Turnover: £2.6m

I acquired the White Hart in Lydgate in 1994 – at the time it was functioning as the village pub but there were parts of the building that were derelict.

Over the past 25 years, we’ve undertaken extensive refurbishment throughout, which has seen the creation of 12 bedrooms in the pub (built in several stages as opposed to all in one) and four bedrooms in The Cottage next door, which I bought in 2008.

We moved the kitchen, which I originally put upstairs, when adding an additional dining room.

We started to use a marquee for events and after a year of running an incredible number of them, everything from weddings and christenings to mayoral wine tastings and award ceremonies, we knew there was a market for an events space, and so came the arrival of The Oak Room in 2015, and in turn, The Pavilion in 2017.

In addition to all the different rooms within the pub, we also have an outstanding garden which comes into its own in the sunnier months. Our views into Manchester and across the Pennines are second to none.

White Hart

The publican

I worked in the hospitality scene for a number of years, mainly in banqueting. I was aware of the White Hart long before I bought it... it was actually where I had my first pint.

Having worked in hotels, I wanted to invest in somewhere that could offer accommodation – the White Hart had a lot of land and, at the age of 25, I bought it. Twenty five years later, I’m still here and we’re still evolving and will continue to do so.

I also launched an additional restaurant, Dinnerstone, in Uppermill, 13 years ago, which is also doing well. It underwent a refurbishment a few years ago, to give it a refresh and that has had a positive impact on footfall, attracting both locals and visitors to the area.

White Hart (4)

The trade

The White Hart is based in Saddleworth and close to a number of neighbouring villages. We wouldn’t class ourselves as remote because we have a lot of customers within walking distance but, equally, we’re not on the main thoroughfare.

Many of our customers are hyperlocal – they are regulars at the pub and may come two or three times a week. We then have those who live slightly further afield, who we would still class as regulars and then there are those who have been to events here in the past, and come back to try it again. We have a good split of customers who come in just for a drink and those who come to dine.

The team

We have an incredibly loyal team, many of whom have achieved 20 years of service with us, as well as some temporary staff who work with us during the summer holidays, etc.

We have 80 members of staff, with the front of house led by our brasserie manager Florian who has been with us for 15 years, assistant manager Josie, banqueting manager Jack, duty manager Phil and ops manager Jamie. There are 25 waiting staff, who serve The Brasserie and work at our events in The Oak Room, Library and The Pavilion.

Back of house, there are 17 members of staff, led by head chef Mike Shaw, who has been with us 11 years. We have a dedicated banqueting team led by Lee Airey (celebrating his 20th anniversary with us this year) who work on our weddings and other events, while those working in the front kitchen manage the rest.

Offering 16 bedrooms, we also have a front office and a housekeeping team.

White Hart (1)

The drink

We champion local microbreweries – beer is a big seller for us.

We’re also incredibly proud of our wine list, which has been compiled by experts in the industry. It features a range of wines to suit all tastes and budgets, from a bottle at £24 up to rare wines at £1,000. Our cellar manager Iain Dredge, currently in his 21st year of service with us, is constantly tinkering with our offering, to ensure we’re responding to customer demand.

The food

What’s on the menu?

White Hart (5)

Starters

French onion soup with gruyere crouton - £6.50

Duck liver parfait with blackberry, granny Smith apple and granola - £8.50

Lobster Ravioli with young leeks and shellfish bisque - £12

Mains

Wild mushroom ‘bourguignon’ with brown rice - £15

Crispy haddock with hand-cut chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce - £16

Cumberland sausage with onion mash and cider gravy - £17

Desserts

Pear tarte tatin with liquorice ice cream - £7.50

Chilled chocolate fondant with banana ice cream and salted caramel - £9

Selection of five cheeses, served with crackers, quince jelly, green apple - £10

The food served at the White Hart is definitely one of the reasons people visit us.

Head chef Mike Shaw is classically trained and creates classic dishes for The Brasserie, which people expect from a pub menu but with a touch of flair.

We have a number of dishes that stay on the menu year-round because customers would revolt if we took them off.

But we also rotate the menu seasonally – adding in dishes one by one rather than doing a complete menu change in one go.

Starters currently include Pork shoulder pâté, with pickled vegetables and Sarson’s vinegar; Yorkshire asparagus with Parmesan custard, summer truffle or Hollandaise sauce; and lobster ravioli with spinach and coriander.

On the mains menu, we have dishes such as crispy haddock, hand-cut chips, mushy peas, tartar sauce; Gressingham duck, with honey, Sarawak pepper, roast peach and pak choi; and poached chicken in white wine, with morel mushrooms, broad beans and asparagus.

Our dessert menu includes caramel tart with burned butter ice cream; vanilla crème brûlée with apricot sorbet; and chocolate delice with praline ice cream.

The events

Events form a large part of our business – we hold over 600 a year. From weddings to awards ceremonies, special birthdays and business functions, we have a number of different rooms that cater from 30 people right up to 180 sat down or 300 standing.

Every year, on Whit Friday, there’s a big local event that draws in thousands of people from all over the country and we host a beer festival to coincide with it. Brass bands parade through the streets, from Oldham to Saddleworth and, alongside our beer festival, we put on a hog roast and pizzas, and have a big party. It’s become a real staple on the local event calendar – I think there would be a rebellion if we ever tried to cancel it.

We also run regular wine tastings, wine dinners and are looking at adding some more chef collaborations into the mix this year. We also host town dinners and we cater for the Oldham Business Awards for 570 people, the mayor’s lunch and awards dinner.

White Hart (2)

The future

There’s been a lot of expansion at the White Hart over the years, we’re never happy to stand still. Over a four-year period, I’ve invested £1.2m (£1m in the White Hart and £200,000 at Dinnerstone) and there is further investment planned for 2020, starting with The Pavilion.

It currently has a roof but no walls – it’s great in the summer but not so good in the winter. We’ve got plans to add some glass doors to each side, so we’ll still have the flexibility to open it up when the weather is on our side but it also means we can market it as a year-round destination, which is something we haven’t been able to do previously.

This year, we changed our offering inside the pub – The Dining Room no longer serves a separate menu, it has become part of The Brasserie.

The menu for The Brasserie has been tweaked so that it incorporates a mix of dishes from The Dining Room menu, allowing people to have a tasting menu if they like, or order from the à la carte, which has gone down incredibly well with customers.

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