My Pub: the Victoria Inn, Eastleach, Gloucestershire

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Cotswolds charm: the Victoria Inn is a particularly beautiful part of the Cotswolds
Cotswolds charm: the Victoria Inn is a particularly beautiful part of the Cotswolds

Related tags: Pubs, Alcoholic beverage, Public house, Beer

Licensee Tom Gabbitas explains why his idyllic pub in the Cotswolds keeps fans flocking in all year round.

Facts 'n' stats

Pub:​ the Victoria Inn

Address:​ Eastleach, Cirencester, GL7 3NQ

Licensees:​ Tom and Maya Gabbitas

Staff:​ 15 to 20 staff, depending on the time of year

Tenure:​ Three-year rolling tenancy

Wet:dry split:​ 50:50 GP on wet: 50%; GP on food: 70%

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The pub

The Victoria Inn is a traditional, cosy, country pub that proudly overlooks the quintessential Cotswolds village of Eastleach. Discreetly situated only minutes from the market town of Burford and the riverside town of Lechlade, Eastleach feels truly secluded and has an ageless appeal.

It is a village of breathtaking beauty that – even by Cotswolds standards – is something special and it is renowned for its display of daffodils in the spring. The fact that the Victoria Inn blends so perfectly into its surroundings is what makes this pub such a treasure.

Formerly a private house – complete with an attached coach house – it dates back to the early 18th century. But it wasn’t until 1856 that somebody had the idea of turning it into an inn. Arkell’s persuaded Courage to part with it in 1976.

The Victoria Inn is a pretty Cotswolds stone property, located on a small hill overlooking the village, a stone dining terrace was added last year to make the most of the south-facing position.

We describe ourselves as a good old-fashioned boozer with good food to boot. Offering a relaxed atmosphere where families, dogs and muddy boots are also welcome.

The fact that the Victoria Inn blends so perfectly into its surroundings is what makes this pub such a treasure.

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The publican

I have had more than 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry. I started in a hotel, aged 14, washing dishes and, by the time I was doing my A-levels, I found myself working for one of the UK’s most popular restaurant chains. After university, I moved to Bristol and worked in management positions in various pubs, restaurants and cafés.

My last position was in Bristol at Bordeaux Quay where I worked alongside some great chefs and some wonderful ingredients. After six years there, the business went through some structural changes and I found myself redundant.

Every cloud has a silver lining and this instigated a move to the country. By this time, I had met Maya (my now wife) and had two lovely children, Ava & Wilf.

We wanted a rural upbringing for the kids and we needed an area that had plenty of opportunities in the industry. Where better than the Cotswolds and by chance we ended up in the beautiful village of Eastleach.

The Victoria Inn was directly opposite our house and we had our eye on it. The tenancy came up in 2016 and we jumped at the chance to run our own business. After meeting with George and the team at Arkell’s, we were pleased to be offered the tenancy – we’ve been happily running it for three years.

I really enjoy what we do, that’s why I’m now participating in Arkell’s most recent campaign that aims to recruit for new publicans for their pubs by unveiling what it’s really like to be a pub tenant and – more specifically – an Arkell’s tenant.

The trade

We are very lucky when it comes to the support of our local community. We are situated in an incredibly beautiful part of the countryside, which attracts walkers, cyclists and people wanting to escape the city at the weekends, looking for a traditional British pub.

Our trade is split roughly 50:50 on food and drink because we provide a local watering hole and a destination for food.

I believe that many different elements give our 18th century pub the unique personality that punters know and love it for. Cosy corners and fires in the winter and a beautiful sun-drenched terrace to enjoy in the warmer months. As a landlord, it feels like an extension of my home and, equally, I want customers to see it as an extension of their home.

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The team

We’ve been really lucky; we’ve got a great team of staff from the village itself and surrounding area. Maya keeps us on the straight and narrow, looking after the administration side of the business and I run front of house along with three part-time supervisors, Eppie, Zoe & Jed.

Our head chef, Malcolm, runs the kitchen alongside Ash and we are helped with our team of part-time staff. We are a team of around 15 to 20 staff depending on the time of year.

We’ve changed our structure some months ago – initially, Maya managed the front of house as well as covering all the administration, and I ran the kitchen. But as the business has grown, it was necessary to expand and evolve the team.

The drink

We keep things fairly simple and traditional to fit the setting. We are attempting to produce something timeless and classic rather than particularly modern or faddish. This goes for the food as well as the drink.

We do, however, offer a cracking Bloody Mary and have been known to whip up an Espresso Martini on request.

Another distinctive feature are the craft beers that we serve that are provided by Arkell’s. Our house ale is 3B, a copper coloured ale with a pleasant fruity and malty nose, is popular with the locals and passing trade alike. We also offer a guest ale that changes every couple of months throughout the year, Hoperation, Kingsdown and Spring Hopper to mention just a few.

The food

What’s on the menu?

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Starters

  • Cream of cauliflower soup, crispy capers & truffle oil - £6.50
  • Smoked haddock, hollandaise and Comte gratin, dressed leaves - £9
  • Smoked Bibury trout, creme fraiche and horseradish potato salad, capers - £8
  • Pigeon breast, pancetta, Sage, Marsala golden raisins and grilled bread - £9.50
  • Saffron risotto and Parmesan - £7/£12

Mains

  • Macaroni cheese, herb crumb and house salad - £11.50
  • Burger, brioche bun, Cheddar, pancetta, Dijonnaise, tomato relish, gherkin, fries and Caesar wedge - £12.50
  • 3B beer-battered haddock, tartare sauce, peas and fries - £14.50
  • Pan-roasted hake, chorizo, creamed leeks, cannellini beans, chicken gravy - £19.50
  • Todenham Manor Farm pork chop, thyme mash, cavolo nero, roasted apple, cider sauce, hazelnut and pink peppercorns - £17
  • 8oz sirloin steak, peppercorn sauce, beef dripping onion, watercress and fries - £23.50

Our menu is predominantly British and traditional with influence from classic French and Italian cooking. We use lots of wonderful local produce and, inherently, many dishes are led by the change in seasons.

We are committed to supporting our fellow local independent businesses and take pride in sourcing ingredients from suppliers such as Eastleach Down’s Organic Farm, based in the village, which provides us with fabulous pork.

Cutler & Bayliss in Lechlade uses local farmers and provides our beef for the Sunday lunch.

We also use The Cotswold Cheese Company, in Burford; The SaltPig Curing company; Todenham Manor Farm, Moreton-in-Marsh, for our beautiful grass-fed, 35 day-aged steaks. Plus Four Seasons Fruiterers; New Wave Seafood; and Nibblers bar snacks based in Chedworth.

We have a diverse offer featuring a main menu that includes snacks, starters, main courses, sandwiches and desserts. We also have a menu designed for children.

Currently on the menu, we have starters like smoked Bibury trout, crème fraiche and horseradish potato salad, capers; pigeon breast, pancetta, sage, Marsala golden raisins and grilled bread; and cream of cauliflower soup, crispy capers and truffle oil.

Mains like Todenham Manor Farm pork chop, thyme mash, cavolo nero, roasted apple, cider sauce, hazelnut and pink peppercorns; pan-roasted hake, chorizo, creamed leeks, cannellini beans, chicken gravy; and 8oz sirloin steak, peppercorn sauce, beef dripping onion, watercress and fries.

Desserts like lemon and yoghurt Panna Cotta, British strawberries, crystallised pistachios; Oxford Blue Cheese, salted walnuts, quince paste, fig & walnut toasts; and Dolcetti ice cream in a waffle cone.

The events

We host a ‘happy hour’ every day of the week where all draught products from our real ales to local and European lagers are available alongside our house wine range for £3. It offers a nice bridge from work to home and provides a nice atmosphere in the pub for early diners as well as being a little thank you to our regular locals.

The second bank holiday in May sees the community come together to take part in ‘Frolics Day’. An event that has been celebrated for as long as people can remember (at least 100 years) lots of the activities are centred around the pub and is a day of fun and games for everyone, most notably the tug of war in the River Leach.

With regard to music, we host an amazing slide blues guitarist, Will Killeen, who plays with us every couple of months. We also organise other live music events throughout the year.

We host a quiz on the first Sunday of the month that brings together the most competitive and knowledgeable members of the community.

The future

We hope to continue to build on the success and good reputation that we have worked so hard to create over the past few years. Offering an authentic and relaxed place for everyone to enjoy.

We aim to add accommodation to our offer in the near future.

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