Former schoolhouse named best pub in the country

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Transformed site: the Cholmondeley Arms in Malpass, Cheshire has been named the top pub in the country
Transformed site: the Cholmondeley Arms in Malpass, Cheshire has been named the top pub in the country

Related tags Multi-site pub operators Events

The best pub in the UK was unveiled at the 2023 Great British Pub Awards on Tuesday 19 September.

The Cholmondeley Arms in Malpas, Cheshire was presented with the overall title at the awards, which took place at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse.

The pub, which was also named Best Country/Rural winner, is run by Tim Bird and Mary Mclaughlin, who own six pubs.

Bird, who has been in the industry for 40 years, said he was “elated” to have won both the overall pub of the year and the rural categories at this year’s awards, but that all the finalists were “amazing”. 

He added: “I had a tear in my eye [when the award was announced] and I didn’t think I would be able to get rid of the lump in my throat as I walked on the stage. 

“I said when we opened, we can be a beacon of hope for rural pubs but now we can be an ambassador as the pub of the year for Great Britain. For the team, this is just amazing.”  

On what makes a pub of the year, Bird said consistency over a long period was key. 

“As an old schoolhouse, the space is very special on its own, but we did different things that made it [even more] special.

“Helen [the pub’s general manager] has worked at the Cholmondeley for 12 years and she is the epitome of what the pubs should be. I am so proud”, he continued.  

In addition, Bird stated with so many rural pubs being forced to close due to ongoing economic headwinds, the Government had been “short sighted” in not keeping VAT on food low. 

Key element

He said: “They were very good at supporting businesses through Covid and have been good since with support with business rates but the VAT on food is a key element. 

“We’ve been too guilty of asking the Government for too many things, we just need to be able to use more local suppliers, give us the VAT discount on food and we will be able to do that."

Bird continued this made awards like GBPA “special” as they “shine a light” on the sector. 

He said: “Anything that helps propel and promote pubs is vital and the more we celebrate pubs then great, they need to be celebrated because it is tough out there.” 

Having taken ‘the Chum’ on in 2011, the duo have transformed the former schoolhouse through significant restoration and refurbishment.

Its menu offers locally sourced produce alongside a bespoke drinks list, which features the pub’s own spirit ‘Cholmondeley Arms Gin’ – as part of its impressive 366 gin list.

Other category winners included The Stroud Brewery Taproom, which took home the title of Best Sustainable Pub, impressing judges with its dedication to operating in ways to help reverse damage being caused to the planet.

The Community Hero award was presented to the Old Abbey Tap House in Manchester, due to its ‘hub-in-a-pub' scheme.

The Kings Arms in Bexleyheath, south east London was named Best Pub for Entertainment, after previously being a finalist in the category for a number of years.

Licensee Pete Marshall said: “It feels amazing [to win], we have been working on this for four or five years and we are very proud of what we do, we absolutely love it.” 

Furthermore, winners of the Best Pub Chef and Best Young Pub Chef categories were crowed at the event after participating in a live cook off, judged by chef-patron of number one gastropub the Parkers Arms​, Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire Stosie Madi and chef-patron of last year’s number one and this year’s number two Top 50 Gastropub​, Dave Wall of the Unruly Pig​, Bromeswell, Suffolk.

Cherish and support

Charlotte Vincent from the Candlelight Inn, Chard, Somerset took home the title of Best Pub Chef while Karl Quirante from the Cricketers in Ormskirk, Lancashire was named Best Young Pub Chef.

The Morning Advertiser ​editor and chair of judges for the awards Ed Bedington said: “We’re delighted to be revealing the best pubs in the country.

“These businesses are pubs to cherish and support and I’d urge anyone to get out and visit these outstanding operations.

“We’ve recognised pubs of all types are characters from community champions to high-end food, entertainment-focused through to pubs that embrace all the family, even the dog. These are businesses that really set the standards for others to follow.”

He highlighted what set the Cheshire-based pub that was named the Great British Pub of the Year apart.

“Our overall winner, the Cholmondeley Arms, represents the pinnacle of all our winners – this is a pub that has a wow factor, that impresses anyone who crosses the threshold,” Bedington added.

“Impeccably run, this is a business that will offer a warm welcome to all visitors and give them an experience that will be impossible to beat.”

Despite the challenges facing the sector, this year saw a record number of entries into the awards, illustrating the ongoing high standards many operators have upheld.

He said: “The pub industry has undergone some significant challenges in the past few years, with the pandemic, followed by an energy crisis, rising inflation and a cost-of-living crisis on top.

“Despite that, our winning pubs continue to adapt and flex to meet those challenges and continue to provide vital services to local communities, the opportunity for friends and families to gather and celebrate as well as remaining key employers within the areas they operate.

“Pubs are part of the fabric of our society and these winning pubs are the ambassadors that continue to show the important role pubs play in our social and economic worlds.”

Full list of 2023 GBPA winners:

Great British Pub of the Year 2023 – the Cholmondeley Arms, Malpas, Cheshire

Best City/Urban Pub – the Turks Head, Twickenham, Greater London

Best Country/Rural Pub – the Cholmondeley Arms, Malpas, Cheshire

Best Pub for Food – the Loch & The Tyne, Old Windsor, Berkshire

Best Pub for Dogs – the Bellflower, Garstang, Lancashire

Best Pub for Families – the Plough, Normanton on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire

Best Pub for Entertainment – the Kings Arms, Bexleyheath, south east London

Best Pub Garden – Gaggle of Geese, Buckland Newton, Dorset

Best Pub to Watch Sport – the Royal Dyche, Burnley, Lancashire

Best Sustainable Pub – Stroud Brewery Taproom, Stroud, Gloucestershire

Best Pub Chef – Charlotte Vincent, Candlelight Inn, Chard, Somerset

Best Young Pub Chef – Karl Quirante, the Cricketers, Ormskirk, Lancashire

Community Hero – the Old Abbey Taphouse, Manchester

Admiral Pub of the Year – Boot & Shoe, Ackworth, Pontefract, West Yorkshire

Stonegate Pub of the Year – the Woodman, Ruislip, north west London

Greene King Pub of the Year – the Stag, Lyndhurst, Hampshire

Marston’s Pub of the Year – Rose & Crown, Worcester, Worcestershire

Punch Pub of the Year – the Plough, Prestbury, Gloucestershire

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