Facts ’n’ stats
Pub name: The Beresford Arms
Address: Whalton, Morpeth, Northumberland, NE61 EUZ
Owners/licensees: Ross and Sally Hobson
General manager: Josh Cracknell
Food:drink:accommodation split: 60:30:10
It is located in a rural spot, which makes it a great destination pub that in driving heavily on its food offering and also looking to increase its accommodation quarters in the close-knit village where it operates.
Here, general manager Josh Beresford gives The Morning Advertiser a rundown of the pub, what’s happening currently and what customers can expect in the future.
It’s an old coaching inn from about the early 1900s. It originally used to be a thatched house and that was taken over by a wealthy couple from the area, who also had a few other places.
Later it was taken over by Vaux Brewery in about the 1960s and went on to various owners and became very rundown to the point where it closed for a couple of years and then the current owners, who lived in the village and we’re not in the hospitality industry, decided to buy the pub.
They’ve renovated it and it was like a little project for them.
The walls were literally peeling off because of the damp and the water flowing under the main road. The cellar used to be 2ft under water as it used to leach in.
There used to be a pair of wellies at the bottom of stairs in about 2015-16 for people to on when then needed to go into the cellar and change a keg, which is crazy.
Now it’s got laminate flooring and it’s just a totally different place. The current owners put a lot of money into it back in 2018 but the manager at the time maybe didn’t get the name out there enough at the time and they were struggling to be honest.
The owners are Ross and Sally Hobson. Sally’s a retired head teacher while Ross is an orthodontist and he kind of travels the world doing lectures and that kind of stuff.
He’s now building new bedrooms to all the back of the pub. They loved coming into the pub and it was a massive hit to the village with it being closed.
I think there were a few people in talks about taking it over. I don’t think they wanted it to go to a brewery-owned pub and they wanted to keep it independent and then work alongside the rest of the community.
That means working with the village hall and the parish council and others to put on events rather than compete against each other – especially with them living in the village.
I think it may have been something to hand down to their kids, to be honest but they’ve gone on to do other things and that’s why they got another manager in and then myself about two years later.
They did the refurb in 2018 when they got it. They were leasing it to start with from Enterprise and then decided to buy it.
We get quite a mixture of guests. We get ladies in the morning just after breakfast for coffees. We’ve got tourists coming into the area with some form abroad.
We’ve got four bedrooms currently in our old function rooms, which are now getting converted into more bedrooms because there’s a huge demand for that; we get a lot of tourists in from around the world coming to look at things around Northumberland or quite close to it.
We’re half an hour away from pretty much everywhere. It’s slap bang in the middle so if you want to go to the coast, you can; if you want to go to Belsay Hall Castle and Gardens, or any National Trust site, we get a lot of people doing that. We’ll get a few people walking Hadrian’s Wall. We’re a little bit further out from it but it’s a stop off really.
We get a lot of people that work in the area and stay here just for a couple of nights and come for the food. A lot of people come from Morpeth and Ponteland too so it’s a real mix.
There’s definitely more foodies now at night time. We still get people coming in for drinks from work so it’s a nice split between having a restaurant and a bar area.
Accommodation is creeping up now. We’ve put a lot of money into the rooms and they are busy all the time. There’s not a lot of good accommodation in the area and we’re quite unique with our bedrooms in the old stable block at the back of the building.
I’ve worked in places where you can stay in the pub but you can still hear all the hustle and bustle downstairs. If you’ve got live events on, it can be a bit of a nightmare. So it works quite well here because it’s quiet – you can’t hear anything and it’s just nice.
About two years ago, the White Hart looked like it might go under and I was working in a quite big pub as general manager and I came over post-Covid.
I had a look and said ‘you’re sitting on a gold mine’. They had put all the money in but all the pictures being used on Facebook, for example, were of the pub from when it was run down.
We also had to, basically, change the whole team.
It’s constantly changing now and that’s why we’re getting busier. When I first started here, there was about four staff – two working in the kitchen and two front of house. Now we’ve got head chef, sous chef, junior sous chef and an apprentice chef, two kitchen porters and we use another guy on a temporary basis.
What’s on the menu?
Example dishes from the main menu
Whipped Goats' Cheese (V/N/GFA) - Roasted and pickled beetroot, toasted hazelnuts, basil & hazelnut pesto, toasted sourdough - £8
White Onion, Thyme & Cider Soup - Cheese rarebit toastie crouton (vegan Available) - £7
Crispy Coronation chicken - Pickled carrot, mango, toasted almond, curry emulsion & coriander
Honey Roast Duck Breast - Confit duck leg croquette, Morteau sausage cassoulet, carrot, fennel pollen - £23
10 Ounce Bacon Loin Chop (GF) - Garden lovage and mustard emulsion, fried duck egg, roasted chilli pineapple, chips - £18
Roasted Cauliflower, Sweet Potato and Green Lentil Dhal (VE/N/GF) - Sweet potato and peanut purée, tahini, soya yoghurt, coriander, chilli - £16
Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake (GFA) - Ginger crumb, spiced plum gel, maple & cinnamon Chantilly cream - £7
Sticky Toffee Pudding (V) - Toffee sauce, honeycomb, vanilla ice cream - £7
Homemade Chocolate Fondant (V) Blackberries, salted caramel ice cream, honeycomb - £7
For front of house, I employed a system manager supervisor. We use about two people during the week front of house with three or four in the kitchen.
We mainly focus on the weekends and we get quite a lot of students work for us. There’s quite a lot of part-time staff while full-time front of house, we’ve only got about two or three, including myself.
We’ve got a housekeeper as well so they come in to do breakfast and then go upstairs for housekeeping. The plan is get a housekeeping team when we have more bedrooms.
There’s quite a rapport between the housekeeper and the guests so they know what they’re up to and know when their rooms can be cleaned.
The head chef now is Chris Cheek. He used to work at Northcote (Lancashire Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel) and he trained with a few Michelin-starred chefs and worked at a few wedding venues. I eventually got him to come here two years ago and we looked at what other places we’re doing and decided we couldn’t push the boat out too far.
We started doing like pub classics but with a Beresford twist. For example, a lot of places do gammon steak, egg, chips and a tinned pineapple ring. What Chris does is he’ll get a bacon loin in and will use duck eggs from a farm about a mile away. He makes his own fresh chilli pineapple and makes lovage emulsion from the garden and the potatoes for the chips are from nearby too.
We try to keep pub classics on the menu but do them really well.
We do our own salt and vinegar batter rather than a beer batter for our fish and chips – it’s a vinegar salt that is dehydrated for a couple of days.
Then there’s a higher end where he has turbot on the menu currently and costs about £36 and there’s a nice beef shin dish using beef rump too.
It’s dishes you wouldn’t expect to see in a pub and you’d probably get in a restaurant but it’s trying to find that balance between having nice, refined dishes where people are willing to spend that little bit more on special occasions while keeping another punters happy, where they’re popping out for a pub meal that is good value for money while using top-quality produce.
We’re definitely gastro now – there’s not a lot he doesn’t put his heart and soul into and nothing is bought in.
He even gets his mate (Michelin-starred chef and restaurant patron in Lancashire) Tom Parker in for taste evenings and works with our kitchen team a couple of times a year.
We’re trying to cover all bases so we get foodies and others popping in for a light lunch where we have nice open sandwiches and stuff like that.
We do quite a lot of draught beer sales when tradespeople come in at about 5pm-6pm and wine is definitely starting to pick up now because we have lots of foodies coming in. To be honest, we don’t do much on spirits but we do use Hepple Gin because that is about a half-an-hour away and Marlish tonic water too.
The beer is mostly local ales and also Carling because it’s lower percentage, which is good because we have a lot of people driving here.
We try to keep the wine as local as possible too but we use Majestic as a supplier and they’re great. They come in and do sommelier nights and cheese and wine nights too.
We did have a function room in the old stable block with the bedrooms were above that. I tried to push weddings a few times but we’re quite remote and there’s a lack of accommodation in the area. It was always quite a struggle.
We did a couple of weddings but our business plan is to turn more space into accommodation, which I think would be more successful.
With food, we’ve got another tapas night coming up.
Tom Parker is going to come back next year for Christmas. We’re doing something a little bit different, so we’re going to do a seven or eight course taster menu.
We’ll do one on New Year’s Eve too. There’ll be fireworks in the garden around the firepit and going to do S’mores and stuff like that.
We do street food too but that has been on bank holiday Mondays and we’ve been closed on Mondays and Tuesdays for a while – due to chef staffing really – but we are looking to open up full time.
The street food included flatbreads and stuff like that and, weather permitting, we’ll go outside and get music on too.
We’re going to a Christmas market-style street food event with flatbreads and giant pigs in blanket hot dogs and snacking foods rather than a Sunday roast on Christmas Eve.
There’s talk about extending the bar area of the pub and we haven’t got a lounge area currently.
With the new accommodation plans and how busy we’re getting at the minute, we’re do need a bit more space on the bar so Ross is looking at doing that next year.
The bedroom set up currently is we have four double rooms upstairs and what we’re planning on doing downstairs is doing an apartment so we now can target families - that will be a double room, another double room and a lounge area with a pullout sofa bed and a kitchenette.
That then opens onto the private garden at the back of the building.
Further up, we’re making two more rooms. One of them will be disabled friendly. It’s a massive room with a huge bathroom – like a wet room – and that has ground-floor access.
Further at the top there’s going to be another bedroom with another pull-out sofa bed and another double bed so it’s a family room but that can be a self-contained unit with the disabled friendly room or can be sold separately.
There’s a lot of weddings that go on at the village hall so, hopefully, in the summer, the rooms here will be fully booked with wedding guests, families and tourists so we can work together with the village.
We actually do catering for events at the village hall already. We can do all the food kind of prep here and even have a prep kitchen over there so we’re looking at going into that next year.
Even this year, we’ve done a few pop-up bars over there, so Ross has used the old equipment and built a portable bar with a cooler so he can hook up kegs.