It takes a vil­lage

Many vil­lages aren’t able to sus­tain one lo­cal pub – Mob­ber­ley sup­ports three. And they are all owned by the same dy­namic cou­ple, as guests dis­cov­ered at the lat­est Cheshire Life lunch

Cheshire Life - - Scene & Heard - WORDS: Emma Mayoh PHO­TOS: Donna Clif­ford

With the news filled with sto­ries of a de­clin­ing pub in­dus­try, it’s easy to think none are thriv­ing. It is not the case in Mob­ber­ley where the vil­lage sup­ports a clutch of bril­liant inns. What is even more re­mark­able is they are all owned by Mary McLaughlin and Tim

Bird, the su­per tal­ented cou­ple be­hind the Cheshire Cat Group and own­ers of a sta­ble of pubs across our county.

Al­ready at the helm of The Bull’s Head and The Church Green Inn, Tim and Mary’s ef­forts were pulling in din­ers in their droves. And when the grade II listed Roe­buck Inn came up for sale, it was too much to re­sist.

‘We tried to buy the build­ing ten years ago but it just wasn’t hap­pen­ing,’ said Mary. ‘It was in a pretty sorry con­di­tion but we could see huge po­ten­tial with it. We also knew we could cre­ate some­thing com­ple­men­tary to what we were do­ing at The Bull and The Church.

‘All of the pubs we have taken on were lost causes, so to speak, or closed down. To see them thrive again is spe­cial and some­thing we get a lot of plea­sure out of.’

It took 18 months to re­store the ar­chi­tec­tural gem – the build­ing dates back to 1708 – cre­at­ing their dream of a ‘petit ho­tel and bistro’. Mary and Tim prov­ing their good eye for de­tail and de­sign – as well as a clear in­flu­ence from

their time spent in Paris – the inn is filled with bril­liant finds dis­cov­ered scour­ing recla­ma­tion yards in Cheshire. Low light­ing, fur­ni­ture per­fectly in-keep­ing with the build­ing’s her­itage and open fires of­fer the per­fect mix of a place you’d be as happy dressed up on a Satur­day night or wip­ing muddy welling­ton boots at the door on a Sun­day. That strong French in­flu­ence shows in ev­ery facet from the art in the restau­rant to the im­pres­sive se­lec­tion of wines fill­ing one wall.

‘It was al­ways our plan for this to be more of a bistro,’ said Mary. ‘The Bull is a proper pub – the place you get great fish and chips and other tra­di­tional pub food. The Church is more re­fined, while I hes­i­tate to say fine din­ing, and here is a lovely mix of the two. We’ve had great fun bring­ing it all to­gether.’

It is little won­der they have had so much suc­cess. Tim and Mary have se­ri­ous busi­ness cre­den­tials. Mary has not only been MD of La Tasca, but was open­ings man­ager at Dis­ney­land Paris, food and bev­er­age man­ager at Har­rods and headed up op­er­a­tions at brew­ers, Greenalls. Tim is widely con­sid­ered one of the pub in­dus­try’s fore­most op­er­a­tions peo­ple, head­ing up The Restau­rant Group and a mul­ti­tude of suc­cess­ful brew­ing and pub com­pa­nies.

Mary cred­its their skilled team in the Roe­buck kitchen, lead by head chef Andy Tow­ers, with the Roe­buck’s pop­u­lar­ity. Mob­ber­ley-born Andy, via Lon­don kitchens work­ing with much-lauded chef Adam Han­dling, came to The Church Inn be­fore tak­ing the helm at the Roe­buck two years ago. He’s taken the charm­ing coun­try inn, which also has lovely tiered ter­races and gar­dens, from 20 cov­ers on a Sun­day to a dizzy­ing 200. His flair for fab­u­lous French in­spired food is what keeps peo­ple com­ing back to this neigh­bour­hood bistro – as do his mar­vel­lous dishes made to share.

It’s a tal­ent guests at our Cheshire Life lunch were able to see as they feasted on a glo­ri­ous shar­ing starter of win­ter her­itage squash, laden with wild rice, Bram­ley ap­ple, chilli and pome­gran­ate seeds along with the most won­der­ful fen­nel flavour.

Mains were equally im­pres­sive. A pan roasted duck breast with sat­is­fy­ingly sweet beet­root, romesco sauce and a peppy chicory and wa­ter­cress salad brought a tidal wave of com­pli­ments from each ta­ble.

The fi­nale – de­liv­ered with some theatre in sub­stan­tial cast iron skil­lets – was too de­li­cious to turn down. An­other shar­ing course, we scooped out warm spoon­fuls of comice pear and roasted hazel­nut clafoutis with spheres of del­i­cately flavoured el­der­flower ice cream. Per­fect.

What Mary, Tim and their team have cre­ated is some­thing Mob­ber­ley should quite rightly be proud of. What makes it more re­mark­able is their abil­ity to build three suc­cess­ful busi­nesses within such a small area. With more lux­u­ri­ous rooms planned at the Roe­buck – to add to the six they al­ready have – this charm­ing vil­lage inn will con­tinue to buck the trend.

RIGHT AND TOP RIGHT: The Roe­buck Inn; Gen­eral Man­ager Kieran Gar­rihy, Chefs Andy Tow­ers and Phil Smith, and Deputy Man­ager Chris He­witt

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