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
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