On Sunday 4th September Huw and Ruth invited the Ladbroke villagers to join them to celebrate reaching another milestone. The villagers have become good friends to Huw and Ruth over the past three years and have offered great support. An invitation to enjoy food and drink on a Sunday evening seemed an appropriate way to thank them.
The roast hog was provided courtesy of The Bell Inn and proceeds from the discounted bar was divided equally between the Air Ambulance and All Saints Church, Ladbroke. The total raised on the evening was £584.00.
2 x 170-200g sea trout fillets (could be substituted with salmon fillet)
1 x carrot (finely diced)
1 x celery (chopped)
1 x leek (chopped)
1 x clove of garlic (crushed)
100g chorizo (chopped)
100ml white wine
100ml double cream
50g Puy Lentils
Pinch of chopped chives
Baby leaf herbs
50g washed spinach
Salt and black pepper
sYou may be wondering what it entails to be a chef and how a typical day might pan out? We spend a day with Head Chef Steve at The Bell Inn, Ladbroke, to see what goes on.
It’s a common misconception that a chef’s day is spent entirely cooking. The day starts at around 9am. The chefs begin to sort through the fresh food deliveries which have already begun to arrive. All the produce is checked thoroughly to ensure the quality and quantity is correct. Each chef then starts work in their section preparing elements for each dish on the menu. This process is referred to as ‘mise en place’ and is a French term used by professional chefs to refer to the preparation of dishes and ingredients before service commences.
Booked in at The Bell this lunchtime is a party of 15 walkers who have pre-ordered lunch to ensure it’s ready for when they arrive, famished from their morning’s ramble. As it approaches noon and the walkers start to arrive back to the car park and change footwear, the chefs start preparing each of the dishes. As soon as they are in and seated, the meals are swiftly delivered to the table by the front of house team. A succession of further lunchtime orders are bought into the kitchen by the waiting staff and it turns out to be a pretty steady lunchtime.
Being a Wednesday, the weekly offering of Burger Night means there’s potentially a busy night ahead too. All sections must be well prepared and ready for that first “Check on”. The booking sheet often only tells half the story, there’s no predicting how many people will spontaneously call in for a bite to eat. The chefs have to be ready for walk-ins and bookings alike. Steve informs me that it can be quite a juggling act at times managing multiple orders simultaneously, especially on a busy service. Steve has been a Head Chef for 9 years though, so keeps a cool head. His experience and ability enables him to deliver the required quality and consistency from his team.
From the outside looking in, working in a commercial kitchen looks to be a pretty tough profession. I ask Steve what motivates him and his team and why he still enjoys his job. “Being a chef gives great scope for creativity. With each season, we create a new menu based on local seasonal produce as well as ingredients available from further afield. We also compile new menus regularly for special events and also our Prix Fixe Menu.” Steve goes on to say “The biggest boost for me and my team though is people coming back to The Bell Inn time and time again to eat our food. There is no greater compliment for a chef.” It is well known though that this industry is not without its negatives, working long and unsociable hours can mean time missed with family and friends.
Head Chef Steve has kindly shared his recipe and some valuable tips on creating the perfect Braised Blade of Beef, similar to the dish which has previously featured on The Bell Inn’s Main Menu. Click here to view the recipe.
What a wonderful evening!
Such a great atmosphere and lovely people. A good time was had by all.
Thank you to Kate, Kip and Alan for the music, Reverend Craig for leading the evening and Jackie for organising it and the fab photos.
Huw has been involved in the hospitality trade from a young age through the family business and so serving customers and working a busy service comes as second nature. It’s not all work and no play though, here we get to know Huw a little better and find out about his passions and aspirations.
What’s your ideal of the perfect ‘day off’?
A lie in would be nice, but with a toddler I know that’s not going to happen! The day would definitely involve eating out, some of my most favourite dining experiences have been down in Cornwall so maybe a meal at one of our favourite haunts The Cove in Maenporth. It has a fantastic terrace overlooking the sea from which we have sat and enjoyed many a beer. They serve the freshest and tastiest seafood and local produce – top notch and not overly expensive. A walk on the beach afterwards with Ruth, Harry and the dog would finish it off nicely.
What have been your greatest achievements with work and also personal?
A few spring to mind, I was involved in establishing and running a new restaurant in Kenilworth which opened in 2008. Under my management we were lucky enough to receive two awards, Restaurant of the Year 2008 in the Warwickshire Life Awards and Best Newcomer in the Metro’s Food and Drink Awards.
But by far the best so far is taking on The Bell Inn and turning the business around. We have just reached our 2 year milestone. It may not sound very long but in this trade it is quite an achievement, especially as my wife and I took the place on when it was in a real mess and transformed it with only funding from a government start-up loan and some elbow grease! We are really pleased with how the business is going, there is always room for improvement though.
On a more personal level there are also a couple of achievements which stand out. When I was younger I was always into martial arts and after years of training I gained my black belt in karate. I also ran the London Marathon in 2006 raising over £4000 for Children with Cancer. One day I will run it again!
What’s your proudest moment at The Bell so far?
I’m not sure about the proudest moment here, but certainly receiving recognition from Ladbroke villagers about how the pub has helped bring the community together in the last two years makes all the hard work worthwhile. Also being selected by Sawdays to go in their Special Pub Collection, plus receiving the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence this year also proves to me that we must be doing something right!
The most famous person you have served whilst in this trade?
Whilst I was working in Kenilworth we had Phil Tuffnell dining in the restaurant. He was a genuinely funny guy and came across much like he does when he’s on A Question of Sport! Years ago Peter Phillips, Princess Anne’s son, used to be a regular at a restaurant I worked at in Woburn.
Here at The Bell we have had Daniel Brocklebank in quite a few times, AKA Billy the Vicar from Corrie. But I wouldn’t exactly say we’ve been inundated with celebs!
Who inspires you in the hospitality trade?
Michel Roux Jr. is up there with the best. His skill as a chef and impeccable attention to detail has to be admired. Le Gavroche is a place I would really like to dine at one day.
With a different style entirely but also with Michelin stars is The Hand and Flowers, Tom Kerridge’s establishment in Marlow. We were fortunate enough to eat there earlier this year and it didn’t disappoint. He too has the grit, determination and discipline to get the job done which is what I really admire.
Was your ambition always to work in the hospitality trade?
No, not at all. After finishing my A’ levels I had aspirations of being in the Armed Forces, in particular the RAF, but it wasn’t to happen. I therefore went off to university and gained a degree. Since then I have largely worked in the hospitality trade, climbing the ranks.
I also spent a year more recently working on my father-in-laws farm, learning many new skills. It was an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable year and also very beneficial for me. It has given me a better understanding of the complexities and different factors involved in producing crops, which ultimately end up on our plates. The hospitality trade is in my blood though, so it was only natural for me to return to it when the opportunity to take on The Bell Inn, Ladbroke arose.
Next up in our Who's Who interviews is Denise, who's been with us here at The Bell since the start. If you haven't already signed up to receive our monthly newsletter then do it now and hear our latest news first! Head to our Email Signup page.
On Sunday 23rd August we celebrated our 2nd anniversary at The Bell Inn with the villagers of Ladbroke. The evening was spent chatting and drinking whilst canapés were handed around. The turnout was phenomenal, with over 100 villagers in attendance. Huw and I were very much taken aback by the support and generosity which the villagers have shown us over the past 2 years. Flowers were presented to myself and Denise, as well as a whip-round for all the members of staff.
We started the celebrations with a round of drinks on the house, then all proceeds from the discounted bar were donated to Myton Hospice. In total, over £200 was raised.
All in all it was a very enjoyable evening.
On Thursday 26th March, The Bell Inn hosted a Wine Tasting Evening featuring Australian wines from the Katnook Estate. The evening consisted of a 3 course meal, with wines to accompany each course. The evening was led by a representative from Katnook Estate Wines who spoke before the meal, enlightening guests about the Katnook Estate and wine production, and again before each course to introduce the wines and explain a bit about them. He was then on hand to answer any questions throughout the evening. Assisting with the proceedings was a representative from Berkmann Wine Cellars, one of the UK’s leading independent wholesalers.
The Bell’s very own Head Chef compiled the 3 course menu, taking into account the wines and creating dishes to bring out the best in each. The meal started with an Aperitif of White Bait with Lemon Mayonnaise paired with the Deakin Estate Brut Chardonnay and the Pinot Noir Sparkling. This was followed by a starter of Fillet of Pollock, Lemon & Caper Dressing – accompanied by the Katnook Estate Sauvignon Blanc. Next up was the Rump of Lamb, Colcannon Potato, Spring Greens and Minted Jus which was paired with the Founders Block Cabernet Sauvignon. And last of all, a dessert of Dark Chocolate & Cherry Pave, which was accompanied by Founders Block Shiraz.
We like to say a big ‘thank you’ to those of you who supported us in this event. If you would like to receive notification of forthcoming events, please sign up to our email newsletter.
The Bell Inn has been selected to go in the Alistair Sawday’s Special Pubs Collection. We will be featured on the Alistair Sawday’s website, directory and app, which we are really chuffed about!
Alistair Sawday’s is synonymous with unique, independent, high quality accommodation and pubs throughout Britain and Europe. Those businesses featured, have all been handpicked, so we feel very privileged to have been selected following a visit from a mystery diner.
“We’ve picked these pubs because we feel they’re really special – original, authentic, memorable – and because we feel you’ll love them too.” Sawday’s Special Pubs
The Bell Inn blog is updated by Ruth.