The new owners at The Draycott Arms have now settled in, we are glad to say, and the old pub is looking all the better for a little facelift. The newcomers are a young couple, who managed to buy the place outright, so they are not tied to a brewery (thank goodness…).
Zara Hutson and Brayn Urquhart looked all over the country for a suitable pub-business before choosing Draycott. As Zara says “…it’s quiet here, but the trade is nice and steady… so I love it!!”
Keeping it Draycott-style
Five months of refurbishment have given a new sparkle to the Arms. The first thing you notice is the entrance where there is a profusion of flowers outside (provided by Draycott Nurseries), which gives the place a real colourful look.
The new-wall lettering says proudly that the Arms is a ‘Village Pub’. I asked Brayn (pronounced ‘Brian’ – quite confusing!) what that meant, and he told us, “It’s about the feel of the place. Though we expect a lot of visitors from miles around through the restaurant, which is really important, we have retained the ‘snug’ so that local people can enjoy a quiet drink too.
“One thing we would love to do is have a ‘shop’ element to the pub, selling basics like bread and milk. This would help any residents without a car…
“And we invite non-drinkers too. There is a special coffee-and-cake offer, so if someone just wants to drop in, read the paper, and drink a lovely cup of coffee, that’s possible too! The Arms is a sort of restaurant, coffee-shop, pub and social centre rolled into one…”
On a good day, the cake will even be home-made…!
One thing that pleased us was that the old pub-sign design was retained. The coat-of-arms of the Draycott Family is still the badge of the place (though re-painted and freshened up – see picture, right), and the old engraved windows have been kept too.
Brayn also wants to find old photos of the village, and the pub, and take copies, so he can frame them and put them on the walls. (If you have old photos of the village, he would love you to drop in and show him what you have).
So, some traditional aspects are still there.
The interior has had a real showcase re-design! The old chimney has been re-cladded in stone to look smartly modern, and there are high-back wing-chairs to make one feel properly grand while having a pre-meal drink. Zara was the brains behind that: “I really enjoyed the design element,” she told us.
The snug looks as it always much did (which we like…) but Zara says she is only halfway through the renovations there, so watch out for interesting improvements to come in that part.
The menu is still settling down, and the staff are still bedding in (there are vacancies if you fancy some work…), but the prices are very reasonable, and we’ve noticed that the Arms’ TripAdvisor page shows that it is shooting up Top Local Restaurants list – not bad for a place that’s only been open a month!
The pub is closed Mondays though (except on quiz night).
There’s a selection of ales, which changes as time goes by. (We were fascinated to see ‘Blue Moon’ on tap, an interesting citrusy lager-ale popular in America, and quite rare here).
There’s no doubt that running any country pub-business these days is extremely difficult, even one that is a free-house, but Zara and Brayn seem up for the challenge. They have run businesses in Cambridgeshire so they know the issues.
“Yes, it is very hard work, and very long hours,” says Zara “… but people have been very friendly, and very welcoming, which is a big help. We know so many people by their first names now! And we want to listen too; if someone has a special dish they’d like us to try out, or a night they’d like to put on here… we’d love to hear more.”
Already there is a pub-quiz every month, and musicians come down to jam every so often, but the big event this summer will be the Cider & Sausages Festival on August Bank Holiday Monday. Let’s pray for good weather.
The Arms has a Facebook page, so you can follow progress.
Oh… and one another thing… if you are a dog-lover, you’ll want to meet the pub mascot, an astoundingly beautiful husky, which can be seen regularly lazing about in the beer garden. This is one husky that doesn’t like to do very much… sleeping is what it does best…
Best of luck to Zara and Brayn: we hope they are here a long time.