The Cartford Inn Interview
Patrick Beaume and his wife Julie have been running The Cartford Inn, located at the historic crossing of the River Wyre since 2007 and what a transformation! From a rundown real ale establishment to a sophisticated Inn with glamorous bedrooms the journey has been a real labour of love. The Judges of the Great British Pub Awards certainly thought so as they have just been awarded ‘Best Inn’. Patrick shares his story with us.
Firstly congratulations on your recent win of ‘Best Inn’ at the Great British Pub Awards – what do you think made you stand out from the competition?
It is difficult to answer, as all finalists must share the same passion, vision and drive to succeed. All I know is that Julie and I put a lot of time and energy in to the business everyday, using our wealth of international experience. It could also be attention to artistic detail that we feel is important.
Tell us about your journey from when you took over the running of The Cartford Inn to how it stands today.
Vision and dedication are words that come to mind – the Inn is a real labour of love. Many times family life was compromised. When we bought The Cartford, a rundown real ale establishment, we first closed and embarked in a challenging two weeks refurbishment of the pub. 8 months later we opened 7 bedrooms. Three years later we completed a major extension comprising a new kitchen, new toilets facilities, additional 7 bedrooms and a living area for the family. Since then we have focused on developing the outside areas, we converted an old barn into a multi function room for private dining, meetings and exhibition space. We recently converted another small barn into a deli shop called “TOTI” (Taste of The Inn). We have also improved the car park, the general landscaping, and our fantastic beer garden. We aim to make the very most out of our stunning backdrop, with the river Wyre in the foreground and the Bowland fells in the far distance. The frustrating part of the journey is that you want to do everything at the same time but you learn quickly that financially you have to make some priorities. I guess, “time is of the essence”, but I am pleased to say that after nearly 10 years, it is all coming together. We are about to start what will most probably be the last major investment, which is the build of two quirky, luxury one-bedroom lodges on stilts, which have views over the river.
In your view what makes a great chef?
You must be passionate about food. A great chef is an artist that loves to play with colours, textures, forms and tastes. He or she needs to have a respect for the ingredients they use, where they have come from, how they grow and who supplies them at source. For me, being aware and engaged with seasonality is crucial. It’s not just a job; it’s a way of life.
How do you plan your menu and do you source your ingredients locally?
Our main menu is designed in collaboration with our Head chef Chris Bury. He is a great young chef, and ticks all of the boxes that I mentioned above. His energy and enthusiasm for food, together with my French background and international experience, gels extremely well and we have come up with some fantastic and exciting dishes.
Sourcing ingredients locally is a very prominent factor for us when designing a new menu. Of course, this is important to most chefs nowadays, but we put a lot of effort in to keeping as local as possible. By ‘local’, I don’t just mean Lancashire-based, it can even be as close as just down the road. What amazes me is that our guests, when eating their breakfasts, can look out of the window in the dining room, to the field over the River, and see the herd where the lamb they may have eaten the night before has come from – It cannot get more local than that! Most of our meat is sourced by our Butcher Honeywells, from the local “Brocholes auction” which is supplied by local farmers. Our fish is supplied by my wife’s brother-in-law’s family business Midland fish company, which is based in Fleetwood and has been running since the 50’s. We often have local shooters bringing locally shot game, which can make for some exciting additions to the specials board. I have also recently purchased a polytunnel to start growing our own fresh herbs and small amount of vegetables on-site.
A great team is essential when it comes to running an award winning Inn – how do you keep staff motivated and turnover low and what do you look for when hiring new staff?
In 2014, we were a finalist at the Catey Awards in the Best Employer category because of our approach. Empowerment is a key factor. We create a friendly, family environment where staff feel good and are encouraged to express themselves. We feel that when the staff are feeling confident and comfortable, the atmosphere is improved, and as a result, guests and diners have a better overall experience. Of course there are rules but there is a real respect within the team, particularly where the front of house staff members are concerned, we like to recruit with personality in mind, rather than skills. Skills can be taught but you cannot change who you are. From the first Sunday we opened, we have always had a staff roast after service and for the last 9 years we have not missed one. We also encourage staff to develop their real passion, for example if they are musical they might play at the pub on a Friday night or if they are artistic they might exhibit their work. We support them through training at work but we also support them if needed outside work – this is important to us.
What’s your most popular tipple at the moment?
I have to say we have just introduced “Punk IPA” from Brewdog on draft and it is selling very well (to the delight of one of our staff who has shares in the company!). Recently, we held a Brewdog event in our ‘River House’ and it was a huge success – we are hoping to do it again. The “Punk IPA” is a wonderful beer, the only problem is the whole of the kitchen team seem to have developed a taste for it too!
Have you seen many changes to peoples drinking habits in the last 5 or so years and why do you think this is?
Yes definitely, of course people are enjoying good quality wine and craft beers, but the biggest change I think is the interest in premium drinks, like imaginative gin and tonic combinations and cocktails. I think this is due to the continuous growth of the emphasis on quality within the industry. Also people are more and more receptive to originality and good taste. We try to use only top quality drinks, on draft we have a great international lager selection: Estella Damm, Kronenbourg and Brewdog Punk IPA. We also offer a range of four of the best local ales, from breweries such as Hawkshead and Moorhouses. A couple of years ago we made fevertree our only tonic in stock, as the quality is leaps above other brands. We buy alternative liquors and quality spirits from a company called “Morussia” that source quality alternatives to Tia Maria or Grand Marnier for example with much better taste and less sugar. We feel that people, when ordering a drink of any kind, should have the best possible quality.
Lastly, what would be your key piece of advice to running a successful Inn?
Do not be scared of hard work, keep reinvesting in your people and the venue, have a vision and be passionate about what you do. Work with the community and don’t let anyone distract you from achieving your goals. Never loose focus on the basics, attention to detail is key. You are in the hospitality business; It’s all about people and people’s experiences.