Gastropubs have a first-class rep for excellent food and drink, but service doesn’t have to stop at the end of the meal. Plenty of places now provide accommodation so guests can enjoy their stay after last orders at the bar.
Pubs are taking care to boost their rooms to the next level through steeping them in history and luxury, all while adding a unique feel. We spoke to Top 50 operators on the story behind their accommodation offering.
Joe Swiers, operator at the Bull and Last, Highgate, shares the tale behind his gastropub’s rooms.
Staff at the gastropub began planning the rooms in 2015 but it took a long time to get over the line. Talking to guests on the restaurant floor was what sparked the idea: Swiers remarks that it was “ludicrous” that guests were staying in central London after a wedding or a function at the north London pub.
The pub’s history has majorly influenced its design, as it used to be a coaching inn. Rooms are named after influential people including Dido, Keats and Ellis, and the local area of Hampstead Heath was also an inspiration.
The room décor, for instance, is styled with a nod to English Heritage site Kenwood House, which has secret doors and joinery, much like the hidden hinges of the gastropub’s doors.
The room inspired by Michael Farady includes a massive copper bath as well as good lighting, fittings and fixtures, and independent suppliers are used throughout. There are handmade Italian clay tiles from a small producer, and lights handmade in Dorset.
“We just try to give as much personality in the rooms as possible,” says Swiers. Taxidermy gives the feel of being in a hunting lodge in Scotland rather than central London, he added. “We’ve tried to make it elegant with a bit of a British take on it,” he explains.
Guests can expect a stay that lets them immerse themselves in what the local area has to offer. Customers can hire tennis rackets or take a dip in Hampstead ponds or the local lido.
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The chef-owner at Lancashire-based gastropub the Freemasons at Wiswell takes huge pride in the site’s accommodation offering, which launched in 2019.
The pub in Clitheroe is a destination venue, with gourmet packages pushing the food offering. Midweek breaks, weekend breaks and Sunday lunch breaks are on offer. Every guest gets a tasting menu in the evening as well as an “absolutely fantastic” breakfast in the morning, says Steven Smith.
He believes it’s the breakfast that sets the pub apart from a lot of places, with some saying the morning meal makes the whole trip.
And the rooms are “second to none,” he adds. Two rooms included a mezzanine level with a beautiful rail-top bath, a lady’s dressing table and a television, so you can enjoy a chilled-out afternoon before getting ready for dinner.
The “sheer quality and attention to detail” is makes the offering stand out, according to Smith.
And why should guests stay at pubs over hotels? “It’s a lot more relaxed [and] an enjoyable environment,” says the operator.
“If you want to have a real chill out and get away from everyday life, pubs are the perfect backdrop to do that.”
The Black Swan in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria, also has an option to stay the night. Head chef Scott Fairweather opens up about the history of the rooms.
He recalls: “When the owner Louise Dinnes purchased the building more than 16 years ago, it already had guest rooms, however they were in a sad state and occupancy percentage was in single figures.
“We knew economically we had to fill bedrooms to make money but equally this also enhanced the guest experience of our Inn, especially as we developed our dining experience over the years so people could fully enjoy our bar area, wine list, a full three course dinner and a well-cooked breakfast the following morning.”
Dinnes has her own interior business and is passionate about “quirky, unique, cosy, ‘non-corporate’ décor,” explains Fairweather. All rooms and public areas are designed in-house.
With 16 en-suite bedrooms, plus three glamping yurts on site, there really is something for everybody, he adds.
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The rooms are designed to suit all purposes. “Whether you’re away on holiday, enjoying a romantic night away or stopping for a rest on a cycle route, we plan to have you covered,” continues the chef. “Our rooms are all individually decorated & provide homely comfort with local toiletries and lots of little extras.”
Packages offered at the pub include the year-round dinner, bed & breakfast rate, which is offered Thursday to Monday every week. Special seasonal ‘dine and stay’ packages are also provided to returning guests.
Fairweather believes pubs with rooms could offer a more personable service, cosier atmosphere and a more relaxed stay than larger hotels.
He says: “Pubs are steeped in history, full of character and now many also offer a food and drink offering that surpasses top restaurants & hotels, so everything is in one place, perfect!”