Pub Taste of Success for Kathryn - A Profile of Mine Host
An interview with Sally, reprinted with thanks to the Gloucester Citizen
Kathryn bought The Ostrich at Newland, (opposite the Cathedral of the Forest) a few years ago. It was a pub with character, but it had not been cherished by its previous owners. She took on the challenge and has dealt with areas needing renovation while keeping the pub's original charm and character
It was October 31, 2000 when Kathryn Horton arrived at The Ostrich. Her first experiences of The Ostrich were not necessarily of a pub for which you would give your eye-teeth.
"The front was overgrown, there was mould on the walls, the electrics were so bad that could have burnt down, and the kitchen was revolting," says Kathryn. "The previous owners had left everything behind." They had left in a van with the minimum of belongings, leaving everything else for Kathryn to clear.
"The villagers were brilliant though. People just turned up to help, got a skip and cleared everything with me."
Kathryn recalls the day with complete gratitude to those helpful neighbours. Clearly it could not have been very easy for her. She made the decision to stay open and so, in extremely difficult circumstances, she opened as usual for business that evening, but has since spent the last few years renovating and improving the pub, introducing a fabulous menu, and keeping the olde worlde charm.
"We cook everything from scratch and we cook local produce as much as possible," says Kathryn.
It should, of course, have been plain sailing, once Kathryn had sorted out the building, the menu and the staffing, but instead, just as Kathryn was just beginning to get the pub into good working order, she was hit badly by the onset of the foot-and-mouth epidemic. "The tourists just didn't arrive." says Kathryn.
Her expenditure had been very high in the first six months. and she had been looking forward to a busy summer to help to recoup some of those costs, so she was very disappointed when the custom was so much lower than anticipated. Now she has managed to turn it all around, however, and is delighted to have been able to fully renovate the kitchen this year with state-of-the-art appliances and stainless steel units.
Kathryn's head chef, Sue, worked for the previous owners, but it was a very different place then they tell me. Kathryn laughs: "We had a ceremonial burning of the tabards that were worn by the staff, and bought chef's whites." Kathryn now has two chefs (Sue and Shane) as well as a barmaid and three waitresses.
So what made Kathryn buy such a run-down and clearly difficult project when she could have bought a number of pubs in better working condition?
"I knew what I was looking for," she says, "And I fell in love with the pub surroundings."
She had come from Lonodn where many years ago she had been the owner of a sandwich round business "In 1986 I was making hundreds of sandwiches a day", she says.
I realise I recognised her. It is one of those strange moments every so often in life and we worked out that by a strange and quirky set of coincidences I had bought sandwiches from Kathryn in an office in South London in the late '80s! "I knew that I recognised you," she says, "And I knew that it wasn't just from round here".
In 1989 she moved from London to Lincolnshire, as she had been intending to get married. Sadly the marriage didn't happen and she decided to return to London where for the next 10 years she worked as a contract catering manager for high profile clients.
She knew that it was time for a change, however, and wanted to run her own business. She took some time off to travel and then she started looking for a suitable pub. "I looked at some 40 pubs." she says, "And then I got details for this one. I was reluctant at first, but then I decided not to miss an opportunity. I walked in, and knew instantly that this was the one. But what a mess!"
Kathryn moved in a short while later and has not looked back. Her parents have continued to be supportive of her and whenever her father visits he spends time gardening and generally helping out.
Kathryn intends to refurbish the rest of the pub, put in larger tables and developing the menu further. She loves creating food and works closely with the team to develop just the right tastes that they are looking for. She tells me that the bar area won't change as, of course, that is all original and she is determined to keep the character of the pub. She laughs about the upstairs part of the accommodation where she lives and tells me that, despite it being so rundown, it will have to wait, as the business comes first. As I leave she hands me a copy of the Christmas party menu: pigeon and foie gras terrine, baked fresh figs stuffed with goats cheese and wrapped in parma ham with basil vinagrette, chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese, garlic and rosemary, best end of lamb wrapped in smoked bacon, triple chocolate terrine with caramelised oranges and Cointreau. . . The list goes on. Is it Christmas yet, I wonder?