Play it again, Sam 13 December 2019 Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
In this week's issue... Play it again, Sam Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
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Pub Operator of the Year

01 January 2000
Pub Operator of the Year

"If Britain wanted a model pub to export around the world, it would be this one," said one nominator of this year's winner.

The judges, for their part, were looking for an operator who was innovative and displayed dynamism, and they found it in the shape of Denis Watkins.

Watkins displays style and business savvy as well as a determination to continue to innovate and push forward his business.

With a Michelin Red M and two AA rosettes to his name, he easily satisfies the criteria of a sound food operation and with the opening of a second pub operation last year, he shows he is not resting on his laurels.

A former hotel manager turned publican, Denis Watkins of the Angel Inn and the General Tarleton Inn displays the attributes of flair and innovation, sound business planning and imaginative use of resources.

For 15 years Watkins has been producing top-class food accompanied by an impressive wine list at the Angel Inn in Hetton near Skipton, North Yorkshire. One of the nominators said: "It is one of the finest eating establishments in the country - smart, polished staff, fine food, almost in the middle of nowhere."

The Angel serves about 1,350 meals a week between its informal 60-seat bar brasserie and 36-seat dining room. The timbered, panelled rooms have cosy alcoves and comfortable chairs, and guests are served home-made bread and exceptional food, accompanied by the pick of a wine cellar of more than 250 choices. The operation has an annual turnover of more than £1m. Friday is fresh fish day, and those wanting a table for the bar area wait patiently in the car park prior to opening, as Watkins takes bookings only for the dining room.

In August 1996 Watkins embarked on a new project, investing £300,000 in the General Tarleton Inn at Ferrensby near Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

The 90-seat bar brasserie and 60-seat dining room was serving 750 meals a week, and the intention is that it will reach similar levels to the Angel. There are also 14 bedrooms with an average rack rate of £39. Next year Watkins expects the General Tarleton to show a turnover of £1m with a 20% increase in profits.

The Angel has consistently appeared in the guides and is reviewed in the current editions of The Good Food Guide, The Good Pub Guide, Egon Ronay Pubs and Inns and the Michelin Hotels - Restaurants. Frequent citations have appeared in the national and local press, and Watkins is a regular diary writer for Caterer & Hotelkeeper.

"Denis is one of my role models - his food is excellent, the wine list fantastic and he is one of the top operators in the UK," said Steven Doherty of the Punch Bowl Inn, last year's winner.

"Winning a Catey comes back to innovating and being a driving force. Watkins sets an example which others can look up to and learn from," said another judge.

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