Thirsty punters can choose between a wide selection of quality beers, wines, spirits and soft drinks at the Stephan Langton to complement a menu of locally sourced home-made food. They can wash down the pub's renowned pork pie with the Surrey Hills' Brewery Shere Drop, Pilgrim Brewery Surrey Pale local ales, Luscombe Organic's wild elderflower bubbly or opt for hot ginger beer alongside co-owner Rosie Robinson's lemon drizzle cake.
"We're a bit traditional when it comes to the bar," explains husband and co-owner Chris: "We sell good, wholesome quality drinks rather than bottled beers or alco-pops."
There is a strong local trade at the pub, where draught lagers, ciders and cask ales do particularly well. Among the favourites are Westons' ciders, including the 7.2% abv Old Rosie scrumpy and the local ales.
The pub stocks eight Irish and 14 Scottish whiskies, as well as other liqueurs and digestifs. "Whiskies are a great focal point behind the bar and make a good talking point with customers," says Chris.
Customers also have a choice of 20 wines by the glass, supplied by the Vineyard near Dorking and sold in 125ml, 175ml and 250ml measures. However, despite offering choice, varying price and helping customers to match wines to courses, Chris says customers still choose the same wines. "I am frustrated that we do not sell as much as I'd like. Our wines over £20 a bottle are just not moving."
The Robinsons have opted for premium soft drinks brands Frobishers and Luscombe to differentiate themselves from the competition. "We're in beautiful surroundings and serve delicious food so why would we sell anything less than the best?"
Finally, after moving across to First Choice Coffee's Rainforest Alliance brand and undergoing staff training with key account manager Stephen Brecher, Chris adds that customer feedback has been good and sales are strong.
Mentor James Horler is extremely pleased with Chris and Rosie's approach. "It's hard to add much to what they're already doing. They're embracing the local supply chain with wines from the Vineyard; two local ales; organic soft drinks and serving coffee with integrity. My only suggestion would be, perhaps, to reduce the number of wines on offer, but they have so much of it right already."
Friday Street, Abinger Common, Surrey RH5 6JR
01306 730775http://www.stephan-langton.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.stephan-langton.co.uk
FIRST CHOICE COFFEE ON THE STEPHAN LANGTON
Owners Chris and Rosie Robinson have added a few touches to their hot chocolate to appeal to their younger clientele. Stephen Brecher, of First Choice Coffee, says: "The Stephan Langton has a great reputation for serving good food and that is now beginning to extend into hot beverages, thanks to the training, promotion strategies and presentation. Hot chocolate, for example, is now being served with cream on top and is sprinkled with hundreds and thousands; it's a real winner with the children, who are more inclined than adults to order with their eyes."
A regular supply of wild crayfish is back on the menu this month courtesy of a local wildlife ranger and a delivery of the usual Pilgrim beer which turned out to be black "moild" beer was the preferred drink at the bar while stocks lasted. Chris Robinson intends to order more for the autumn. The combination of hot weather and events such as a local Medieval Abinger Fair generated extra business while Father's Day alone saw sales jump 25% on the same day last year. The Robinsons bid farewell to their head barman, David, who has left to open a café with his wife.
"We'll miss his humour and tremendous way with customers," says Chris.
The Stephan Langton was also approached by market research company Deep Blue Research to participate in kitchen research for product and equipment development. The company placed a camera in the kitchen for a couple of weeks and a condensed film of the team in action can be viewed at: the Stephan Langton Blogspot. As Chris says: "It is amazing what you can learn when you see yourself on film."