The Good Pub Guide 2021, published today, has named the Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland, as its UK Pub of the Year for the second time, having awarded it the same title in 2014.
Ben Jones, Sean Hope and Marcus Welford bought the venue in 1999 and, with the help of family and villagers, rescued the closed pub from an uncertain fate.
In 2002 the Olive Branch became one of the first pubs in the UK to win a Michelin star, which it held until 2012. In 2005 the team bought Beech House, a private dwelling opposite the pub, and converted it into six bedrooms, which opened in 2006 and was awarded a Good Hotel Guide César Award in 2012. In 2016 the Olive Branch opened an allotment and polytunnel to supply ingredients for the kitchen.
The guide described it as "a really special place for a drink, a meal or an overnight stay" and a "perennially successful inn which attracts a deservedly loyal following from both near and far".
Co-founder and managing director of the Olive Branch Ben Jones said: "What brilliant news to receive on our 21st anniversary at the end of this incredibly challenging year. We first opened on 12 December 1999, with a village Christmas party. Sadly, this year — due to the government's illogical, pub-killing restrictions — we will not be able to celebrate safely with locals and villagers."
"A pub is about the whole experience – the beer, the wine, the food and, above all, the atmosphere. Right now, due to Covid and these restrictions, we aren't really a pub. We aren't able to welcome all; we aren't able to enjoy a drink and some local gossip at the bar. However, this award means so much to us because it rewards the whole team at the end of an unbelievably tough year. Every single one of them has played their part in this success."
He added: "We've been lucky. We are in a rural location near open fields. We have space to socially distance, we have an amazing team and wonderfully loyal and supportive customers. We were nearly full throughout the summer, yet 2020 has still been a battle for survival for us and December will be our worst in 21 years.
"Many others less fortunate than us will not make it. More help is needed. The £1,000 for wet-led pubs is pitiful and the government must find more support for our industry. Without it, the Good Pub Guide may well be half its size next year and the true local will be extinct."