The 27-year-old owner of the Maytime Inn in Asthall tells Katey Pigden about his passion for hospitality and gin
What was your first job in the hospitality industry?
Was it something you always wanted to do or did you have a different career path in mind?
I originally wanted to be an architect, until I found out that meant seven years at university, plus I did not get the grades. I went to university anyway and got my BA in city and regional planning, then did an MSc in construction project management - then I realised I hated planning.
All the way though university I worked in pubs, bars and restaurants - mainly pubs, and mainly the Turf Tavern, one of the contested oldest pubs in Oxford. It was here that I decided that a career in hospitality was for me.
When did you decide you wanted to own your own business?
I started looking at places while I was finishing my MSc. The original plan was to go into an old manor house with another business partner, but this never came to fruition. I found the Maytime Inn by doing a simple search online. It was only about a month from then until I moved in.
What attracted you to the Maytime Inn specifically?
When I found it, I thought it looked horrible, but the location and space just screamed potential. I wanted something I could use as a proving ground for myself and somewhere I could really put my own stamp on.
The décor was aged even though it was fairly recently refurbished and I traded for the first six months without putting photos of the rooms on the website. It was exactly what I was looking for: a challenge. The place screamed out for someone to love it and develop it back to its former glory.
Did anyone ever try to talk you out of pursuing it?
A lot of people told me I did not realise what I was getting myself into. But, being a 23-year-old, I knew everything there was to know, until I moved in and realised I had no clue where to start. I decided in the end that a sledgehammer was as good a place as any.
How would you describe the Maytime Inn's style?
Fun, quirky, sophisticated - a place that welcomes everyone. The décor is shabby chic, but with a modern twist.
What type of food and drink is on offer? I understand you have a particular passion for gin.
We are a pub that serves flavoursome food that is in keeping with our countryside surroundings. The food is all made fresh in-house and changes with the seasons. We use as many local suppliers as possible without sacrificing on quality.
Our drinks offering is something I am very passionate about. We are a free house and have no ties. We have local ales on rotation, as well as ales sourced from all over the country. As a drive-to pub, I think it is important to offer a wide range of quality wines by the glass. I have just introduced our new fine-wine list, with our newly acquired Coravin making this possible. Gin is a passion of mine - we currently have 51 gins and nine types of tonic and I am on the lookout for more.
Tell us about Alfie the dog.
Hmm, Alfieâ¦what can I say about him, other than he is absolutely bonkers? Why I thought a springer spaniel would make a good pub dog I have no idea, but at three years old he is starting to mellow - slightly. He can be found performing for the treats on the bar or sprinting laps around the pub. Other than that, he will be lying under tables sulking if everyone is ignoring him.
What do you have planned for 2016?
I am looking forward to building on what we achieved in 2015. I am always pushing for improvement and more gins, of course.
I have done some form of refurbishment every year since we opened in 2012, so I am looking forward to no builders in 2016. Unless we decide to go ahead and build our cigar shelter - it's just
a little project.
2012-present Owner, the Maytime Inn, Asthall
2007-12 Bartender then senior assistant manager, Turf Tavern, Oxford
2006-07 General work across bar and restaurant, Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley, Chester
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