Starting Up with Samantha Vaughn @ The Abingdon Arms
Keep it in the family”! was the motto for our new team running the popular country pub and restaurant The Abingdon Arms, in Beckley.
I’m the manager, supported by my husband Steve, and our oldest son Will who is the head chef.
We’ve been talking about taking over our own pub for the past eight years but only started looking in earnest at Christmas.
Having looked at lots of pubs in the Thames Valley area, we fell in love with The Abingdon Arms, a country village pub in Beckley with stunning views across Otmoor, and decided to take it on as our first pub and restaurant.
Steve is a former sales director, but I’m experienced in the licensed trade and when we approached our son Will he snapped our hand off, having run busy pub kitchens in several local pubs, most recently the Red Lion in Evenley, near Brackley.
We took over The Abingdon Arms on July 28, and it’s been flat out.
I think Steve has wondered what he’s taken on at times because its been all hands to the pumps.
We shut for three days to get everything ready before we opened and threw away three skips full of rubbish.
The garden was really overgrown so my family came from Staffordshire and cleared it all up because the views are so amazing here.
Lots of the equipment didn’t work when we arrived – no ice maker, plate warmer or glass washer, but the place has been full regardless and we had to turn people away on Friday night, and have done 50 covers every Sunday lunch.
As for our plan, we want the pub to remain the centre of village life, and the hub of Beckley, a place where the village comes together, with lots of regular activities such as quiz nights, wine tastings and local music acts very much on the agenda.
From a restaurant perspective, we are aiming for pub classics, all home cooked, using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible. What makes it all worthwhile is the warm and positive reception we have received from our first customers and the locals, receiving some lovely comments, and many appreciative remarks about Will’s cooking, especially the Abingdon Arms Schnitzel, made from a flattened chicken breast, topped with Parma Ham, brie and breadcrumbs, and deep fried, or the very chocolately Nutella Cheesecake. We are also open to any constructive criticism, wanting to get everything just right.
We had no staff to begin with so had to rely on family, but we are training three people up and have cover for the bar and kitchen.
As for the future, there are still issues to cope with which are ongoing, but a tasteful remodelling of The Abingdon Arms is planned for the future, in keeping with the character and style of the pub, while adding more light and warmth.
Until then it’s all hands on deck, but I love the banter and the villagers who pop in and out to see how we are getting on.
It’s already better than we could have imagined.
The Abingdon Arms, High Street, Beckley.
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