Is running a pub what you expected it’d be like?
The best thing about pubs is anything can happen! They’re unpredictable, and I guess that’s why I like them. But running one has been hard. I think we had an average age of 24 when we started, which is obviously young to open a pub. We thought we had it all figured out. We didn’t, so we had to grow up fast.
I was very familiar with pubs because I’ve always been in them. My dad would take us to them for meals out, a beer in the summer after calving cows, or to watch village cricket. But nothing prepares you for actually having the keys to one. Especially when you’re taking classics such as ham, egg and chips off the menu and replacing them with little-known cuts such as Jacob’s ladder with parsley risotto or oxtail pappardelle. You can imagine how that went down with some of the locals who had been coming to the Bull & Last for 20 years. Taking out the pool tables and creating dining rooms with taxidermy was also a bit controversial back then.
As Tom Kerridge points out, pubs were disappearing fast even pre-Covid. What’s been going on?
Fundamentally, pubs have changed, and they continue to do so. This is sad because they’re part of British culture, but I’m torn with all of this because you can’t tell people to go and have 30 pints a week in a normal week these days. People haven’t been doing that for a while; they’re more health conscious and there are more temptations to stay in thanks to access to sport on TV and the like.
Pubs still come in all different shapes and sizes and offerings. Ollie and I love and respect all of them. We are massively associated with food – it is what we trained in – so that’s the route we’ve taken at the Bull & Last. Nevertheless, it didn’t sit too well with me when the scotch egg debate was treated as a bit of light humour by the government. Because of that meal rule, some of our regulars can’t come in for a pint at the moment.