The Olive Branch in Clipsham is UK Pub of the Year, says Good Pub Guide 2021
Team celebrates ‘brilliant news’ but rues plight of UK pubs and ‘illogical, pub-killing’ restrictions
The Guide says: “In this most difficult of years, we are delighted to award Pub of the Year 2021 to The Olive Branch in Clipsham, Rutland. To compete in the Pub of the Year category a pub has to have unanimous enthusiasm from all readers on all aspects of its business – it has to be top of its game and The Olive Branch is most definitely that. It’s a really special place for a drink, a meal or an overnight stay. It’s a perennially successful inn which attracts a deservedly loyal following from both near and far, and will celebrate its 21st anniversary on December 12.”
The Olive Branch is a small village pub in England’s smallest county. Three friends bought it in 1999 and, with the help of family and villagers, rescued what was then a closed pub from an uncertain fate. Since then, The Olive Branch has achieved many accolades, including the same Pub of the Year title in 2014.
Co-founder and MD 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 December 12, 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.”
He continued: “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.”
Indeed, The Olive Branch has had to work harder than ever to create the buzz for which it’s known and entertain guests from a distance.
Faced with such challenges, The Olive Branch has done its utmost to forge a whole new pub experience. The aim has been to not only meet the regulations but do so in a way that makes customers feel they have enjoyed something unique and memorable. Christened the ‘New Special’ by the team, The Olive Branch experience in 2020 includes luxurious, beautifully dressed, heated garden gazebos, more space, and a choice of service styles and seating areas to give customers control.
Ben said: “It’s not been easy and each member of the team has had to work longer and harder to cover the extra space, to make customers feel safe and to complete all the appropriate cleaning.”
Assessing where the pub industry finds itself at the end of 2020, The Olive Branch MD said: “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.”
The Olive Branch Timeline
December 12, 1999 – Ben Jones, Sean Hope and Marcus Welford open The Olive Branch for the first time. Their idea is to combine top quality food and a relaxed pub setting.
2002 – The Olive Branch becomes one of the first pubs in the UK to win a Michelin Star.
2005 – The team buy Beech House – a private dwelling opposite The Olive Branch – and convert it into six luxurious bedrooms, opening it in 2006.
2012 – Beech House wins a prestigious Good Hotel Guide César Award.
2014 – The Olive Branch is named UK Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide.
2016 – The Olive Branch opens its allotment and polytunnel, which supply ingredients for the kitchen.
December, 2020 – The Olive Branch celebrates its 21st birthday and is named UK Pub of the Year by the Good Pub Guide for the second time.