The Rebirth of The Unicorn’s Head at Langar

Rewind to early 2023. The location is Langar, Vale of Belvoir, Nottinghamshire. Andy Hunt, hospitality entrepreneur and owner of The White Horse in Ruddington (as well as his own events company), is driving home after catering an event for tractor maker John Deere. From the corner of his eye, he sees The Unicorn’s Head, a pub he had long admired.

“I’d love to run that pub one day – it’s a beauty,” he tells his colleague. The very next day, Andy receives a notification that the Unicorn’s Head is up for rent. “I saw it as a sign,” Andy recalls.

In September 2023, Andy and his business partner Leroy Allen – a talented chef – took on The Unicorn’s Head.

Andy’s journey in the hospitality industry is extensive, beginning at Langar Hall, moving through prestigious venues like Stapleford Park near Melton Mowbray and the Lace Market Hotel and World Service in Nottingham, before venturing into pub management with the Moleface Pub Company. In 2013, he took on The White Horse in Ruddington, a pub he continues to run alongside The Unicorn’s Head.

Ambition and the circumstances drove his decision to take on a second pub. “We had been looking at sites for a while,” Andy explains. “Nothing had added up numbers or location-wise until the Unicorn’s Head.” The potential he and Leroy saw in the pub was huge. Their vision? To reinvent The Unicorn’s Head as the jewel of the Vale of Belvoir.

According to Andy, The Unicorn’s ticks all the boxes of what a country pub should offer: ample parking, a welcoming outdoor area, a rich history and an ideal location.

But what is it about the pub industry that’s kept Andy coming back for more, year after year? “It’s the social environment and fast-paced, high-pressure weekends – that’s what people who leave this industry always miss,” he says. “But you’ve got to love this work to do it properly,” he asserts, acknowledging the challenges but emphasising the unique buzz of pub life.

To realise their vision at The Unicorn’s Head, Andy and Leroy enlisted the help of Simon Barnes, a trusted general manager with significant experience from their days at Moleface. Together, they face the industry’s hurdles head-on. “It’s taken the industry a bit to get back into its swing after Covid,” Andy notes, highlighting the struggle to attract weekday patrons since the pandemic as a growing and persistent challenge.

Andy’s ambition for The Unicorn’s Head is clear: to create a consistently excellent pub that excels in atmosphere, food and outdoor spaces. The emphasis on high-quality food is evident in their local sourcing policy, with ingredients from nearby Harkers Farm Shop, The Welbeck Bakehouse, and Mr Pitchfork’s Pickles. This commitment to quality and community reflects their dedication to providing a pub that locals can be proud of.

Andy, Leroy and Simon’s passion for the pub industry is palpable. “We’re here in Langar for the long haul,” Andy says, their goal being to make every visitor fall in love with The Unicorn’s Head.

When asked if he would recommend a career in pubs, Andy’s response is candid: it’s a career for those truly passionate about food, drink and events. “Running pubs these days, you’ve got to live and breathe it,” he says, emphasising the need for dedication and versatility in this demanding yet rewarding field.

The story of Andy and The Unicorn’s Head is about passion, serendipity and a deep-rooted love for pubs. It’s a tale that highlights the challenges of running a pub and celebrates the joys of being part of the community’s social fabric. As Andy and his team continue to pour their hearts into The Unicorn’s Head, they aim to elevate the pub’s status and inspire others with their dedication and love for the industry.

Visit The Unicorn’s Head website.

The author:

Matt lives in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. He is passionate about the independent food & drink sector and founded Great Food Club in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town.