‘You’ve got to look after your regulars but also keep on trying new things’, the winner of the Advertiser’s Pub of the Year said this week as he accepted his award.
After a closely-contested vote, The Oak and Saw emerged victorious in the inaugural competition by the slimmest of margins.
Out of nearly 5,000 votes cast overall, the village pub in Taplow defeated community-owned Craufurd Arms in Gringer Hill, Maidenhead, by just nine votes.
Ian Burne, who has run The Oak and Saw with his partner Karen Walsh for 13 years, described how it has changed from being a ‘proper boozer’ when he used to drink there as a customer into a ‘foody pub’.
The 57-year-old has lived in Taplow for more than 40 years.
He said: “When it came up for sale I just thought ‘I could do that’.
“It used to just have a lunch-time menu but now our steak nights on a Saturday and Sunday dinners are always fully booked.
“We’ve got a couple of really good chefs in the kitchen and the menu changes with the seasons.”
Ian said the smoking ban in 2007 and then the recession in 2008 were two events that hit the business hard but, after a refurbishment earlier in the year, he was more optimistic than ever about its future.
The pub has been around since about 1870 and it got its name from when the old war ships were decommissioned. They would sail up the Thames to Taplow and be taken apart, with the wood from each ship recycled and used to build the village and the surrounding areas.
Speaking about its success, Ian said: “You’ve got to look after your regulars but also keep on trying new things.
“Craft and real ales are really popular these days, and premium gins – plus you’ve always got to maintain that level of good service.
“But we’re really happy the community came out and voted the way they did,” he added.
The Maiden’s Head in Maidenhead High Street, The Grenfell Arms in Oldfield Road, Maidenhead, and The Bounty, by the river at Bourne End, completed the top five.