Published on October 4th, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour0
All manor of changes
David and Natasha Corney knew the pub they were taking over three months ago had a bright future. Potential was high on their list of “likes”, but even they have been taken by surprise at the upturn in trade at The Manor House Inn, Carterway Heads, on the County Durham and Northumberland border.
The surge in business, goodwill and returning custom has them excited.
“We love it here, we’re really chuffed at the way it’s going,” says Natasha. She is from a nursing and care background while David has spent his working life as a chef.
“I’ve known the place and people all my life,” says David, who was a pot-washer at 14 when his mother Gillian was manageress. “My dad was a policeman, this was his area, and it’s really nice to meet people I’ve never seen for ten or twenty years.”
Changes in front-of-house personnel and tweaks around the bar and menu have made most of the immediate difference – the idea being to start with the basics to get the best out of the business.
“We’ve got to keep on building on that and put the passion back into the place,” says David. “You have to have love and passion in this trade, then keep on pumping and pumping it.
“Custom comes from all around; Consett, Corbridge, Hexham, Muggleswick, Shotley Bridge and Whittonstall, right across to Gateshead. Many of the old regulars are coming back in and there’s a lot of passing trade, particularly people going back and forward to Scotland – for food, accommodation and the crack at the bar – plus the caravan site next door has helped a lot.
“Fresh ideas are putting the place back on the map. Everything is home-made, including the bread, and all using local suppliers. It’s just amazing, lovely food on a plate, that’s the whole point, it’s what I’ve always done.
The 18th Century Manor House is the quintessential coaching inn, sitting on the undulating A68 at the head of the Derwent Reservoir, the noted watersports and wild fishing centre.
It’s an inn in the old-fashioned sense – two-foot thick sandstone walls wrap around an absolute delight whether it’s a meal, a few drinks, a short break to admire the glorious North Pennines scenery, or a night or two’s homely accommodation.
The public bar’s enormous stone fireplace is an immediate focus but equally alluring is a large window onto the pub cellar where its functional innards are exposed to all and sundry – ale casks, plastic piping, junction boxes, pumpclips, wine bottles and boxes – which is a clever way of introducing a very tidy and well organised operation. If the rest of the pub functions as efficiently as this appears to, chances are it’s a polished operation.
David and Natasha rent the building from Enterprise Inns but the lease is set to transfer to the Stonegate Pub Company in February, so there’s likely to be a change in beer offer. At the moment it’s cask Thwaites Wainright, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Courage Directors and Old Rosie Cider – that’ll do nicely.
The menu is still finding its feet as the main dining room is being refurbished. Specials include Steak Night Monday, Burger Thursday and all-day Friday fish and chips (which a group of ramblers voted the area’s best).
“And so many people have pitched up on a Sunday we’ve had to use the private dining room,” says Natasha. “It’s a wonderful little place, it just needs looking after.”