Patrick Moore and Sally Simmonds took on 18th century pub The Hand and Shears, in Church Hanborough right in the middle of the pandemic, in August 2020.
Which means they have only managed 10 whole weeks of social distanced dining since opening up. And yet the pub is already a roaring success, their takeaway surpassing all expectations: “It’s been so great engaging with people and getting to know the locals as much as we can,” Sally says. “We had an incredible start. The community was so welcoming and friendly.”
Having looked for a premises of their own for years, it wasn’t until the couple walked into The Hand and Shears that they knew they’d found their perfect pub.
“It was love at first sight,” Sally agrees. “It’s a such a welcoming, cosy, traditional country pub, with a log fire and an old wooden bar and had so much potential.
“But more importantly The Hand and Shears is in a really lovely village and we wanted to be part of that community. There is a lack of good, independent pubs in the area, and we knew if we concentrated on producing really great food and service it would work.
“If we can make it work during a pandemic, imagine what it will be like when we return to normal?”
“Having grown up in a village that’s what we wanted – to get really stuck in.”
And what of their timing? “We knew what we would have to deal with when we took on The Hand and Shears, but the reaction has been amazing, so we know we’re getting something right.
“People come from miles away for the takeaway again and again, so we know they like it. It’s been really, really successful. And if we can make it work during a pandemic, imagine what it will be like when we return to normal? Put it this way, we’ve proved what we are capable of. And the run up to Christmas was fantastic.”
So what’s most popular on the takeaway menu? “At the moment it’s the family box (slow cooked pork belly with crackling, Panko breaded chicken breasts, sticky smoked ribs, hand cut chips, slaw, garlic greens, BBQ dip, Miso mayo & garlic aioli), but then the pork is free range and we pick our own wild garlic, so it is really delicious,” Sally says.
“We change our menu every month and concentrate on really fresh food made from locally sourced, high quality ingredients – our Sunday lunch is really popular,” Sally says proudly.
Both Sally and Patrick have a background in hospitality. Sally hails from Appleton, and has always worked in pubs in Oxfordshire, while South African Patrick is a chef.
“We’ve got a lot of experience between us and have learnt a lot over the years about how to run a pub, the do’s and don’ts, so opening our own place together has always been the dream,” Sally says.
As for the future, Sally wants to take The Hand and Shears, which first opened in 1775, back to its glory days of the 1990s when it was a real destination pub.
But with no garden, they will have to wait until June 21 to open properly. “We can’t wait. I miss the people, the buzz of being really busy and not having time to catch your breath, a really busy service, just to welcome people in again,” she says.
“More than anything else we just want to be in a busy pub again. It’s part of British culture. We just want to put The Hand and Shears back on the map.
And if the signs are anything to go by, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
The Hand and Shears, Church Hanborough is at http://handandshears.co.uk