Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Downturn at The Yew Tree Inn

The sale of The Yew Tree Inn near Highclere

I first visited The Yew Tree Inn at Hollington Cross by chance in the late 1990s whilst showing a visiting friend this beautiful part of the country close to Newbury.

The exterior of The Yew Tree Inn

Subsequently, The Yew Tree became associated with Marco Pierre White and I somehow, yet again, rediscovered it in 2004. On my second visit, this country pub had been transformed into a destination dining room and henceforth began a time when I visited at least twice a month.

The Yew Tree Inn’s signage during the period in which Marco Pierre White was involved

In the coming years, I dined at The Yew Tree during the week but more often on a Sunday. I took my friend Charles Mitford Cust there with a former associate, the SKYY vodka tycoon Maurice Kanbar. The somewhat charmless Kanbar wasn’t exactly an easy guest, but even he enjoyed the fish and chips.

One of the dining areas at The Yew Tree Inn

On another occasion, I introduced my dear friends Dianne and Michael Bienes to the setting in the company of Barnaby Rodgers, Luigi Galimberti Faussone, Edoardo Albright and Emma Rogers. We had a fantastic meal but The Yew Tree’s credit card machine wouldn’t work. Though I left my details, a bill was never even sent. This was all part of the charm and easygoing nature of the place. After lunch I took the party to see a true Romany gypsy encampment nearby complete with an ancient caravan. My guests could not believe that such still existed in England. Sadly, more recently, these relics of times past were moved on.

Just before my birthday in 2007, after purchasing a four-wheel drive vehicle from Guy Salmon in Portsmouth, I recall driving through the snow on a freezing January day in a somewhat comparatively shabby Nissan and yet again coming upon The Yew Tree Inn. Within half an hour a whole gaggle of friends had descended upon this hostelry that is just near where Downton Abbey is now filmed and a jolly afternoon ensued. All in all, this was a pub and restaurant where somehow magic just happened.

The food at The Yew Tree Inn, under the auspices of Marco Pierre White, was indeed second to none and though the service was a little haphazard, we always had a great time. Even when we took a young lady who only ate raw vegetables (she believed, if cooked, their “souls” would be destroyed), the management tolerated our eccentricities. On the one occasion I even dared introduce a seriously ghastly creature named Maureen, they even put up with her and, indeed, if I’d taken a certain carafe swiller, they’d probably even have forgiven that too. At The Yew Tree, hospitality was all that mattered.

Highclere Castle: the setting for Julian Fellowes’s Downton Abbey starring, from left to right, Rob James-Collier, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Maggie Smith, Jessica Brown-Findlay, Anna Smith and Brendan Coyle

In September 2011, therefore, I was sad to learn that Mr Pierre White had fallen out with his partners in the venture, Andrew Parton and Peter Featherman, and dismayed when his spokesman stated:

“Marco has been treated very shabbily. He invested his own money in The Yew Tree and saved the business from its financial difficulties. Now he has absolutely nothing to show for it because an agreement has been reneged upon.”

Yesterday, however, things moved on when I learned that the establishment had been put up for sale through agents Davis Coffer Lyons for offers in excess of £1,650,000 for the freehold going concern.

Sadly, I suspect, the glory days for The Yew Tree Inn are over but I very much hope that whoever buys it will not be “fishing without bait,” to misquote Downton’s Dowager Countess of Grantham.

The Yew Tree Inn, Andover Road, Hollington Cross, Near Newbury, Berkshire, RG20 9SE. Telephone: +44 (0) 1635 253360. Website: http://www.theyewtree.co.uk

For more information on the sale contact Paul Tallentyre of Davis Coffer Lyons on +44 (0) 20 7299 0740 or email ptallentyre@daviscofferlyons.co.uk.

1 comment:

Michael said...

A great loss. This was a fine place.