This is Milton in North Oxfordshire and the pub is the Black Boy. It has been my local for 30 years and I have seen almost as many landlords. There is a story to tell about many of them but it looks like we have light at the end of the tunnel with the departure of Marco Pierre-White. In place of MP-W, we have a family who have bought the Black Boy and moved into it as their home. The landlord is Pete with a successful background in building which he is already applying to rectifying the ruination that MP-W brought. He is supported by his wife who is as enthusiastic as him and a son who is a chef. There is a dog called Shamus and they seem to have plenty of friends and followers to support their venture.
Marco acquired the Black Boy through the Wheelers group and brought with him an entourage of advisers with a mission to transform the Black Boy into a high-class eaterie. He made the bar so small that the staff could not stand behind it if they needed to access the cellar. He made the drinks offer miniscule and the tables and chairs uncomfortable and unattractive to make it clear the Black Boy was somewhere to eat his food and not to enjoy a pint with local friends. He filled it with incredible objets that did nothing for this lovely old inn and then, once he had “transformed” it, he disappeared.
Well he is gone and good riddance. If he runs his other businesses like he ran the Black Boy, I wonder that they survive which is all the more amazing given my memory of Wheelers Restaurants in London which were high quality and customer-focused but that was some time ago.
Luncheon today saw a full pub with people enjoying a drink with friends; plenty of people enjoying an Easter luncheon; people turned away who had not booked (but wait for the back part of the pub to be re-opened); a few dogs running around and enjoying themselves and a few children who might have learned to have been as well behaved as the dogs!
My best wishes to Pete and his family. Milton is a delightful hamlet; the Black Boy is a beautiful building with huge potential as a pub and eaterie and it deserves a chance to succeed after a chequered history of chancing landlords and landladies. I think the new team have the capacity and enthusiasm to do this.