Janine and Alf took some time away from arranging Christmas plans for their restaurant and hotel (where has this year gone?!), to talk to me about their recent nomination for the Most Beautifully Presented award at this year’s eviivo awards. Located in the picturesque village of Chilworth, I wanted to find out more about this country pub with rooms that serves modern British cuisine, with a their strong South African twist.
Congratulations, what does being nominated for this award mean to you?
It’s a congratulations for all of our staff, not just Alf and I. It’s nice to give them that recognition for making The Percy Arms what it is.
What makes a stay at The Percy Arms different from anywhere else?
Well first and foremost, it would be our South African theme. Both Alf and I came from South Africa via Dubai to come and live in the UK. We are very proud of our South African hospitality and there is a very strong South African influence; especially in the decor, some of our staff and our food. So you will get slightly different food when you compare it to an English pub.
We have five rooms at the pub and we’ve named them after five big African safari’s and it’s quirky stuff like that that the customers seem to like. We also have quite an extensive South African wine list, which is quite different for our customers. So staying with us, they get the A-Z South African experience.
On the weekend we offer a South African BBQ and it’s extremely popular. We’ve got a really big garden, so we do an open grill, with steaks and ribs on the open fire, plus our special South African sausages. And as well as a South African breakfast in the morning; we do a Sunday roast, which is traditional but it has a twist, it’s in a cast-iron pot, and we’ll do it with deer or wildebeest.
Do you have a theme behind your interior design?
The South African Theme shines through. We have many artifacts that have been shipped over. And because it’s an old English pub, we wanted to combine England with the African theme, so we have something between a Scottish hunting lodge and an African safari lodge. So it really sums up who we are, half-English and Half south African. This is what makes it a very unique place to stay.
How important is your website, and getting your story across online?
It’s massively important, we do a lot of work through our website with a lot of sales for our restaurant and hotel. I think one of the things that has been highly successful on our website is that customers have said that the website is a true a reflection of our hotel. So when they arrive they truly feel that they are getting what they expected and more. You often go on websites and see they promise a great deal, but when you arrive it’s totally different. We almost undersell it on the website and when you come here, you’re very pleasantly surprised.
Can you tell us the story behind how you both got into the industry?
Alf: I’ve been working in restaurants since I was 15 and trained as a chef, and been trained in front-of-house all my life; always in hospitality. It’s something that I’m comfortable with and enjoy. I like the satisfaction of pleasing guests, and happy customers are what drives me. And then Janine made the mistake of marrying a restaurant owner In fact, we actually met because Janine designed menu’s (she’s the creative part of us) for a restaurant that I had about 22 year ago. So I was actually a client! She ended up marrying one of her customers.
Janine: My background is advertising and design, I had my own advertising company and Alf was in the restaurant industry. We moved to Dubai and then one of our friends was selling this pub, so we came over here, and joined forces at The Percy Arms. And the rest is history.
And for fun, what’s the strangest thing that’s ever been left behind in a guest bedroom?
We had false teeth once!
To see more about our awards and shortlisted properties click here.
And to read more customer stories click here.