AT The Horse Guards Inn, food is not something they take lightly – landlord and landlady Sam Beard and Misha Hofirkova spent six years just looking for the perfect steak.
So it’s not hard to see why the Tillington pub has been crowned the Good Pub Guide’s 2015 County Dining Pub of the Year, having previously won back in 2013.
Last year it was named by the guide as one of the top ten pubs in the country.
“This is one of the nicest accolades because it is done by customers,” said Sam.
“It’s not something you can buy into.
“The staff put in so much, so it’s a massive accolade for the business.
“We’re in an amazing place, and get to work closely with fantastic farmers to get the best ingredients to make well-presented food.”
Both have been in the trade all their lives – Sam started as a pot-washer in a London pub aged 14, and Misha studied hospitality.
They looked after restaurants in New Zealand before moving back to the UK seven years ago, having ‘had enough of doing it for other people.’
“We wanted to get our teeth into a challenge, a project of our own,” added Sam.
After searching the internet, they found the Horse Guards. He added: “We fell in love with it. The sun was streaming in through windows. It just felt right.”
The duo set about finding the best-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.
Sam said: “We searched high and low for two or three years to find the best ingredients, and spent six years trying to find the perfect beef farmer. We try to get everything from sustainable, organic producers.”
With a 20-strong team, the pub also boasts a bed and breakfast.
It is labour intensive, but it has paid off.
Misha said: “We want guests to enjoy the environment, the food. And we change the menu every day. People embrace change, and like the fact there is always a surprise.”
The chefs sit down every day and discuss the menu, which they make from scratch –from the bread to the ice-cream.
Unique not only in its approach to food, the pub is a treasure trove of eclectic finds Misha scours flea markets and car boot sales for.
“It is quite fun when new people come in here,” she added.
“It’s a treasure box and people are mesmerised by what they have walked into!”