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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Ale and hearty with Cumbria’s inn crowd

For 33 years, the Good Pub Guide has been carefully researched and compiled. Editors Alisdair Aird and Fiona Stapley painstakingly ensure that each of the 5,000-plus entries is worthy of its place in the prestigious guide.

George and Dragon photo
George and Dragon staff, from left, Nicola Lynch, senior restaurant supervisor, Ian Jackson, head chef, Richard Bracken, restaurant supervisor, Elizabeth Lees, duty manager and John Dent, bar manager

This year, the pair believe there might finally be light at the end of the tunnel for the industry, which has struggled since the introduction of the smoking ban and the economic downturn.

As they today reveal the 2015 edition of the guide, they say: “The pub scene has changed utterly from the days of decrepit boozers with dull beer and freezer-pack food, to a thriving industry that’s now finding ingenious ways of pleasing millions of new customers.

“And this transformation has taken place against a background of hard economic times that have driven many less alert pub businesses to the wall.

“Although around 28 pubs are closing a week, many of them are being re-opened by visionary and energetic new licensees.

“It is the success of these pubs that has definitely led to a new mood of forward-looking confidence in the pub world.”

The Punch Bowl, in Crosthwaite, has been given the County Dining Pub of the Year Award for Cumbria.

The Punch Bowl Inn is not new to the Good Pub Guide, which has long-praised the owners for their use of the best seasonal, local produce to create its "enterprising modern food".

As well as scrumptious food, the attention to detail in the bedrooms - which are individually furnished, and adorned with hand-picked throws - has also come in for praise.

This year the guide sees 121 new entries, compiled following feedback from more than 2,000 loyal correspondents and backed up by editor inspections.

While north and west Cumbria does not have any new entries, it can still proudly boast six pubs in the guide - Kirkstile Inn at Loweswater, Queeens Head in Tirril, Gate at Yanwath, Pheasant at Bassenthwaite, George and Dragon at Clifton and Highland Drove at Great Salkeld.

Elizabeth Lees, 35, is one of the duty managers at the George and Dragon.

She reveals just how coveted a place in the guide really is.

“When people are coming to an area they are unfamiliar with, it is great to have something you can pick up and know you can trust.

“People travelling up and down the country, who book into places in the Good Pub Guide – some driving holidays are booked around venues from the guide.”

The George and Dragon has been highlighted within the latest edition for its focus on locally-produced food, and Mrs Lees admits much of it could not be supplied from anywhere closer.

“We grow as many of our fruit and vegetables as we can,” she says, “and at Askham Hall we have our own rare breed pigs and our own goats and cows. When we say local, it is our own as much as we possibly can.

“Everything else we try and source as locally as possible. The miles that food travels nowadays is crazy. To know where food comes from and how it is kept makes a big difference.”

The Good Pub Guide 2015 is published by Ebury Press today.

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