Public House of the Month
ARDINGLY, West Sussex
An ancient and truly beautiful pub-restaurant the Gardeners Arms is situated on the edge of rolling Sussex countryside. Right across the road from both the South of England Showground and Wakehurst Place (Kew’s 180 acre country garden in West Sussex), the Gardeners Arms is truly worth seeking out.
SELSFIELD ROAD ARDINGLY West Sussex, ARDINGLY RH17 6TJ
Tel: 01444 892 328
- Free Wifi
- Car Park
- Historic Location
- Dogs Allowed
Neil and Cami run the Gardeners Arms in Ardingly. Neil took some time to answer our questions about the pub and his time in the industry, following a nomination for the Gardeners' strong trading during a weak summer.
How did you start in the hospitality industry?
My start to hospitality was working in hotels. I then went to Pizza Express as a General Manager, followed by a move to Blubeckers Pub Company. It was there that a former Regional Manager recommended I apply to work for H&W, and I’ve never looked back!
Have your previous jobs differed from your current one?
I’ve been managing for so long now, 18 years, I don’t remember back to the time when I wasn’t responsible for a business. I’ve learnt that you need to give 100% to every job if you want to be a good manager. When we joined H&W, Cami and I showed that we can bring our own business experience to the table, so we’re not closely dictated to on how to run our business. That’s a huge benefit of working for a values-driven, family-run company.
How long have you been the General Manager of this House?
We’ve been here since March 2011, so around five years now.
And what do you like best about managing The Gardeners Arms?
I love making people happy. The Hall & Woodhouse motto is ‘Make People’s Day’ and everything we do is to make our Guests happy. As well as being the General Management, I also manage the kitchen. I really enjoy a busy dinner service seeing dish after dish sent out, a perfect 10 every time. The training that we give reiterates this culture so every member of our team is a well-oiled cog in the engine of our business. When everyone does their job to the best of their ability, the result turns Guests’ heads. Hard work has helped us build a reputation and a standard that our Guests love.
So how do your Team and how does your House sum up the Hall & Woodhouse values?
In every single way. Every time I interview a new team member, I talk about the ADIKT (Ambition, Dedication, Integrity, Kindness and Teamwork) values and I won’t take anybody on based on their experience alone, if I don’t feel they understand our values. We work together in harmony because we are a team of lovely, like-minded people. New team members soon learn to live and breathe the values. Cami and I know that to give the guest the very best hospitality, the onstage and offstage team need to work together as a team. In the kitchen, the chefs and I pass on our knowledge of the dishes and ingredients to the waiting team so that they understand that all of our food is freshly made and as such can be changed to suit people’s requirements. In return, all the feedback, not just negative, gets passed on to the kitchen; it’s so important. The waiting team are the smiling faces who keep the pub running smoothly in view of the guests, even when things are difficult and the pressure is on; it’s their responsibility to never let on to the guests! “The guest wants to know that it works not how it works”
Tell us more about The Gardeners Arms, what is different and special about your pub?
We are a typical English Country Public House, with real beams and tonnes of character. We had a refurbishment in 2011 when we had our wall of mirrors put up, and other features such as walls papered in pages from horticultural books. We’ve also got lots of local history throughout the House which people love to come and read. It’s so interesting and there seems to always be something new to discover! It’s homely and comfortable and is so typical of the Hall & Woodhouse style.
How is your pub part of the local community?
The regular visitors to the Gardeners come from as far away as Eastbourne! It’s a destination pub; Ardingly is not the biggest village in the world, but our trade doesn’t suffer because our guests know what to expect and are happy to travel to us. We might not see some of them for a couple of months at a time but we have regulars that visit us on a weekly basis as we know how to make their day.
If I were to buy you a drink from the bar, what would you like?
Badger First Call is the consistent classic, but I would go for the seasonal ale Glorious Game. It’s a new brew from the Badger brewery and it’s very good!
What would you order to eat with your drink of choice?
Toby (our head brewer) recommends the beer with something meaty and comforting, so I’d probably go for the Fillet Steak. We had a delicious Lamb Wellington on our specials board recently which would also match Glorious Game perfectly. Mark Woodhouse stopped by and had one; he enjoyed it so much that his plate went back to the kitchen absolutely spotless!
What’s your favourite season of the year at the pub?
Summer is very busy and in leafy West Sussex there are plenty of places to walk the dogs and relax when it’s sunny. I love the English countryside (despite the temperamental weather) as there are loads of things to do and see. Summer is also when we welcome back our seasonal team and we have the chance to bond as we work under the pressure of busy service together.
What’s good to see and experience in your area after a visit to the pub?
Wakehurst Place is a National Trust garden and house, it’s the most popular of all of them. The Kew Botanical Gardens is fascinating for anyone interested in science or flora as they grow all kinds of plants in their seed nursery from around the world.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us, Neil. We hope that your Autumn and Winter seasons are as successful as your Summer!
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