Village pub gets a new lease of life - and a new name

Jim and Suzanne Millar outside the Willow & BrookJim and Suzanne Millar outside the Willow & Brook
Jim and Suzanne Millar outside the Willow & Brook
A much-loved village pub will re-open its doors this weekend with a new name and new faces behind the bar, writes Alison Bagley.

Suzanne and Jim Millar have taken on a five-year lease of the Willow & Brook in Kings Cliffe Road at Apethorpe, near Oundle, and the pair invited locals to pop in and meet them last Saturday evening for canapes and a drink.

The couple, who have moved from Spalding to follow their pub management dream, have reopened the hostelry, formerly known as the Kings Head, two weeks ahead of schedule with their first Sunday lunch sitting filling up fast.

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Suzanne said: “It’s our first venture and we want locals to have this as a community space. Our ethos is local, local local.”

The restaurantThe restaurant
The restaurant

Moving in just before Christmas with sons Freddie, 11, and nine-year-old Ryan, the family have been putting the finishing touches to the restaurant, bar, snug and outside courtyard.

Trained as a chef, Jim will be cooking whist Suzanne works front-of-house.

Jim said: “I cook contemporary British, hearty food with big pies and some traditional dishes with a twist. It’s a restaurant with a bar with nice British food and drink sourced locally. Beer from the Nene Valley Brewery, Jelley’s vodka, Warner’s gin.

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“We’re supporting local businesses and keeping it local. We will even have English wines which is something that not many places serve. Our wine merchant lives in the village.

The Willow & BrookThe Willow & Brook
The Willow & Brook

“We want people to enjoy regional food and drinks as well as classics from across the world.”

London-born Jim, 45, started his career in nearby Woodnewton, moving on to head-up kitchens in Rutland, Leicestershire and finally Lincolnshire where he met Suzanne, 37.

It was after helping a friend follow their pub management dream that they realised that they too wanted to work for themselves.

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Jim said: “If I’m going to be exhausted every day, I might as well be exhausted for myself.

Suzanne stocks the barSuzanne stocks the bar
Suzanne stocks the bar

As their son Ryan needs gluten-free food, the restaurant will be very gluten-free friendly with chef Jim making the necessary adjustment to all aspects of the menu.

Suzanne said: “We want to be inclusive. The dining experience should be one where you can relax, have a drink, peruse the menu at your leisure.

“You will have your table and you can take as long as you want to eat. Everything will be done at the customers’ time and pace.”

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The re-opening of the pub has created nine jobs with roles for bar and waiting staff.

Suzanne added: “Everybody has been so welcoming. We would like to thank Apethorpe, all our suppliers, and our families, for everything.”

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