WITH pubs in England and Wales continuing to close at alarming rates, Cheshire-based independent restaurant group Pesto is defying the downward trend by breathing new life and profits back into old wet-led venues.
Launched by former La Tasca founder Neil Gatt and his partner Sara Edwards (pictured above), Pesto specialises in reopening pubs and introducing an affordable food offering based on piattini, Italian small plates, with most priced between £4 and £5.
“Reinventing traditional pubs is becoming a bit of a trend for us, we like the thought of bringing the main hub back into an area for locals and visitors to enjoy,” says Gatt.
“Some of the sites we have procured were closed, boarded up and really run down, which isn’t something communities want to see.
“Giving them a make-over and bringing in a fantastic food offering seems like a great way to bring extra value into an area, whilst making it a more desirable place to live and socialise.”
The venture was born in October 2011 during a chance drive by the couple past the Cabbage Hall in Tarporley, Cheshire, which was then a closed and lifeless pub.
“There was something about the site that just made us pull immediately over,” says Edwards. “There was a letting agent on site and we convinced him to let us take a look inside. We decided to make an offer pretty much there and then.”
Not ones to sit tight, the couple cast the net wider expanding into the Midlands, identifying their next site with the reinvention of the Axe & Compass in Sutton Coldfield which opened in March 2014 followed by the White Horse at Desford, Leicestershire, in September 2015.
Pesto now operates at nine sites in the North West and Midlands, with a tenth due to launch this summer. The latest was the Davenport Arms (pictured) in East Cheshire earlier this year.
Since its launch more than £2.5m has been invested in to the pub sites alone, with each restaurant’s extensive refurbishment carefully directed by Neil and Sara.
Their formula appears to be a winning one with relaxed dining areas and open serving space whilst retaining traditional features including open fires, high beams and sprawling gardens for summer drinking.
The internal bar remains a key feature of each restaurant with designated space for customers to sit back and enjoy a wide range of carefully selected wines, ales and craft beers.
“Our focus is on offering the best possible experience for diners using fresh ingredients to create a wide variety of authentic Italian dishes,” adds Gatt.
“We know our customers enjoy our grazing-style menu, relaxed atmosphere and friendly service style and we are delighted to bring our distinctive dining experience to prospective diners across the region.”