Pubs are an essential part of the make-up of Britain. They are where we go for sustenance, refreshment, and community. Tat has a vigorous devotion to pubs, especially the good ones, the ones that are still a comfort to locals but where the food thought out and drinks are delectable. So it should be no surprise that we were keen to meet Tom Noest and Peter Creed, the dynamic duo behind the Langford, The Lamb Inn, The Fox Inn and The Sherborne Arms. We sent our countryside correspondent, Liberty Nimmo, to discover what makes these two such connoisseurs in creating excellent pubs.
Tat Meets Tom Noest & Peter Creed
By Liberty Nimmo
5th October 2023
I met with Tom and Pete just after the Autumn equinox, which is the time of year when their menus, currently based on local game, veg and fish, are really starting to sing. It’s the moment when pub season is shifting away from balmy evenings spent with crisps and cider in the garden to fireside afternoons, gravy, rich-coloured greens and hearty soups with bread lathered in salty butter.
Pete and Tom recently added The Fox Inn in Broadwell, and The Sherborne Arms in Northleach to their growing portfolio of Gloucestershire/Oxfordshire pubs. The duo already operate The Bell at Langford (opened in 2017), The Little Bell at Soho Farmhouse (2019) and The Lamb at Shipton under Wychwood which opened in July 2021.
I ought to start by saying that Pete and Tom’s boozers are all etching their way into the fabric of the Cotswolds for their focus on very good, simple pub food with a straightforward wine list. Of course – if you have not been, go immediately. However, I’ll leave the real sell to the likes of Giles Coren and the many other top, raving reviews they’ve received of late.
Tom and Pete are really nice; they have an easy charm and lovely big smiles and a sense of feeling comfortable in their own skin but no hint of conceit. It was refreshing to feel so at ease amongst these revered landlords.
Both local lads, for Tom and Pete, the main aim of their pubs is to create places which can be all things to all people; they are passionate about keeping their pubs as boozers and they want to keep the locals coming. The bar rooms stay firmly as bar rooms and fill up with local faces, dogs and pints of good beer. They feel familiar, like the pubs of our childhood and this incites a warm nostalgia and a sense that the place is being used in a sort of rightful way. The mid-week deals or staples such as Toad-in-the-hole which appear on the menu alongside a delicious piece of whole baked plaice, monks beard with capers and brown shrimp mean that you’re quite at home on a mid-week night feeling incapable of deciding what to cook, or bringing your Granny to celebrate her 90th. Getting this fine balance right is a testament to them both.
On talking ingredients, Pete immediately listed off their local suppliers. Veggies come from the Cotswold Market Garden, Cured Meats from The Salt Pig, cheeses from Kingstone Dairy, bread from Sourdough Revolution and the mentioning of Capreolus' Eaux de Vie, distilled in Cirencester and held to International acclaim, was an almost tear-inducing moment of joy. Their game is from the local Cornbury Park estate, and yes, Tom does take the whole beast and uses every last bit. Charles, the butcher from Taste Tradition, sounds terrific, it is impressive the care and pride taken in sourcing their produce.
As well as looking out for local suppliers, Tom and Pete have carefully nurtured their team of staff with about 99% of the team being brought up through the business internally. Pete proudly mentioned that one of the lads they took on as a pot washer soon progressed to potato peeling and now is the sous chef at one of their boozers. I was starting to swoon.
Tom lives in the village of Chedworth which has recently started a monthly market in the Village Hall supporting local suppliers and businesses. Tom sits on the committee and, in my opinion, this is one of the great markets – it’s unpretentious in the brightly lit, newly built village hall which is replete with trestle tables burgeoning under the weight of delicious produce, bunting, tea and cake being churned out and is always filled with a good crowd who are happy to chit chat at the cured meat stand whilst mooning over the Rollright cheese from King Stone Dairy. In part inspired by this, the boys will be holding a Christmas Market in the church in Langford on 2nd December so get the date in your diary (Langford is home to their pub The Bell, so named because the church bell can be seen from the pub and soon to undergo a refresh under Tom’s watchful eye. Watch this space).
Mentioning of the church swiftly induces some expletives from us all about why it is these beautiful, sacred places are all falling to rack and ruin and aren’t being used – I feel in good company, but that’s another conversation.
We move on and Pete generously concedes that Tom is the eyes behind the aesthetic; he has a great eye and an ability to accumulate beautiful bits in a magpie like fashion. While Pete may have the final critique, what the boys have done here is to create a place which feels welcoming, simple and spoiling but not overly ostentatious and with a sensible underpinning of delicious food.
The pubs feel un-intimidating and punters can be as they wish; dress up, dress down, wellies (Le Chameau or Dunlop) or heels and pearls; somehow all are at home here and coexist perfectly. In a broader sense, they are bringing a much wider picture to eating and drinking – one that feels both homely and spoiling, inclusive and community building and which celebrates a sense of place as well as local heritage, produce and seriously good food. It’s quite an art and quite an achievement.