UK Enterprise Awards 2021

198 | UK Enterprise Awards 2021 Best Inner Neighbourhood Pub 2021 For one London-based pub, lockdown brought opportunities and a chance to re-brand. We take a look at The Cuckoo Bar & Rooms and see exactly what it has done to win over the local community and gain the prestigious title of Best Inner Neighbourhood Pub 2021. Nestled in a delightful corner of Islington, The Cuckoo Bar & Rooms is a unique bar and boutique hotel which is a real hidden gem. Situated in Barnsbury, one of London’s most up-and-coming neighbourhoods, the bar has proved popular over the years with locals and families looking for a friendly and welcoming environment. With values steeped in providing quality food and beverages, served with a welcoming and friendly approach, it’s clear to see why The Cuckoo is so successful. The Cuckoo also offers boutique hotel rooms and, being just a five-minute walk from Islington’s bustling Upper Street and a five-minute tube ride from the nightlife of London’s West End, it is fast becoming a haven for those seeking a comfortable and luxurious place to stay while they explore all that the capital city has to offer. Winner of the Best Inner London Neighbourhood Pub 2021, the venue recently undertook a refurbishment to better cater for the eclectic tastes of the local residents and now features a strong South African vibe, with a carefully curated food and drink menu courtesy of bar manager, Sunee McKelvey, who hails from one of the finest wine producing regions of South Africa. The Cuckoo has unique access to wines and spirits from the area that are not easily sourced in the UK and this, coupled with freshly prepared food using authentic artisan ingredients, offers the people of Islington a premium pub experience quite unlike any other. “Being based in Islington, we are blessed with customers who enjoy eating and drinking out, and who want to try new things and they also want quality as well as variety,” explains Malcolm Paice of The Cuckoo. “We keep trying really extraordinary new food and drink we find on our travels, and we often wonder ‘will people really want this?’ and every time we are surprised by how well these niche items sell.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, the hospitality sector was brought to its knees as pubs, clubs, bars and hotels were forced to close. Now that the world is slowly opening back up again, it appears that the sector is bouncing back and Malcolm has noticed new trends emerging as a consequence of the national lockdowns. “One of the key changes has been people craving a more premium experience in a pub,” he says. “After a year of being stuck at home, people are now wanting to go to a bar and enjoy the better things on offer.” He has also noticed an uptick in the growth of the super-premium beer market which has been very tangible, with people favouring the higher end products over their cheaper counterparts. Similarly, he has noticed it with wines and spirits too with higher end selections vastly outselling the low to mid-end products as people appreciate the finer things in life and seek out a more luxurious experience. It’s not all about the products on offer either, and Malcolm explains that friendliness and warmth are what customers want, meaning that this is what the company looks for when recruiting. “To be honest, we can teach someone the job, it is the personality and family-feel we look for in our team,” he states. “It sounds like a cliche, but it has to be a real team effort in a business like this. We also like to take the time to teach staff about the products we sell, because customers crave information about the food and drink that we provide. As a result, we get lots of repeat customers who evangelise about our service and products.” Regarding the future, the main plan for The Cuckoo is to continue to promote and push the new cuisine and international flavours on offer, however there are also developments happening with the hotel rooms, with the intention of providing a more boutique feel that ties in with the inspiration of the South African nature. “We just want to give back to the local residents who have given us an extraordinary welcome and reception and who have clearly been craving a beautiful little pub on their doorstep,” Malcolm enthuses. “We’ve been made to feel like an integral part of the community and the repeat business we see from locals is a testament to the care we have put into getting the look, feel and offering just right.” Contact: Malcolm Paice Company: Hemingford Elia Limited (The Cuckoo) Web Address: May21300