Hereford Times Best Pub award winners revealed after reader vote

THE winner of the Hereford Times Best Pub 2021 competition has been revealed, with the owners of a Leominster pub coming out on top.

Hundreds of nominations were received for dozens of the county’s pub, with the White Lion in Etnam Street – popular for its good-value food and traditional European goulash – crowned overall winner.

Run by Laz and Nina Pal Laszlo, both 41, the couple faced being hit by flooding after first opening the dog and child-friendly pub.

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But their customers appreciate the service, quality of food and well-kept drinks on offer at the pub.

Mrs Pal Laszlo thanked not only the customers who nominated the pub for the award, but also her staff who give customers such a memorable time.

She asks staff to treat pub customers like guests in their own homes to give them a memorable experience – an approach which clearly works.

Hereford Times: Laz Pal Laszlo and wife Nina outside the the White Lion in Leominster’s Etnam Street. Picture: Rob DaviesLaz Pal Laszlo and wife Nina outside the the White Lion in Leominster’s Etnam Street. Picture: Rob Davies

Mrs Pal Laszlo said it was on July 2, 2018 when her and her husband, living in Bristol at the time, took over the Leominster pub.

Since then, they’ve turned its fortunes around and love living in the town with their young family.

She said they have faced lots of challenges in the three years since, not only because of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on pubs and restaurants, but also flooding in 2020.

Mr Pal Laszlo, who used to work at a Beefeater as a kitchen manager, said it was good to finally own his own pub.

Offering dishes from traditional pub food like steak and beer-battered fish and chips, to beef goulash from his native Hungary, Mr Pal Laszlo said food was his speciality.

He said a Hungarian and Romanian couple running a British pub meant some customers were unsure of how good it would be to begin with, but he said the town now loved their business.

“We decided to take the big step and buy the lease, and over the last three years we’ve had lots of challenges,” Mrs Pal Laszlo said.

“We flooded in 2020 when there was the big flood, and after that was lockdown and Covid-19.

“It was not very easy for us, but we aimed to open all the time [when restrictions relaxed] – it doesn’t matter how many times they closed us down, I said we were going to be the first ones to open.We’re a family pub, we’re not a posh pub or a fancy pub, we’re just a family pub.”

She said they treated everyone the same, regardless of it it was their first visit or they’re a regular – something with her husband felt made them stand out.

The couple will be presented with a trophy and certificate marking their win.

YOUR TWO RUNNERS-UP

The Bridge Inn, Kentchurch

A Herefordshire landlord said he was “buzzing” to be named in the top three pubs in the county, despite missing out on the top spot.

William Chambers, who runs the Bridge Inn at Kentchurch (between Hereford and Abergavenny) with his wife, Kasia, said it was great to receive recognition after a challenging time.

Hereford Times: Landlord of the Bridge Inn at Kentchurch William Chambers. Picture: Rob DaviesLandlord of the Bridge Inn at Kentchurch William Chambers. Picture: Rob Davies

Like the winners of the Hereford Times Best Pub 2021 competition the White Lion in Leominster, the Bridge Inn was hit by severe flooding in 2019 and 2020 before feeling the effects of the coronavirus restrictions since March.

On the border between England and Wales, differing restrictions between the two nations have also been an issue for the couple, but he said now his customers were making the most of being able to go out to eat and drink again.

“We’ve all had a good summer and we’re looking forward to next year, as well as many different events like Christmas and Halloween, trying to cook as many meals, make as many cocktails, and get as many real ales in as we can,” he said.

“It’s also great that people really, really want to go out. People really want to go out and eat food and drink. I think everyone is just bored of Covid and being at home.”

The couple have travelled the world of food, drink and hospitality and find themselves on the wild borderlands between Wales and England.

Having always been admirers of what they say is a beautiful part of the world, they are on a mission to maintain the heritage and charm riverside pub for the local community to enjoy.

Passionate about good food and with a farm to fork ethos, the Bridge Inn says it uses only the best local farms and suppliers in Hereford and keeps a menu that reflects the season.

The Boat Inn, Whitney-on-Wye

The owner of one of Herefordshire’s top three pubs, as voted for by readers of the Hereford Times, has said its his emphasis on customer service which can set him apart from competitors.

Danny Chamberlain, who runs the Boat Inn at Whitney-on-Wye, near the border town of Hay, said he only took over in July 2020 – in the middle of the Covid pandemic.

He said it was a big achievement to be named in the top three businesses of the Hereford Times Best Pub 2021 competition given the challenges he faced due to Covid restrictions as soon as he opened the riverside pub’s doors.

While he said that was the same for every pub, to be shortlisted just over a year later was an achievement.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to take a chance,” Mr Chamberlain said when asked why he took over a pub during a pandemic.

Hereford Times: Pub supervisers at the Boat Inn in Whitney-on-Wye, Janet Davies, left, and Leah Harmon. Picture: Rob DaviesPub supervisers at the Boat Inn in Whitney-on-Wye, Janet Davies, left, and Leah Harmon. Picture: Rob Davies

He had left his Cotswolds pub when the lease came to an end, moving to the borders to what is now a “busy, busy” business where he aims for top customer service, including even having towels on hand for wet canoeists!

He said he has great chefs, who pride themselves in using the best locally sourced produce wherever possible.

Mr Chamberlain, 36, also spoke of his three to five-year plan for the pub, which will also include a refurbishment for its accommodation, but said looking after customers, whether visitors to the area or local farmers, was key.

“It’s very busy in the summer. You have all the canoeists and the campsite, but the tough time is the winter, and you’ve really got to make it work for you.

“You’ve got all the staff you’ve got to look after, so you’ve really got to be something different to make it work here in the winter.”

Hereford Times