We chat to Sarah Byrne about life at The Church Green
SUMMER’S on its way, so one sunny afternoon we took a trip out of town and popped in on Sarah Byrne, owner of The Church Green inn just outside Lymm in Cheshire.
Deanna: You’re originally from the Wirral and Aiden is from Kirby near Liverpool – how did you end up here?
Sarah: My dad retired early and bought a pub in Yorkshire, then he sold up and bought this place and took it from a run-down drinkers pub. When Aiden moved up from London, we took it over – 10 years ago in November. I left school with a HND in hotel management, and I worked for Holiday Inns and Village Hotels then went to London for a time, before coming back up north and running pubs. We started this place with Aiden cooking his type of food and we used to get penalised for it because people said: ‘It’s just a pub, so why are you doing fancy food?’ We got three AA Rosettes but his food didn’t match the pub. It took a while to find the balance, listening to what local customers wanted, and turning it into a grill turned out to be the best thing we ever did. We said: ‘Let’s do a grill but do it properly.’ It also allowed Aiden time to step out to do other work [Manchester House, Restaurant MCR] so we didn’t rely on him being here, but he still changes the menu and works with the kitchen team each week to keep an eye on standards.
Deanna: Lymm is well served for pubs wise, so why do customers keep driving past some of the other venues to come to The Church Green?
Sarah: The others are all chains, but we’re independent, so we get to choose what we serve as we’re not tied to a particular brewery. We have two guest beers and three lagers and we change our wine list often, through three suppliers and lots of visits, to keep up standards. We have a wine of the week and also a cocktail of the week, which the bar staff put forward themselves rather than being told what to do.
People come for a day out – they come and have lunch and an ice cream, then go for a walk around Lymm Village, which is very pretty, or Lymm Dam
Deanna: The modern pub has to be all things to all people, but it also needs to have a niche, doesn’t it? Does The Church Green have a typical customer?
Sarah: Different days bring different people. We get quite a few local business people midweek and local families early doors, then Sunday is a different kind of day all together, and we find everyone comes in. We’re very accessible and we’re dog friendly and child friendly, so local families love us – we even have an ice cream parlour which opens in the school holidays and over the summer. I wish I had a pub like this growing up because I know the food is good and the service is good. I’m here six days a week and all the staff have been here for years – even our kitchen porter has been here 10 years – so we’re like a little family and we all look out for each other and really care about each other and our customers. People come for a day out – they come and have lunch and an ice cream, then go for a walk around Lymm Village, which is very pretty, or Lymm Dam, which is a circular route, about two miles and beautiful, with wooden fairies and magical statues to search for. Or they finish at the pub with a meal or a drink on the lovely terrace or in our gorgeous garden area – we have 80 covers outside, but, once the sun comes out, it fills up very quickly.
Deanna: You update the menu fairly regularly – tell us a bit about the current menu.
Sarah: We’re open every day for breakfast. From Monday to Friday, we do 10-12 and can cater for breakfast meetings of all sizes, and at weekends we serve from 9am to noon – breakfast is really popular, especially at weekends, with around 70 on a Sunday and if you like you can book the whole conservatory out. The Sunday lunch and dinner menu changes every week with a starter and roasts of the day plus classics, and as the weather gets warmer we add salads and lighter dishes. We have an à la carte menu, and steaks are a bit of a signature dish, as are our daily changing pies – yesterday it was chicken, mushroom and pancetta, and today it’s beef bourguignon – but we also do bar snacks for people who just want to have a bite to eat with a drink. We also have a menu with two courses for £23.50 or three courses for £29.50, with an upgrade for steak. We also do a separate children’s menu, which I design by seeing what my own kids like – as soon as they get fed up with something, I change it. Sometimes I put a Tweet out asking people to make suggestions for what they’d like to see on the menu, which is a good way of getting our customers involved. The kids are also involved with looking after the little garden we’ve got out the back to grow all our own veg and herbs. We know where our vegetables come from and, because we’re on the higher end of quality, we need to know where our meat comes from. People who understand food get it – why would you want to eat cheap meat? We don’t eat cheap meat at home, so we won’t compromise on ingredients at The Church Green.
Find out more and book a table at The Church Green here.