Interview with The Maytime owner Dominic Wood

Discussing his transformation of The Maytime, its impressive gin collection, and friendly resident dog Alife, Dominic Wood speaks to SoGlos about owning his own Cotswold pub – in his twenties.

A pub owner in his late twenties, Dominic Wood – and his four-legged friend Alfie – are at the helm of charming country pub The Maytime Inn, flying the flag for independent businesses and championing local produce.

SoGlos speaks to Dominic Wood about his impressive transformation of the 17th century inn, the freshly-prepared British fayre, and its goal to sell 100 types of gin.

Can you tell SoGlos readers a little bit about yourself?

My name is Dominic Wood and I’m originally from Ascot, grew up in Cheshire and then came to Oxfordshire to go to university at Oxford Brookes.

I fell in love with the surrounding Cotswold countryside, and so decided to set up shop here!

Can you tell us how you ended up at The Maytime?

I worked in a small, independently-owned country inn near Chester as soon as I was old enough, and then worked in The Turf Tavern for about five years during university in Oxford, and then moved straight to The Maytime.

I have done short stints here and there in various restaurants, hotels and pubs, but The Turf Tavern was where I decided I wanted to continue a career in hospitality. I didn’t study hospitality at university, or really receive any special training, it was all on the job learning… especially once I took on The Maytime!

What made you decide to run your own business?

I worked for a large company who had total control over their pubs and got frustrated with all the restrictions and the retail-based, standardisation mentality of the managers. I wanted to work somewhere where I had the freedom to create a unique environment that complemented the pub.

Historically, pubs and inns were all unique and this is what made them so special. I wanted to have the freedom to make the place where I worked unique and flexible, so I felt the only way to achieve this was to go it alone.

Do you run the pub by yourself or is there a team of you?

There is a team and they are the most important part of the pub. I’m really lucky to have a fantastic and dedicated team that works with me to make The Maytime what it is.

We all throw ideas around all the time and implement those we can make work, giving the team a sense of ownership too, which helps to keep them involved in the business. Any business is only as good as its team so it’s always really important to me to have the right people to work alongside.

What was it about The Maytime that attracted you to take on the pub?

It needed a lot of work and I wanted somewhere that could be a long term project for me. I loved the location, the building itself, and I could see the potential of the property as a whole.

How did you set about transforming the pub?

To be honest, the first thing I did was take a sledgehammer to the hideous bar that was in there… a marble bar has no place in a pub! I then had a serious clear out of all the old furniture, linen, general clutter, and so on, and once this was done I had more of a clear space to work with.

The first phase was to replace the bar and update the restaurant areas. This involved a rewire, lots of paint, a new bar, new toilets, wine rack, changing the flooring in the garden room and balcony areas, changing all the windows and doors, and getting in all new/reclaimed furniture to make The Maytime warmer and more inviting for our guests. We also tidied up the garden and other outdoor spaces.

Over the last four years I’ve also completely refurbished the guest bedrooms, built a new kitchen, extended the garden and added a petanque pitch and outdoor bar. The latest project was to turn the upstairs area into staff accommodation to help us increase the size of our team.

How would you describe its style and ambience?

We aim to provide high quality food, drink and service, all within a relaxed, informal environment in the middle of the beautiful countryside! The Maytime has a traditional Cotswold shabby chic feel, but with a few more modern touches to keep it interesting.

Were a lot of people surprised that you wanted to run a pub at such a young age?

I don’t think many people were surprise I wanted to run a pub – what 23 year-old doesn’t? I think people were surprised I made it happen. I was lucky to be surrounded by very supportive friends and family, and my old bosses were great too.

What sort of dishes can customers expect to enjoy at The Maytime?

All of our food is made fresh in house by our team of award-winning chefs, and we have a seasonally changing à la carte menu with dishes like lamb loin, charred sprouting broccoli, baby carrots and jus. We also offer pub classics such as your traditional fish and chips; or a wild boar burger with Comté cheese and chilli jam, for a twist on a classic burger.

Our sandwiches are perfect at lunchtime, or you can enjoy one of our very popular sharing boards in our award-winning garden during the summer months.

We have something to suit everyone including a cracking Sunday lunch with a menu that changes each week. There’s also a variety of meat, fish, and vegetarian options, and we can cater for most dietary requirements.

Do you make a point of using local produce in your menus?

Yes, sometimes you do need to go a bit further out to secure quality but locality is always an important factor for us. All of our game comes from local estates and shoots – as local as the field next door.

Can you tell us about the extensive array of gins on offer?

Yes, we offer 85 gins at the moment but we’re always growing our list so expect us to reach 100 soon! We’ve written and printed our ‘gin time menu’ to give customers lots of information about the gins, how they’re made, and the distilleries they come from. We also include our recommendation for the ‘perfect serve’.

We have a range of tonics (even an alcoholic one) to mix with your gin, as well as a mixture of fruits, herbs and spices to make that perfect G&T. All of our gins have been carefully sourced (and thoroughly tasted) by us, and we are proud to offer a wide range of different styles of gin to fit all tastes, from classic juniper, to fruity, herbal, and most things in between.

With Alfie the pub dog in residence, we’re guessing that you’re a dog-friendly pub!

Yes, we are dog friendly everywhere except our guest bedrooms. Alfie is often around in the pub – he has just decided to become frightened of the car and we’re trying to train him out of this so he can come back and forth to the pub with me.

In the mean time you can follow his progress on Facebook or Twitter… Yes, our dog is a technical genius!

How does The Maytime set itself apart from other Cotswold country pubs?

I think it’s different because it’s independently owned, run by a young team, and has a unique drinks menu, offering not only lots of gin but a wide range of craft beer in bottles and on draught. We also offer fine wines by the glass, for those who can only have a glass.

Those who love great food and drink won’t be disappointed, and we try to encourage people to try new things – something that I think is quite rare in the Cotswolds. The staff are also all happy to pass on their product knowledge to our guests, so that hopefully they will also take something away from the experience.

How would you like to see the pub develop over the next year?

Like any business, we are always pushing to grow bigger and better, but I’m putting a real emphasis this year on sustainable growth. As we continue to grow I want to ensure we do so to the benefit of our customers, by not just maintaining but improving the quality of our food and service.

We are looking to host many more varied events throughout the year, and of course expand our gin collection… we may need a bigger bar soon!

Are there any other pubs or restaurants that you rate highly in Gloucestershire or the Cotswolds?

The Angel at Burford is one of my favourites; great service and food, one of the few places I can get a decent G&T close to The Maytime, and it also shares my love of South African wines!

What do you get up to when you’re not busy running the pub?

To be honest, I’m normally in another pub or restaurant or out looking for new ideas. Food and drink is something Lisa and I love, so it normally has a part to play in what we’re doing.

The occasional ‘research’ trip to explore new vineyards or different cuisines is also very important! Lisa and I have just moved house so we are excited to be able to spend time exploring our new patch, and when we’re not doing any of that we also have our wedding to plan… never a dull moment!

For more information see The Maytime Inn, call (01993) 822068, or visit directly.

© SoGlos
Monday 03 April 2017

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