It’s been a great month for Olney. It’s been named as one of the top ten places to live in the South-East by The Sunday Times, and today, Oakman Inns has opened The Cherry Tree, a brand-new pub and restaurant.
The Cherry Tree – named after the town’s legendary Cherry Fair – is a sensitive and elegant restoration and extension of a two-storey, Grade II Listed house, converted from an old, closed residential care home. The opening was marked by the town’s Mayor, Cllr Jeremy Rawlings pulling the first pint at last week’s VIP Party.
Overlooking the Market Place, The Cherry Tree opens every day from 8am and will be serving food and drinks all day. The owners, award-winning pub group, Oakman Inns, appear to be bucking the often-cited trends for pub closures, as this will be their 21st opening and their second within a month.
Oakman Inns’ CEO, Peter Borg-Neal, said: “When we started trading this business 11 years ago we recognised that there was a huge opportunity in high quality market towns to satisfy a strong demand for smart/casual, high quality drinking and dining. These towns tend to reject national brands with a narrow focus. Conversely, our desire to engage with communities and to take a flexible approach to our operations makes them ideal for an Oakman Inn. Olney was one of the towns listed in our original business plan and I am delighted that we have made it here at long last. Having purchased the freehold for £1.5m and invested £2m in developing The Cherry Tree, this is a substantial investment and we are optimistic that the people of Olney will be delighted aswell.”
When you arrive, you are immediately struck by the attention to detail by the architects and designers. Many of the old Victorian and Georgian features such as cornicing, plasterwork, sash windows, parquet flooring and fire places have been painstakingly renovated and reinstated to integrate and yet contrast with the inspirational contemporary design. The space created is subtly interspersed with antiques and cherry tree-themed works of art sourced locally, including 1930s oil paintings and original 1920s Tiffany wall lights in the Lobby.
Set within the original garden courtyard, the 100-seat restaurant is a contemporary addition. A beautiful, light room where one side features an impressive, open theatre-style kitchen, where guests can watch Head Chef, Michal Dabrowski, and his brigade freshly prepare their dishes from their wide-ranging Mediterranean-influenced Spring/Summer menu. The chefs can be seen grilling and roasting over the Josper charcoal ovens and grills and preparing hand-crafted authentic Italian Pizzas in a beautiful copper-clad, wood-fired pizza oven. The menu also features an imaginative and delicious range of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes together with daily specials.
Supported by a team of 40 recruited locally, Stevie Watts, who grew up nearby, is the Cherry Tree’s first General Manager. She added: “Olney is such a vibrant and busy town and richly deserves the Sunday Times accolade. We’ve been overwhelmed by the friendly welcome we’ve had since starting building work here. Everyone has been struck by the extraordinary transformation that’s taken place – and the choice of stylish settings for both drinks, dining and events. We’ve had so many encouraging comments from our VIP Party and the practice runs – and I’m so proud to be opening such a beautiful place.”
Mayor of Olney, Cllr Jeremy Rawlings, who is shown pulling the first pint at last week’s VIP Party, said: “The Cherry Tree has all the makings of a superb venue for eating as well as meetings and events. Oakman Inns are to be congratulated for restoring this building to such a high quality.”
Stevie and her team have already become involved in the town’s activities helping with the famous Pancake Race last month. They are holding a Charity Quiz Night this week and will be supporting a number of community events this year including this year’s BOFF (Big Olney Food Festival).