I caught up with Miles Leonard of the Ring O Bells in Compton Martin to discuss British food, the pub I learned my trade in and a night with Coldplay.
I have always been fascinated by the Great British pub. I find a good old fashioned ‘boozer’ serving no food except nuts and crisps to be a great experience (the bell in Grove being my local years ago https://www.facebook.com/bell.grove.1?fref=ts ). Such places are sadly struggling to stay in business so it seems obvious to me that they need to evolve to serve the one thing people like to do the most once they’ve had a few pints… eat!
I started off by asking Miles how he felt on the subject
Well, I believe it’s the relaxed nature of pubs that bring an atmosphere to the dining experience, that restaurants don’t necessarily have. Also, more often than not the great British pubs are about the classics. You can’t beat a great Fish and Chips, Sausage and Mash or a good old Sunday Roast. All served with a great pint of local ale or good glass of wine, without any of the pretensions of a restaurant. But pubs are getting more adventurous now with their menus as they have to compete. Consumers are more attuned to great food these days so standards are high. Everyone is competing for custom. Deliver great service and consistently great food and the customer will return.
I met Miles & began working at the Ring O Bells in Compton Martin which he owns with Matt Fisher.
photo courtesy of kms photography (https://www.instagram.com/kmsphoto_/)
I worked with Adam Oates before taking over as Head Chef. It will always have a special place in my heart as where I was first a Head Chef.
I asked Miles why he took over the pub
It was my local and sadly I watched it slowly going downhill. I moved to the village because I loved the area, but also because there was a village pub. When it started to go downhill and locals stopped using it I met with the brewery who owned it to discuss some changes that I felt would bring back the local custom and out of the blue they asked if I wanted to take it on. I hadn’t planned for that, but curiosity and passion got the better of me and here we are 5 years later.
I have some fantastic memories and met some wonderful people during my time at the Ring O Bells. From pop up kitchens with Masterchefs to fireworks and barbecues there was never a dull moment. One event we did sticks in my mind the most. Miles held an event at the pub (I say pub but on the day it looked much more like a club) which among others featured sets from Coldplay & Royal Blood. I’ve since become a huge fan of Royal Blood.
I asked Miles what memories stuck out for him
I guess my favourite memory during my time there is seeing our Cider and Cheese Fayre grow from strength to strength over the years. We now get around 2000 throughout the day and evening. It’s a great atmosphere and I just love the artisan producers who come each year to sell their produce. I am also quite proud of our music nights and having Coldplay, Kylie and Duran Duran perform in the main bar was pretty special.
The Cider and Cheese fayre has become a bit of a Chew Valley tradition, I definitely plan to attend this years event!
I asked Miles what he had planned for the future
We want to continue delivering a great experience and improving on what we have already.
Miles was an inspiration to me and I will always be grateful for the opportunities he gave me. I finished our interview by asking him to talk about the best places he’d ever eaten. I did always used to love these conversations
I have enjoyed some of the best food in all corners of the world and been fortunate to dine in some incredible restaurants, however it’s usually the simple rustic places and menus that I always go back to. The is a great Italian I go to called La Mela in New York where they have no menus and just ask; ‘One,two or three courses?’ And that’s what they bring you. Simple, traditional Italian food cooked to perfection. I also love a simple fresh seafood dish and gazpacho in the sun in Ibiza with a glass of Rose. There is a place called Biso Beach where your feet rest in the sand in a beach shack. But the food is exquisite.
So if you are ever in the Chew Valley, you must check out the Ring O Bells in Compton Martin. Its a great place for a beer and you never quite know who you might bump into.
Thank you for your time Miles, I hope to see you at the 2017 Cider and Cheese!