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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2006, 06:02 GMT 07:02 UK
Top Michelin award for Welsh pub
The Bell Inn at Skenfrith
The Hutchings have run the Bell Inn for over five years
A Welsh inn and B&B on the banks of the river Monnow has been named the Michelin Pub of the Year.

The Bell Inn at Skenfrith, near Monmouth, won praise for its "country and contemporary style" and "little luxuries" in its food and guest rooms.

Landlady Janet Hutchings said she "didn't quite know how we have done it" but said the secret was to do "what we'd like to receive".

The 2006 guide to pubs in the UK and Ireland is published this week.

The pub offers bed and breakfast as well as lunch and dinner for an average 60 to 70 guests per sitting a day.

Mrs Hutchings and her husband William took over the pub five-and-a-half years ago - in the same week as foot-and-mouth was discovered in the UK.

I think we'll have a very big drink for the staff
Janet Hutchings

It was an "inauspicious start" according to Mrs Hutchings, followed by a "hefty learning curve" in the months and years to follow.

She said of the Michelin award: "It's just fantastic. We're absolutely thrilled, all of us are, that they have chosen us out of everybody in the UK.

"I don't quite know how we have done it - we do what we'd like to receive.

"The staff are quite excited because it makes them feel as if they're doing something right.

"I think we'll have a very big drink for the staff!"

The pub has previously won two Michelin "Red Tankard" awards which acknowledge pubs which serve good food.

Catering

Mrs Hutchings works full-time at the pub, while her husband organises the wine list in the evenings after coming home from his job at Kraft foods in Cheltenham.

She had previous experience in the food business but running a pub was a new experience for both of them.

"I had my own catering company, doing weddings, christenings and corporate entertainment - there's no comparison at all to this," she said.

"It's very much 24/7. We live on site and our two children have grown up with it.

"They enjoy it here and are desperate to come and work downstairs."

The couple had no idea they were in the running for the award, nor even that the Michelin judges had visited the pub.

Mrs Hutchings said: "They're probably the least likely that you'd spot. They pay as a normal customer. Inspectors are easy and AA people, generally because you recognise the name.

"When they phoned up we had no idea who they were - just three people from London as far as we knew."


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"The Bell is a former 17th Century coaching inn"



SEE ALSO
Go local for star food, says chef
20 Jan 06 |  Mid Wales
London 'not sole gourmet choice'
07 Oct 04 |  Berkshire

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