On the face of it, the Pear Tree at Hildersham has no right to survive,
especially in these straightened times. For starters, it's a tiny place with just a
single L-shaped room. Hildersham itself, though lovely, is also small - just
However, when they were looking for a pub in these parts, John and Gillian
Harris had little hesitation in snapping up the Pear Tree's lease. What the pub
lacks in size it more than makes up for in character - John describes it as
"quirky" and it's about as far removed from an anonymous city centre bar as
you can get. The Harris's have had 15 years experience in the pub and
catering trades, their most recent pub being near Beverley, Yorkshire. Since
taking over in February, they've added bed and breakfast accommodation in
the cottage next door and spruced up the pub interior. The main innovations
though have been on the food side; a rural pub like this simply couldn't
survive without offering food. It doesn't dominate though because most of the
eating happens early evening leaving the coast clear for the drinkers from
nine o'clock or so. The pies, produced in a state-of-the-art £8,000 oven,
change regularly but can include Beef with Guinness and Stilton, Steak and
Abbot Ale, a Fish Pie which John is especially proud of and a veggie option.
The menu also features steaks, at least three veggie dishes and traditional
favourites like fish and chips. Food is served every evening except Tuesday
and on Sunday lunchtimes (when a proper Sunday Lunch with a different
roast each week is available). The pub doesn't open weekday lunchtimes
(which is pie-making time!).
Real ales are Greene King IPA (which outsells lager "by a mile") and Abbot.
John would like to try a guest beer but the inability of Greene King to supply
these in pins is a problem.
Looking ahead, a piano may well be installed so that there can be jazz and
blues music one Saturday a month. Next summer the Harrises hope to
resuscitate the petanque team - anyone interested in playing, please contact them.
As I go round local pubs, what's very noticeable is that despite all the very
real doom and gloom and the rash of temporary and permanent closures,
some pubs are doing fine and even very well. In every case, they're places
which offer something over and above usual - be it excellent, interesting real
ales, top-class food or a combination of quality ingredients. Even tiny pubs
like the Pear Tree (and, elsewhere, the Blue Ball Grantchester and St
Radegund Cambridge) can be made to work if run with flair and enthusiasm.
Long may they prosper.