Cotswolds purchase takes Brakspear managed estate to 16

March 2020

Pub operator and brewer Brakspear has purchased the Egypt Mill in Nailsworth, near Stroud. The historic pub with dining, accommodation and a thriving wedding and functions business takes Brakspear’s managed estate up to 16 sites.

A converted mill, the site dates back to the 16th century, and the restaurant overlooks the river running through the grounds. Each of the 32 bedrooms has been individually designed and the site can cater for weddings and celebrations for up to 150 guests.

The site has been owned for the last 100 years by the Webb family, who were keen to sell their business to another family-run company. Brakspear has no immediate plans to make any changes to the Egypt Mill and is retaining the current staff team, who have contributed to the site’s success.

Tom Davies, Brakspear chief executive, said: “The Egypt Mill oozes character throughout the building and grounds and we are thrilled to be adding it to our managed estate.

“The site gives us a second wedding and functions business in the Cotswolds, which we have offered at the Frogmill near Cheltenham since 2018. Our learnings from there will help us to develop the already successful business at the Egypt Mill and we’re confident the two together will create a very strong offer for anyone wanting to wed or celebrate in the region.

“It’s not just about functions though; the Egypt Mill has an excellent reputation for its food and is a popular weekend break destination with its quirky but luxurious bedrooms. We’re excited about the potential offered by this exceptional site.”

Brakspear’s managed estate was formed in 2013 with the opening of the Bull on Bell Street in Henley-on-Thames and includes pubs across the Cotswolds and south east, many of them with luxury accommodation.

Digging for victory: Finalists Announced in Oliver Kay Produce Vegan Dish recipe competition

March 2020

Three chefs have been shortlisted as finalists in the Oliver Kay National Vegan Dish of the Year 2020, and will now cook off their recipes for a panel of industry judges to decide the overall winner.

Running for the first time in 2020, the competition organised by fresh fruit and veg specialist Oliver Kay Produce challenged chefs to create a new dish to appeal to the growing number of vegan customers eating out. It aims to find recipes with a strong appeal to customers looking for enticing vegan dishes, as well as to inspire hospitality businesses to create profitable vegan menus.

The three finalists are:

• John Boddice, head chef at Roccos Italian kitchen, Tickhill, Doncaster, part of a small group of family run independent Italian restaurants. His shortlisted dish is Wild Nettle Agnolotti. A chef for 22 years, John is a passionate gardener and his recipe uses ingredients grown in his garden. He says: “I love the super seasonality of the dish, which uses produce grown in my garden. It is a full, flavour-packed dish.”

• Sunil Varma, a head chef with contract caterers Bartlett Mitchell in London. His shortlisted dish is Broccoli Shank with Black Beans and Ginger. Sunil has been a chef for 24 years, and is also a DJ. He says: “I like the playfulness of the dish, it is fun and draws flavours from a naturally vegan cuisine.”

• Yuhan Li, a Level 3 student in his final year at Westminster Kingsway College who also works part-time at Japanese restaurant Koya City in London. His shortlisted dish is Deconstructed Cauliflower. He says: “I like the sustainability of this dish, as there is no waste with all parts of the cauliflower used. It is full of different textures and flavours. I enjoy devising vegan dishes as it really challenges your creativity.”

Jane Aukim, marketing manager for Oliver Kay Produce says: “We had some great entries for the competition, and it was a tough process to narrow it down to our three finalists. It will be very interesting to see them put through their paces at the final.”

The shortlisted finalists will now prepare, cook and serve their recipe for the judges at the cook-off final, to be held at Oliver Kay Produce’s development kitchen in Bolton, on Monday 30 March. The final will also include a short Mystery Box challenge inviting entrants to prepare and serve a starter or dessert from a selection of fresh produce provided by Oliver Kay.

Confirmed judges include:
• Adam Leavy: Semi-finalist in MasterChef the Professionals 2013, and head chef at Alvarium in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which specialises in vegan small plates;
• Tony Naylor: Food and drink columnist and feature writer for The Guardian, BBC Good Food. and other titles;
• Day Radley: International professional chef, food writer and founder of The Vegan Chef School in London.

The prize on offer to the overall winner incudes a UK city break for two, including a dinner booking at a leading vegan restaurant. the shortlisted recipes, credited to their creators, will be featured in a national marketing campaign.

Finalists will receive a hamper of products from the Plant Based Collection, a new range of premium vegan ingredients available through Oliver Kay Produce. For more details see

Black Out: UK launch for Scapegrace Black Gin

March 2020

Scapegrace Black, a naturally black gin from New Zealand, is being launched in the UK, joining Scapegrace Classic and Scapegrace Gold in the portfolio distributed by Hi-Spirits.

The latest premium gin from the award-winning Scapegrace distillery in New Zealand, Scapegrace Black uses a unique collection of natural extracts to achieve its deep black colour, which strikingly changes to shades of red and purple when mixed with tonic.

The natural botanicals include aronia berry, as well as saffron, pineapple, butterfly pea and sweet potato. Each of the extracts is distilled at precise temperatures in a defined sequence in order to create the unique black colour.

On the palate the black gin is full-bodied, with a menthol like crispness, which is naturally chilling and fresh with a hint of spice. The finish is long-serving, with naturally candied, tropical yet earthy flavours.

Just six months after its launch in September 2019, Scapegrace Black has become New Zealand’s fastest growing gin SKU and is the second best-selling flavoured gin in the market.
Hi-Spirits is focusing on premium bars as the core market for Scapegrace Black, with its unique visual appeal and distinctive flavour bringing a new dimension to cocktails and mixed drinks.

Poppy Croft, Hi-Spirits marketing manager, says “we’re delighted to be bringing Scapegrace Black to the UK after its successful launch in New Zealand last year. Scapegrace has always challenged perceptions of gin, and Scapegrace Black offers gin lovers something genuinely different on the back bar.

“As well as its unique, complex flavour, the burst of colour when the black gin is mixed with tonic makes it a memorable serve for customers.”

Scapegrace Black has an ABV of 41.6%, with an RRP of £35 for a 70cl bottle. It will be available in the UK from April.

Scapegrace is distilled using spring water sourced from New Zealand’s Southern Alps, and in 2018 was awarded the best London Dry Gin in the World at the prestigious London International Wine & Spirits competition.

Scapegrace is a traditional word for a rogue, and the brand celebrates gin’s sometimes murky history with its black-tinted bottle, which has a shape based on an antique genever bottle.

Alongside Scapegrace Black is Scapegrace Classic, a 42.2% ABV complex, artisan dry gin which combines classic juniper, lemon and orange notes with subtler floral and spice undertones. Scapegrace Gold is a 57% ABV Navy-strength gin with a unique thee layers of citrus including the introduction of tangerine.

The signature serve for Scapegrace Black is:
• 45ml Scapegrace Black
• Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic
• Two slices of Granny Smith apple to garnish
Method: Fill glass with ice, add Scapegrace Black and top with Tonic Water. Garnish with the two apple slices.

For more information, please contact Hi-Spirits on 01932 252 100, email or see The full Hi-Spirits portfolio is online at


Drinkaware launches new campaign against drink-driving

March 2020

Free ‘Home and dry’ POS offered to all on-trade operators

Alcohol education charity Drinkaware is launching a new campaign against drink-driving, called Home and dry. The campaign will support pubs, clubs and bars to encourage customers in their venues to stay alcohol-free when driving.

Drinkaware is providing Home and dry point-of-sale (POS) materials free of charge to any UK pub operators who wish to use them. The materials include T-shirts for staff members, posters, beer mats and bar runners, which all feature an eye-catching road sign design. Operators can also download a suite of digital assets to communicate the Home and dry campaign across social media channels.

Home and dry has been developed after feedback from on-trade operators and independent pubs and bars and is supported by The British Beer & Pub Association and the Department for Transport’s THINK! initiative.

The campaign is designed to support venues to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for all customers by encouraging drivers to go alcohol-free and get home safe. Home and dry POS and digital assets can be downloaded or ordered free of charge from the Drinkaware online store.

Mark Chandler, Director of Marketing & Partnerships Activation at Drinkaware said: “We’re delighted to be launching Home and dry, a campaign that has wide support from operators as an effective way of helping them to raise awareness of the risks of drinking and driving.

“The campaign’s message is a positive one about encouraging people to choose alcohol-free drinks options if they are driving.

“Encouraging customers to go alcohol-free is easy in today’s on-trade, where the choice of alcohol alternatives has never been better. Drivers can enjoy a wide range of alcohol-free beers, ciders, wines or spirits, and get home safe at the end of the night.”

For more information visit:

Department of Transport drink drive statistics

The Department of Transport’s provisional estimates for 2018 show that between 220 and 270 people were killed in accidents in Great Britain where at least one driver was over the drink drive limit, with a central estimate of 240 deaths. Final estimates for 2018 will be published in August this year.

The Truth behind the myths of Mother’s Ruin

March 2020

London Dry: The Real History Of Gin by Ted Bruning

From Mother’s Ruin to the Gin Palace, the vocabulary of gin reflects its place in our culture, as well as a sometimes conflicted relationship that has often both celebrated and shamed the juniper-flavoured spirit.

A new book sets out to separate the myths from the reality of Britain’s 400-year affair with gin, as well as gin’s place in the wider world. The latest boom in sales, seen across the last decade, has seen headlines celebrating the so-called ‘ginaissance’, with total UK gin sales now more than £3.2bn, balanced with grim inevitability by others raising concerns about the health implications of all those cocktails and G&Ts.

London Dry: The Real History Of Gin by author and drinks trade specialist Ted Bruning highlights that not only is moral panic about gin nothing new, but also that the spirit has often been used by anti-alcohol campaigners as a blunt instrument to attack the drinking habits of the masses, regardless of the reality.

Bruning has taken his trademark forensic approach to researching historic records to distinguish between what we think we know, and what the facts show. “There’s a great deal of nonsense talked, and written, about gin – and as I’ve discovered, there always has been,” says Bruning.

“One of the most striking examples of this is Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane print, which has come to be seen as a documentary depiction of the degradation and debauchery engendered by gin drinking in London, rather than the exaggerated work of a satirist.

“The main evidence we have for the widely-believed view that the 18th century poor of London were succumbing to effects of gin-drinking in large numbers comes from the pamphlets and sermons of neopuritans campaigning to reassert their former influence over the capital’s moral climate. Then, as now, the picture painted by moral campaigners can be as much about their view of alcohol as it is about the reality.”

Other gin myths examined in London Dry: The Real History Of Gin include:

• Mother’s Ruin: The industrial revolution created opportunities for single women to work, and spend their earnings. Far from being the downfall of working women, a well-earned gin was often enjoyed by women with more social and financial independence than previously.

• Dutch courage: It’s not true that the first Englishmen to taste gin were soldiers in Elizabeth I’s Dutch campaign of 1585-86 or the mercenaries who fought the Spanish in Flanders in the 1590s – at that time gin was still treated as a herbal tonic, and they would probably have been drinking brandy.

• Bathtub gin: The illicit gin of the Prohibition-era USA was mainly a high quality product “diverted” from legal industrial distilleries and bottled by the Mob in vast quantities, rather than a variable and sometime lethal home-made spirit.

Bruning adds: “The myths and rituals that surround alcohol are always fascinating, and gin has more than its share. It’s important, though, to understand the reality of what went on, especially as gin continues to be a drink that inspires passion on both sides of the debate about alcohol consumption

“The real story of gin is more fascinating than any half-truth, and London Dry: The Real History Of Gin is telling many chapters of that story for the first time.”

London Dry: The Real History Of Gin by Ted Bruning is published by White Mule Press, priced £13.85. and is available to order from Amazon and other online retailers

For media review copies please email

Helping operators prepare for National Living Wage increase

February 2020

Easy to use calculator from Bizimply

With the National Living Wage set to rise on 1st April, workforce management experts Bizimply are offering hospitality operators a National Living Wage Calculator, as an easy way to work out the cost of the increase to their business.

Operators can download a free, simple to use spreadsheet from the Bizimply website and populate it with each employee’s date of birth and current hourly wage. This will show whether a pay increase is due in April, and if so, how much. For existing Bizimply customers, all the information can be easily transferred from current employee files, meaning the whole process takes only minutes.

Bizimply CEO Conor Shaw said: “The increase in the National Living Wage is going to have a massive impact on hospitality businesses, but working out exactly what that will be can be complex and time-consuming, especially for multi-site operators.

“That’s why we’ve created this simple calculator, which makes it easy for operators to see how much their wage bill will go up by in April. It’s vital information that every business should have – and the further ahead they have it, the better they can plan.”

The National Living Wage Calculator can be downloaded free of charge from Bizimply’s website. The National Living Wage is set to rise by 6.2% in April and will undoubtedly push up labour costs for many hospitality businesses. The increase is from £8.21 to £8.72 for workers over 25, and from £7.70 to £8.20 an hour for those aged 21-24.

The rise in the NLW comes at a time of the lowest unemployment levels in the UK for decades, creating a challenging environment for hospitality employers. Added to this, the Government’s decision to deny working visas to ‘low skilled’ workers, and the possibility that EU nationals in the UK – who make up an estimated 15% of the hospitality workforce – may return home, will add further pressures to labour supply.

Shaw says: “The reality for most hospitality businesses for 2020 and beyond is rising labour costs and a shrinking, and transient, workforce. These may feel like ‘bigger than us’ factors outside any individual operator’s control, but in our experience, the opposite is true.

“The solution is to have the right team members working in your business, at the right time, and making sure they’re motivated to deliver memorable customer service. This is what Bizimply was designed to achieve and we’ve helped many of the hospitality businesses we work with to reduce their labour cost from 35% to less than 30% of turnover.

“Our software helps operators to create staff rotas more efficiently, taking up less time, particularly for the GMs, who are then freed up to spend more time front of house. It also gives team members more advance notice of their schedule, which in turn improves their work-life balance and job satisfaction and means they’ll be more engaged with your business.

“The result is staff teams who enjoy their job, and are receiving hands-on coaching and direction from their GM to deliver the exceptional customer service that encourages return visits. Operators who can create this workplace environment are the ones who will weather the storm of wage increases and staff shortages – and anything else that might be thrown at our industry!”