After years of uncertainty and doubts over its future, one of the most photographed pubs in Suffolk is now in the hands of a new owner.
John Raynes has taken over the Angel in the centre of Lavenham – and has already launched plans to revive the business, which was at the centre of controversy when it was previously run by a notorious TV celebrity chef.
And he is joining forces with well-known local butcher John Coleman, from Boxted, to introduce a grill feature – to be known as ‘John Coleman at The Angel’ – specialising in steaks, but also featuring lamb, pork and chicken.
Mr Raynes said: “I know how special the Angel is to the people of the village and my intention is to make it the place where locals, as well as visitors, want to come.
“It is, at its heart, a traditional village pub and I don’t want to change that.”
To this end, he is planning to launch a loyalty card for locals, offering them a discount on their bills, a move that will be announced in a leaflet drop to all 300 homes in the village.
The nine letting bedrooms will also get a make-over as part of the revamp.
He added: “I have had a terrific welcome to Lavenham already and trade has increased more than five-fold since I got here. Our new menu has been a hit from day one.
“We won’t be making any major changes – but it is a listed building in need of some love and attention.
“We will be opening up the garden again, which had just been abandoned.”
The 15th century Angel, once the most popular pub in the village, hit the headlines in 2011 when fiery chef Marco Pierre White took it over and put his name on the pub’s sign.
But within weeks, he had managed to antagonise many of the regulars by pulling the plug on popular drinks, such as draught lager and cider. When they complained, he told them they were driving away other customers.
Mr White also fell foul of planning chiefs the following year when he repainted the building in the colour he thought was traditional Suffolk pink.
Unfortunately, after criticism that it made the Grade II listed Angel look like a blancmange, he was forced to repaint it in a more authentic colour.
Three years after moving in, Mr White sold out to a company that already ran three country pubs in Essex.
But, after just 17 months, they put all four pubs on the market and the future of the Angel has been in doubt ever since.
Now Mr Raynes is looking forward to the challenge of returning the fallen Angel to its former glory with the help of staff, who have all kept their jobs.