The Bell at Skenfrith Six years ago Janet and William Hutchings, wanting "To create somewhere we would like to go"
converted The Bell at Skenfrith in Monmouthshire – originally a 17th century coaching inn – into a restaurant with rooms. Working closely with Head Chef David Hill they serve their take on modern British food.
William reckons they have about 350 –400 bins, but hasn't counted them recently. "It is still growing at an alarming rate – there isn't a size I am particular aiming for, but I know it will be bigger this time next year."
How do you manage it?
With difficulty. I have a full-time job elsewhere, so I can only spend time on the list at weekends or evenings.
Every wine on this eclectic list has an annotation. Do they work?
I am not entirely sure. I think they help guide some customers and we do say if they don't like the wine, they can change it. We don't have a sommelier (it would be an extravagance out here in the country), so between the notes and the enthusiastic staff, we try to get it right for everyone.
Prices seem very reasonable, how do you set margins?
There is no particular method. I attach a higher margin on the house wines, I can then subsidise some of the more expensive wines. I do wonder how some restaurants justify their prices.
I get upset when I see wine twice or even three times my list price, and I know that I am making an ok margin.
There is an excellent selection of wines available by the glass It is a balance between giving customers what they expect/want and putting a couple of quirky wines by the glass, tempting them to try without having to splash out on a whole bottle if they don't like it.
How do you maintain freshness?
We have sufficient throughput, but I am looking at investing in a Verre du Vin. It would be great to offer Grand Cru Champagne… or a really good Burgundy or Claret over the winter months.
I think our guests would really enjoy this extension to by the glass wines.
Why so many half bottles (27 whites and 62 reds)?
I would like to offer more by the glass, but there was a danger to keeping so many bottles open. So I decided to start stocking a few interesting bottles, to encourage people to try wines they may not normally go for.
The more I buy, the more is bought, so it is a virtuous circle. Anecdotally, I believe we sell more wine rather than less, as guests can choose a bottle for the starter and a bottle with the main.
skenfrith.co.uk; 01600 750 235