Familar faces behind the bar at the Lunesdale Arms in Tunstall
PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 May 2018
After more than 30 years Andrew and Belinda Wilkinson are back behind the bar at the Lunesdale Arms. Emma Mayoh reports.
Retirement didn’t work out as planned for Andrew Wilkinson. The 67-year-old had been running Avanti in nearby Kirkby Lonsdale and planned to hang up his culinary hat when the business was sold. But when he heard the Lunesdale Arms in nearby Tunstall was on the market, it was too much to resist. Not only was it an opportunity to take on a new challenge with wife Belinda, it was also a chance to return to the pub they had run more than 30 years previously.
‘It was back between 1981 and 1985 when we’d run The Lunesdale with Belinda’s parents, her brother, sister-in-law and grandmother,’ recalled Andrew. ‘Belinda’s mum was famous for her steak pies, people would come here just for them. We loved being here, it was a lot of fun. It’s a place that has a lot of happy memories. This is a real homecoming for us.’
The Lunesdale had been closed for some time when Andrew and Belinda, who also spent 15 years running The Sun Inn in Kirkby Lonsdale, took it back on. It was in need of some love and care. They spent 12 months renovating the lovely building back to its current state and reopened the doors last October.
‘It was looking tired because it had been closed,’ said Andrew. ‘So it was an absolute pleasure to bring it back to life and see it standing tall again. It’s also great to be back in the building we used to run. We have loved being in Kirkby Lonsdale and had a fantastic time there but it’s also really special to come back here.’
The food is at the heart of the Lunesdale Arms experience and the menus, inspiration and flavours they became known for at Avanti still play a key role. They have chef Karl Richardson, who worked with Andrew and Belinda in Kirkby Lonsdale. He cooks up southern Mediterranean-style dishes including Florentine steak for two, which is a bestseller. They also host an aperitivo hour where pinchos snacks are served.
‘It’s all about creating a fabulous atmosphere,’ said Andrew. ‘We want this to be a place where people can come and relax, whether it’s for a full meal or stopping in after work or for a quick drink. Karl does a fantastic job and his food is superb. We think it’s going very well and want that to continue.’
Andrew and Belinda are also serving up something different for their guests. The interior of the Lunesdale Arms has been filled with contemporary art produced by their daughter, Aimie, as well as fabulous fibre and needle art work by Belinda. There is also a one-of-a-kind stone clock that was commissioned and built by local stonemason Chris Duckett and colourful felt animal heads that add a vibrant touch. The modern pieces, alongside the stylish decor, cause as much of a stir as the food and drink they serve up.
‘It was Pablo Picasso who said the purpose of art is to wash the dust of daily life off our souls,’ said Andrew. ‘This is the Lunesdale’s raison d’etre. We wanted to create a modern Florentine feel and influence with the works of art.
‘Belinda also holds felting workshops in the snooker room throughout the year. It’s something that really gets our customers talking and we feel it’s something different to offer people.’
What has been at the heart of Andrew and Belinda’s plans is bringing the building back into use for the local community. There has been an inn or ale house on the site since the 17th century and the couple were keen to make sure the village didn’t lose it.
‘It’s changed a lot since we first ran it,’ said Andrew. ‘It used to be mostly drinks that formed the largest part of the business and food was a small part of it. It’s the other way around now.
‘We’ve created a club room for members. We’ve also been really lucky that the people of Kirkby Lonsdale have been loyal and will come out here. We want to be at the centre of things in Tunstall. Its important to us the pub stays open.’