First-time publicans transform their local and are already winning awards

Michaela Bollard, bar manager, Tiffany Long, head chef, and owners Jonathan and Naomi Pearson (L-R) from The White Hart.

Michaela Bollard, bar manager, Tiffany Long, head chef, and Jonathan and Naomi Pearson (L-R) from The White Hart Ashill with their CAMRA award. - Credit: The White Hart

A couple who "took a gamble" during the pandemic by taking on their local pub are toasting to success after awards recognition. 

First-time publicans Jonathan and Naomi Pearson have been at the helm of The White Hart pub in Ashill, near Watton, since October 2020 after the previous tenants left. 

Mr Pearson, 47, previously worked as a highways engineer and Mrs Pearson, 42, had been an accountant, but since having their children, Oliver and Isla, she ran a cake business.

There are six rotating ale lines at The White Hart pub in Ashill. 

There are six rotating ale lines at The White Hart pub in Ashill. - Credit: The White Hart

The White Hart was recently named West Norfolk CAMRA's Pub of the Year for 2022 for its real and cask ales with six rotating lines.

Chef Tiffany Long, 24, is also one of the finalists in the young chef of the year category at The Great British Pub Awards 2022.

Mr Pearson said: "We replumbed the bar to deliver really good ales, with a mix of Norfolk breweries and those further afield.

The White Hart in Ashill also does Sunday roasts. 

The White Hart in Ashill also does Sunday roasts. - Credit: The White Hart

"We serve locally-sourced, homecooked food with a mix of pub classics such as fish and chips and burgers and also more restaurant-style dishes." 

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The latter includes pan-fried hake with a fishcake, spinach and hollandaise and they also do Sunday roasts. 

Mr Pearson lived in the village as a child and moved back there 17 years ago with his wife.

Ashill used to have three pubs, The White Hart, The Crown and The Three Horseshoes, but now only the former remains. 

From 2010 to 2020 it operated under the name McTaggarts, but Mr and Mrs Pearson restored its original name, which dates back to the mid-1800s.

Inside the refurbished White Hart pub in Ashill. 

Inside the refurbished White Hart pub in Ashill. - Credit: The White Hart

The old pub was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in 1938 in its current form. 

The pair have revamped the inside to give it a traditional and cosy feel and there is a marquee in the beer garden which overlooks farmland.

Mr Pearson added: "When it came up during lockdown we took a gamble as we didn't really know what it was like to run a pub.

The beer garden at The White Hart in Ashill overlooks farmland. 

The beer garden at The White Hart in Ashill overlooks farmland. - Credit: The White Hart

"Having lived in the village so long there was a sentimentality about it.

"People have been really supportive and we are attracting people from further afield through word of mouth."