PICTURE GALLERY: First look inside as Olney’s first new pub for decades opens its doors

The Cherry Tree in Olney
The Cherry Tree in Olney

We take a look inside Olney’s first new pub in decades hot off the heels of the town being named as one of the best places to live in the southeast.

It’s been a great month for Olney after it was named one of the top 10 places to live in the southeast by The Sunday Times and it has The Cherry Tree, a brand-new pub and restaurant, which opens its doors for the first time today.

The Cherry Tree – named after the town’s legendary Cherry Fair – is a sensitive and elegant restoration and extension of a two-storey, Grade II Listed house, converted from an old, closed residential care home.

The opening was marked by the town’s Mayor, Cllr Jeremy Rawling, pulling the first pint at last week’s VIP Party.

General manager, Stevie Watts, will be ensuring that her team of 40 local people will be putting their training into practice to ensure that everything runs smoothly when they open.

Overlooking the Market Place, The Cherry Tree opens every day from 8am and will be serving drinks and food all day. The owners, award-winning pub group, Oakman Inns, appear to be bucking the often-cited trends for pub closures, as this will be their 21st opening in the last ten years and their second this month.

When you arrive, you are immediately struck by the attention to detail by the architects and designers. Many of the old Victorian and Georgian features such as cornicing, plasterwork, sash windows, parquet flooring and fire places have been painstakingly renovated and reinstated to integrate and yet contrast with the inspirational contemporary design. The space created is subtly interspersed with antiques and cherry tree-themed works of art sourced locally, including 1930s oil paintings and original 1920s Tiffany wall lights in the Lobby.

Set within the original garden courtyard, the 100-seat restaurant is a contemporary addition. A beautiful, light room where one side features an impressive, open theatre-style kitchen, where guests can watch Head Chef, Michal Dabrowski, and his staff freshly prepare their dishes. The chefs can be seen grilling and roasting over the Josper charcoal ovens and grills and preparing hand-crafted authentic Italian Pizzas in a beautiful copper-clad, wood-fired pizza oven. The menu also features an imaginative and delicious range of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Stevie Watts, who grew up nearby, is the Cherry Tree’s first general manager said she has been overwhelmed by the welcoming the new pub-restaurant has received.

He said: “Olney is such a vibrant and busy town and richly deserves the Sunday Times accolade. We’ve been overwhelmed by the friendly welcome we’ve had since starting building work here. Everyone has been struck by the extraordinary transformation that’s taken place – and the choice of stylish settings for both drinks, dining and events. We’ve had so many encouraging comments from our VIP Party and the practice runs - and I’m so proud to be opening such a beautiful place.”

Stevie and her team have already become involved in the town’s activities helping with the famous Pancake Race last month. They are holding a Charity Quiz Night this week and will be supporting a number of community events this year including this year’s BOFF (Big Olney Food Festival).

Sam McCallum, Chair of BOFF, and The Cherry Tree’s Bar Manager, said: “Oakman Inns has a great reputation for becoming involved in their local communities and have won lots of awards for their work. Their involvement for our tenth Food Festival will help make it a really great event and doubtless bring lots of additional visitors to the town.”