A ROMSEY pub landlord has spoken of his delight over winning the Hampshire Chronicle and Romsey Advertiser Pub of the Year, less than 12 months after taking it on.

Martin and Rachel Drake had no experience in running a pub before they took on The Bishop Blaize, in Winchester Road, last October. 

Martin, 38, of Mitchells Close, said: “The pub was empty for about eight weeks and very randomly I phoned up and took it on. 

“I've never ran a pub, I've done bar work and that was it. We've had support from other pubs in the area.

“The pub is having a lot of work done to it like a big fit upstairs ready for a bed and breakfast with four rooms. The garden is having a revamp as well. 

Martin and Rachel Drake (Image: Newsquest)

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“Since we've taken it over, we have improved it bit by bit. It's one of the oldest pubs in Romsey, it's a big thing for the town.”

He added: “I feel quite big-headed now because from a pub we've only had since October, to win something like this shows us that we stand out. We're clearly doing something right for the customers. If we weren't giving them what they want, they wouldn't use the place. 

“At the end of the day, anyone can open a pub but I think it takes the right person in order to run and look after a pub. 

“It's a gamble, the pub trade is not doing well at all. But this place is like a family. 

“We put on Facebook that if we win pub of the year, we're going to hold a big party. So now we have a party to organise. 

“With the revamp, we've got a new kitchen so we'll be doing food as well.”

Joseph Allen (Image: Newsquest)

Rachel, 35, said: “We went into this with absolutely zero pub experience. It was just a complete whim. We just phoned up out of curiosity because it had been empty for weeks. We initially agreed to take it on temporarily, but we're here permanently now. 

“It has taken a lot to get people through the doors. The first week we had it, we looked at each other on a Saturday night with three people in here and thought 'what have we done?' 

“But we persisted and each Saturday night, more people came.”

Pub regular Joseph Allen, 28, said: “I think this pub is amazing because they don't mind me. They've got darts, football and lovely people. They do a nice ham salad roll which you have to have with salad, you can't just have ham. I've been coming here for about six months, but I have known Martin and Rachel for about a year, they're good folk. They deserve to win.”

For details about the pub's upcoming events, visit facebook.com/thebishopblaize.