We have so many incredible members of Shropshire Hills Tourism, that we thought it fitting to give them a spotlight to tell you more about what makes their spot of the Shropshire Hills so special. It is with great pleasure that I present my interview with Sean Morris the co-owner of the Coach House and Sun Cottage at Norbury.
Chef/co-owner of the Coach House & Sun Cottage
How would you describe the Coach House and what guests can expect when they stay with you?
The Coach House defies stereotypes. It is a relaxed space where guests can expect luxurious rooms, first class service and top quality local and seasonal food and drink. All delivered informally and without pretension in a comfortable, homely environment.
We don’t really like the term guest house but we are way more than a B&B. We could happily call ourselves a boutique hotel if it didn’t sound so pretentious and that just isn’t us I’m afraid. You could most accurately call us a restaurant with rooms but that isn’t how we have traditionally presented ourselves.
We do open as a pub once on the first Wednesday of every month at our popular Pop Up Pub nights. We serve a limited menu of high quality but great value food where the emphasis is on the company you are with and having a good night out. We feature local beers and cider and have an extensive wine offering hand picked by Lexi.
We have also held Pop Up restaurant nights in the past with fine dining menus and matching wine flights.
Earlier this year we opened our restaurant to non-residents as well as our overnight guests and this continues to build in popularity.
Just recently we have had guest chefs visit our kitchen and delight our customers. Young maestro Harry Bullock who is only 19 years old but cooks like a veteran, sold out a packed restaurant just recently. He is set to do a few more dates before Christmas and we are very excited about that. There will be two more Pop Up Pub nights and two tasting menus before Christmas.
We support local artists and often have three or four artists works on display throughout the Coach House. All works are available for sale and we also sell greeting cards and other collectables as well as some excellent organic toiletries.
Our philosophy is to support local wherever possible. From food producers, drinks producers, artists, artisans, tradesmen and last but not least our great team of staff. We value our community enormously and plan to be here for a very long time so these values are very important to us.
How did you start?
Previous to the Coach House I helped found and ran a ski chalet in the French Alps. My wife Lexi was in New Zealand studying to be a wine maker. When she had qualified we ran the chalet together for a while and realised we possibly had something to offer the hospitality industry. We decided to get married and return from the mountains back to the UK, knowing that we wanted to set up a business but unsure as to exactly what type of business that would be.
Lexi has a history in food production, in butchery and in wine-making. I have always been a keen pan slinger in the kitchen and spent many years in marketing. We compliment each other very well.
What is special about the Coach House?
There are several things which combine to make the Coach House special.
Firstly; the building; which is in an idyllic location between the Long Mynd and the Stiperstones and was the village pub for hundreds of years. It has a wonderful happy vibe to it. It feels as if hundreds of years of laughter and stories have seaped into the walls and there is a very warm, welcoming feel to the space.
It is opposite All Saints Church and the magnificent Yew Tree which has stood on its spot for nearly 3000 years. You cant fabricate that kind of history.
A very real passion for food and drink is evident from the outset. We open our restaurant on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and change our menu almost daily to reflect what we think looks & tastes best at the time of year.
We are dog friendly, in fact we won an award last year in the Dorset Cereals B&B Awards. They judged us as winners in the Dogs Best Friend category. Rooms 1, 2 & 3 in our annexe are all dog friendly and we offer a complimentary dog hamper to our four legged friends. Dogs are welcome to join you to relax in either of the bar rooms where we can also serve your dinner whilst your dog curls up next to one of our wood burners.
If you are not a dog friendly person, fear not as the dining room and Rooms 4, 5 & 6 in the main house are all dog free zones.
There is also a beautifully appointed space called the reading room with sofas and books where you can relax without any canine company.
We are currently developing Room 7 in the Loft which will be a luxury loft suite complete with huge living room and fabulous views over the Upper Onny Valley.
What do you love most about your job?
Personally I love the food side of the business. I hope that our guests leave with memories based on the experience they have had here. Its more than just one aspect of what we do. It’s the combination of all of them, the location, the building, the friendless of the staff, the quality of the linen, the time and effort which have gone into the bread for breakfast. In fact for me it may well be as simple as making the bread.
We both love meeting people and we have met some fascinating characters in this business.
And we love the fact that we get to live somewhere so beautiful and that that is essential for us to do what we do.
How important is your location to the visitor experience?
The location is incredibly important. When we found out we would be living in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty we were a little blasé about it. But once we had lived here for a while and explored the area we realised that it really did deserve that title. This is an area of England which for so many is completely undiscovered and secretive. It’s a little like stepping back into time.
You can be on the Shropshire Way within 10 minutes of leaving our front door. Or if long distance tramping isn’t your thing you can take a short trip around the block after dinner or breakfast.
This is a land where there is no need to rush. There is no traffic, a great deal of nature and the locals are all incredibly friendly.
When people stay with you where do you recommend they visit?
You would imagine that being in such a rural location you may be short of attractions to visit but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
If history is your passion there is Stokesay , Powis or Chirk castles. Wroxeter Roman settlement. Too many country houses to mention.
If you want to go shopping then the market town of Ludlow is hard to beat, especially on market day or Shrewsbury the county capital is a wonderful town with much to offer.
Bishops Castle our nearest town is very unique with its two breweries, 6 pubs, its newly renovated Town Hall, its one handed clock and its string of independent retailers.
If you are a beer enthusiast there are so many breweries its crazy.
The landscape is perfect for walking, for mountain biking, road cycling, photography. Id heartily recommend just walking out of the front door and exploring with no particular itinerary.
Quick Fire Get To Know You Questions:
- Favourite Food?
Anything good. I LOVE good food. Im already thinking about my next meal before I’ve eaten the one that’s imminent. Good food is one of life’s simplest pleasures and the easiest way to put a smile on your face. I could literally answer this question all day but I will spare you. If its good and somebody has put a lot of care and attention in making it then I like it.
- Favourite tipple?
For me it’s a good glass of wine. Although the beer around these parts is exceptionally good you just can’t beat a glass of wine. A big red on a cold day next to the fire or a crisp white on a hot summers day. It compliments food so well. Lexi would probably say the same although she is rather partial to a good gin and tonic.
If I was to be more specific Id say a glass of Cote Roti but Im being sentimental. Myself and Lexi once shared a bottle in France on her birthday and it always stuck with us. We often buy a bottle to celebrate a special occasion. That’s the thing with food and drink, they are so attached to memory in a special way , not entirely different to music.
- Favourite Restaurant?
If I’m in Shrewsbury its Momo-No-Ki noodle bar or Csons café for amazing coffee and fresh, flavour packed food. If I’m in Ludlow its Pizza Ten and their great pizzas or the Green Café and their flawless food if I’ve had time to book a table.
If I have time off from the kitchen and I want some good, well cooked food then it’s the Pound in Leebotwood. That place rocks.
Ive just discovered the Haughmond outside Shrewsbury and am yet to be disappointed there. It’s a great find.
Mountain Biking, Snowboarding ( a sore point as I haven’t actually been since we returned from the mountains nearly 3 years ago) Photography and of course cooking.
Lexi is a very keen gardener although both of our hobbies have been usurped somewhat by our 8 month old daughter Martha.
- Favourite place to visit in the Shropshire?
For me after a busy dinner day in the kitchen there are few better tonics than a blast up and down the Long Mynd to clear the cobwebs.
Why not connect with The Coach House?
Twitter: @norburycoach | @coachhousesean | @coachouselexi | @suncottagenorbury
Facebook: Coachhousenorbury | Suncottagenorbury
Google plus: https://plus.google.com/113865812392281519295
Trip Advisor: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g504105-d271045-Reviews-The_Coach_House-Norbury_Shropshire_England.html
Interview by Louise Welsby, Buy-From Shropshire