VIDEO: Raising a glass to success as Exeter Arms is named best in the Derby
A COSY city centre pub which was taken over less than a year ago has been crowned Derby's pub of the year after a "remarkable" transformation.
The Exeter Arms, in Exeter Street, has been awarded the title by the Derby branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
And the team behind the pub's success have said they are looking to take on another somewhere in the city.
The pub was taken over by Rachel Matthews, who runs Dancing Duck Brewery, in 2011.
But last year, the management of the pub and its kitchens was transferred to former punk rocker and food expert Martin Roper, who came on as co-owner of the business.
Since then, Martin has developed a new menu, tweaked the decor and refurbished an adjacent 19th-century cottage, incorporating it into the pub layout.
He said he was delighted with the award.
"It's absolutely fantastic. It shows that the pub of the year award is more than just beer-led.
"I've done a few things in my life so far but I think I've found my forte with pubs. Pubs have always been part of my life and when I got the opportunity at The Exeter I just knew what to do with it. It was quite natural."
Martin said his first move was to put together a new food menu, using local food and making popular dishes, but giving them a twist.
He said: "It is quite simple things – presenting food on boards, making dips and dressings, using local cheeses and putting on free bar snacks in the afternoons – but it adds up to making the food special and making a trip to the Exeter memorable.
"The other aspect is the atmosphere. We turned down the lighting, used the open fireplace and really took time to make each nook and cranny in the place seem warm and inviting.
"And, obviously, with Dancing Duck, run by my co-owner, Rachel Matthews, we have great beers, too.
"We are now looking at a potential second site in the city, as we feel we have a formula for running a pub which works."
Along with The Exeter Arms, Derby Camra voted he Royal Oak in Ockbrook as their country pub of the year.
Derby Camra chairman Gareth Stead said: "The transformation of the Exeter Arms over the last year or so has been nothing short of remarkable.
"And the Royal Oak in Ockbrook is simply a great village local right at the heart of community life which has been in the Good Beer Guide for 37 years due to the quality of its ales."
The Exeter Arms will now go forward into the Derbyshire Pub of the Year competition