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Business dons rustic greaves and finds recession reprieves

[Tuesday 2 March 2010]
Wine Cave
The Angel Inn Wine Cave

Having run the Wine Cave as a retail outlet, selling wine for 6 years the Management team at the Angel changed tack last year by utilising the Cave as a venue for both intimate, bijou wedding ceremonies, and as a very particular venue for a quite unique, themed, private dining experience.

The Wine Cave was the front for the wine importing arm of the Angel Inn at Hetton, and the Angel continues to import its own specialist wines to this day. However, in the last two years the poor value of the pound against the euro has put considerable pressure on retail sales, forcing prices up and pushing some prices beyond customer comfort zones.

The Wine Cave is a unique grotto-like homage to a wine producer’s cellar, with shoddily erected shelves made from breeze blocks and stone, the walls are exposed, original stonework, and the beams and stone flag floor. Once lit by candlelight all these aspects combine to create an incredible and unique atmosphere.

The Wine Cave is a unique intimate wedding venue for ceremonies up to 70 people, some customers have burst into tears they were so overcome by the Cave when seeing it for the first time and some customers have booked their wedding with us, purely because the Wine Cave is such a wonderful venue.

“We used to do wedding ceremonies in the restaurant by laying it out theatre style, and have a licence for both the restaurant and the Wine Cave; but having not had a single ceremony in the restaurant since licensing the Cave we will not be renewing our restaurant wedding licence next year”, commented Simon Farrimond, Front of House Manager at the Angel.

The other idea was to turn the Wine Cave into the “Angel Auberge”, by offering it as a private dining experience based around an Auberge or French farmhouse, with everybody sitting at the same table clothed out in red gingham, all eating the same meal. A typical “Auberge” offering being large plates of Charcuterie followed by Cassoulet or Beef Bourguignon, and large platters of cheese to finish, simply served in the middle of the table.

“Turning the Wine Cave into a venue was pure genius”, according to Tony Bancroft, a recent ‘Auberge’ guest.

By turning the Wine Cave into a venue the Angel has brought in revenue that exceeds that of any good year selling wine.

Aware that there might be a limited period of popularity for the idea, the Angel Team realised that there was a lot more mileage in the experience as it could be tweaked along a themed line such as a German Beer Keller featuring a German beer tasting, Bavarian beerwurst and sauerkraut. One customer has ordained to hold an off-piste evening with Vin Chaud on arrival and cheese fondue and tartiflette, and so there is no end of ideas.

The Angel Auberge is ideal for private parties of no more than 22 people, simply call the Angel on 01756730263 and come and have a look!

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