Axminster’s food and drink teams bounce back on road to recovery

Gary and Karen Needs at the Axminster Inn

Gary and Karen Needs at the Axminster Inn - Credit: Archant

Battered but not broken - that’s how the majority of Axminster’s hospitality businesses were feeling this week as they opened up for indoor refreshment.
The latest in the ‘triple whammy’ series of lockdowns has been the toughest yet as the town’s pubs, cafes and restaurants have soaked up the impact of the latest 19 weeks of closure of their indoor businesses. While some have been able to maintain a partial operation through take-away and outdoor options, the total impact has been crippling according to a quick survey of some by the local traders group Totally Locally Axminster.
But Monday’s indoor re-opening (albeit still subject to safety measures) was greeted with universal enthusiasm. At the Axminster Inn in Silver Street,  Karen and Gary Needs and their team were “feeling positive and looking forward to a sense of normality returning.”
“The last few weeks have been a challenge but we have felt most appreciated for our efforts,” added Karen. “We will be launching a food and cocktail menu over the coming weeks to complement our status as Axminster’s only Cask Marque and CAMRA Good Beer Guide pub and, with our loyal team and customers, I am sure The Axe will soon have forgotten about the past year!”
The Cornerhouse Bakery and Café in George Street has been able to re-open the café element of its offering after what partner Cindy Furse described as “an incredibly difficult year”. She added: “We’d like to thank everyone that has supported us through our different guises. We will still continue to serve take-away food and drink, but it’s great to be getting back to what we originally set out to do by creating new bar areas where people can sit and watch the world go by.”  
Ric’s Kitchen in Victoria Place bravely invested in Axminster when it arrived in the summer of 2020. It has undergone an imaginative revamp over recent weeks and returns with a new menu, an alcohol licence and five new jobs for local people. It will also open not just daytimes but three evenings a week in bistro style. “We welcome the lockdown easing with open arms,” says Ric Edgell. “We can’t wait to get back to doing what we do best.” 
The historic former coaching inn that is now the George Hotel reopened just over two years ago after languishing for more than a decade. “We come out of this awful pandemic full of optimism, excitement and eagerness to welcome everyone back to a comfortable, safe environment,” said operations manager Paul Mullen . “We are looking forward to being able to provide the quality food and service everyone has sadly missed over the last year.”
The West Country Higgler in South Street is known for the quality of its teas and coffee – both served within and sold through both the café and online. Cakes are also now available, with a new sandwich and panini menu promised soon. “We have customers for whom takeaways and sitting outside isn’t appropriate,” says owner Laurence Norman. ”They want to be warm and cosy indoors and we haven’t seen them for over a year. We know them individually and it will be great to have them sitting inside again.” 
The Community Waffle House has enjoyed just a month of ‘normal’ trading since moved into its spacious new setting in Trinity House. “We are so excited to be able to open our doors to our community again,” said Matt Smith. “For us, the last year has been a great reminder that ‘hospitality’ revolves around the word ‘hospital’ and being able to care for people in the community is a huge part of what the industry is about.” The café is open Tuesday to Saturday and its work space area from Monday to Friday. A new senior citizens coffee morning on Wednesdays offers pensioners tea and coffee for £1.