Club Class: A closer look at the new Cricklade Club

by Crumbs

18 September 2017

“I never wanted to be a restaurateur. But it just seemed to be a natural progression. There’s now a real synergy between everything we’re doing here."

We catch up with Simon Maddison , one half of the couple behind the Cricklade Club, to find out more about its transformation from tired social club to a buzzing kitchen, bar and venue

Simon Maddison and his wife Talia were on the hunt for somewhere good to house his events company – Planet Pursuits – as well as provide a quirky wedding venue for her catering company, Cotswold Cooks , when they came across the Cricklade Club. Simon knew instantly that it would fit the bill.

“I didn’t know the place at all,” he says now. “But as soon as I saw it, just from the outside, I knew it would be big enough for what we wanted to do, and I decided almost there and then that we should buy it.”

So that’s what they did. This was back in February, and they quickly set about transforming the place to accommodate not only the needs of the two businesses – with office space and a hall for live music and events, which can accommodate around 220 people – but also to create a café/bar area that would use the food produced on the family’s organic farm at nearby Purton House , as well as champion local suppliers.

“I never wanted to be a restaurateur,” says Simon. “But it just seemed to be a natural progression. There’s now a real synergy between everything we’re doing here.

“For instance, we’ve gone for that relaxed, café-style all-day brunch thing, and it’s working really well. Everything is made fresh, and people can see into the kitchen. On Friday and Saturdays we’re open later, and from this month we’re starting a slightly different evening menu, with dishes like Mexican wraps and chicken wings. We are slightly limited in what we can do, though, because it’s actually a listed building – so we can’t put in the kind of ventilation you need for fryers, say. This has meant we’ve had to think a bit harder about what we can do.

“Our whole ethos is that, wherever possible, we will buy from local suppliers. I know everyone says that, but it’s true! I really want to support the small producers, and there’s so much great stuff happening here in the Cotswolds.”

Indeed, Simon reckons the thing that comes from furthest away is probably ales from Wild Beer, which is based near Shepton Mallet. “I just love their beer,” he says, “so I really wanted to have it here! And then there’s my sister-in-law, who has a tea and coffee company where they roast their own beans and blend their own teas. They’ve done a special blend for us – so that comes from further away, too.”

Simon’s sister-in-law isn’t the only family member involved in the business, either. Various members of the extended family – children, nieces, assorted in-laws – have all contributed in various ways, either working in the club or providing some kind of expertise. “It’s been a real family effort,” smiles Simon.

It’s clear, though, that it’s Simon who’s the driving force behind everything, and it was he who project-managed the conversion and did the interior design. As he talks, Simon brings up pictures of the space before he got to work on it, and there’s no doubt that the transformation is remarkable. The biggest change is the addition of huge windows running down the side of the café/bar area, which allows the light to flood in.

“I don’t think we would have gone ahead if we hadn’t been allowed to put in the windows,” says Simon. “They make such a difference. It connects the outside to the inside, and means you can see out to the High Street, so it really feels as if we are part of the town.”

Designing the rest of the space wasn’t quite so straightforward.

“For a long time I really wasn’t sure how it was all going to work,” he admits. “It was giving me sleepless nights! But then we started pulling off plaster and saw the beautiful brick walls and things started to come together. My father was an antique dealer, and he passed on that passion to me, so we’ve got things like a huge old portrait here. It’s given me an excuse to buy all sorts!”

The foodie side of the business has been running since June, and Simon is now keen to start focussing more on the events side of things, with one of the first on the calendar being a Bavarian beer festival to coincide with Oktoberfest in Germany. There are plenty more in the pipeline, too.

It’s clear, though, that Simon is never one to just sit back and relax, and that it won’t be long before he’s looking for even more ways to build on the Cricklade Club.

When beer comes into the conversation, as it does, he tells me that’s something he’s keen to learn more about, and he’d like to try his hand at a bit of brewing. The idea of a microbrewery is mentioned, and Simon’s eyes light up. So watch this space…