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Christmas Opening Times 2018 at Trent Furniture

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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Well it has reached that festive time of year again and all of us at Trent Furniture will soon be taking a Christmas break. We will be closed from 5.00pm on Thursday 20th December 2018 until 9.00am Wednesday 2nd January 2019.

You will still be able to place orders via the website and deliveries will be scheduled for week commencing 7th January. When we return on the 2nd we will be contacting all customers who have placed an order online to advise of a delivery date as well as responding to all enquiries made through the website. If you have any questions please e-mail us at sales@pubfurnitureuk.co.uk or use the contact form in the ‘Contact Us’ section of the website. All e-mails and enquires will be responded to when we re-open on the 2nd January.

Thank you to all of our customers for your support this year, we hope to work with you again in the future and would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

A Brief History of Whisky

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It makes a great Christmas present: a nicely packaged bottle of Scotch, maybe a single malt such as Glenfiddich or Laphroaig, or perhaps one of the more exotic whiskies from countries such as Japan, which often come in unusual and beautifully designed bottles. In pubs and bars across the country there will be a surge in whisky consumption during the festive season and at New Year, either neat, or in cocktails and hot toddies.  And looking further ahead, Burns Night on January 25 will see another spike in whisky consumption. This celebration of the poet Robert Burns is an increasingly popular “themed” event in pubs and bars, perking up takings for the pub trade during an otherwise quiet time of year.

Whisky Secrets

But what exactly is whisky? Is it the same thing as whiskey? What gives it its special qualities? And can other countries match Scotland for the quality of its Scotch?

The process of distilling liquids – heating them up and drawing off the condensed results – has been around for at least 2,000 years, to refine chemicals and make perfumes and medicines. But it is thought that medieval Arabs were the first to distil spirits from wine. This process spread to Italy and across Europe, where wine was distilled into “aqua vitae” (“water of life”) and brandy from around the 13th century onwards. By the 15th century, distilling had spread to Scotland and Ireland, where grains – mainly barley – were fermented and then distilled into what is known in Scots Gaelic as “uisge beatha” (“water of life”), which became shortened and anglicised as “whisky”.

These early whiskies were pretty crude and harsh; they would be barely recognisable as the drink we know today as whisky. Most early spirits were made by monks in monasteries and sold for “medicinal” purposes or used in religious ceremonies. When Henry VIII broke up the monasteries from 1536-41, monks in Scotland began to produce whisky privately. It was still variable in quality but distilling expertise grew and spread.

Outside the Law

A couple of centuries later, after the Act of Union between England and Scotland, a new “malt tax” was introduced which forced most of Scotland’s whisky distilleries to either shut down or go underground. As is always the way, when a new tax is introduced, people will find a way to avoid it. Illicit distilleries continued to operate, but they did so at night, when the smoke from their stills could not been so easily; hence the name of their product, “moonshine”.

Finally in 1823 a law was passed enabling the legal production of whisky, and the industry began to thrive, with regulations and laws to ensure that standards of quality were maintained. Today Scotch whisky is a major export earner for Scotland, with overseas sales reaching £4.36 billion in 2017, around 20 per cent of all UK exports of food and drink. Sales of the more specialist whiskies in particular are growing, with drinkers hankering after the unique qualities of particular regions or distilleries.

Elsewhere in the world, distilleries became well established in America, often set up by immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. (Whiskey, with an “e”, is used to describe whiskies made in Ireland and America.) Japanese whisky took off in the late 19th century with distilleries deliberately aiming to emulate the qualities of Scotch whisky, with increasing success – connoisseurs have come to prize Japanese whiskies such as Hakushu and Suntory; the best examples can sell for more than £100 a bottle. Whisky is also made in England, Wales Australia, Denmark and India.

Going With the Grain

So how, exactly, is whisky made? The process begins with a grain – in Scotch whisky, this is always barley - which is malted (germinated) and dried; sometimes other whole grains are then added. Sometimes burning peat is used to dry the barley, which gives the resulting whisky its distinctive smoky, peaty flavour – an increasingly popular option among whisky drinkers. The grain is fermented in a vat to create a “mash”, a kind of beer. This is heated in a still where the alcohol evaporates and condenses. The still will be made from, or lined with, copper, which chemically removes some of the unpleasant-tasting impurities in the liquid.

To begin with, at lower temperatures, the distilled alcohol is foul-tasting and dangerous stuff. This is drawn off and disposed of – though some of these by-products are now being turned into biofuels for cars. At higher temperatures, what is known as the “heart” is created: this is what will eventually become whisky. The final products, the “tails”, are often recycled for use in the next batch of whisky. The whisky that is kept is a colourless liquid.

To improve purity and enhance the alcohol content, Scotch whiskies are distilled at least twice, sometimes three times, and occasionally as many as 20 times. By law, Scotch whisky has to be kept in oak barrels to mature for at least three years – though many varieties, mainly the single malts, are kept for longer. Here the whisky takes on some of the qualities of the wood in which it is kept, as well as its colour. Some barrels are charred, which gives whisky flavour-notes such as florals and caramels. Sometimes old sherry casks are used, giving a darker colour and sweetish flavour to the whisky.

Singular Whiskies

“Single malt” means whisky from a single distillery made from malted barley. These are the finest whiskies, a cut above the blended whiskies that make up the bulk of whisky sales; some have been aged 10 years or more. (Once a whisky has been bottled, it does not improve with age.) These single malts are treasured for their unique qualities, with different regions and distilleries making whiskies that are light, dark, peaty, smoky, and so on.

Many distilleries make great play of the way their locality contributes to the whisky: the barley, the soil, the water, and so on. In fact, most of the flavours in a whisky come not from these factors, but from the method used to make the whisky – dried or smoked barley, for instance – as well as the yeasts used, and from the type of wood used in the barrels. Water, too, has been shown to influence the flavours of the finished product. The barley used to make whisky does not always come from Scotland: increasing demand has led some distilleries to import their barley from, whisper it, England.

Whisky Gets Cool

With so many whiskies now available, there has been a boom in the number of whisky bars across the UK. Drinkers are becoming more interested in the provenance of their drinks and their ingredients – hence the rise of premium gins and vodkas. Whisky is shaking off its stuffy old image and becoming similarly cool.

One of the coolest whisky bars is Black Rock in trendy Shoreditch, east London, a compact space where the central table is perhaps unique among bar tables: it is hewn from a single section of an oak tree; the table has two glass-topped canals containing the bar’s own blends of whisky, which can be poured directly from taps in the end of the trunk. On surrounding shelves are bottles of whisky in 250 varieties from around the world. The central table and the surrounding tables – simple metal-framed, with wooden-topped bar stools - are equipped with taps dispensing filtered water for mixing with the whisky.

Going for the Burns

If this seems a trifle ambitious, pub and bar owners could simply expand their range of whiskies on offer and host whisky-themed nights with tastings of different whiskies; perhaps a blind tasting of Scotch vs Japanese whiskies might yield surprising results. Now is also a good time to start planning a Burns Night celebration, featuring haggis, neeps, tatties, a recital of Burns’s “Address to a Haggis” – and whisky. Your pub furniture will need to be re-arranged to accommodate the ceremony, with pride of place for the haggis, and space made for the procession of the haggis to the table. Restaurants, too, could host a Burns supper with variations on the haggis/neeps/tatties theme.

Bear in mind that not everyone likes the taste of neat whisky, so you could offer whisky-based cocktails such as an old fashioned or a whisky sour. But for most whisky drinkers, it is best drunk neat or with a little water. The pleasure of whisky lies in the special flavours, aromas and colours of this ancient “water of life”.

Tips for furnishing your home bar

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If you love entertaining guests and concocting new drinks, then a home bar is a must. Whether you envisage your home bar to be used for hosting a pub-style atmosphere for the next big football match or for a classy cocktail bar in your basement, a home bar can be devised to your preference.

You might consider a home bar to be an indulgence – and it is – but having one is satisfying for that very reason. If you have enough space in your home, a home bar is convenient, private and perfect for those special occasions. Plus, you’re always guaranteed a seat!

With Christmas approaching and plenty of social events upcoming, now might be the perfect time to give your home bar a makeover, ready for the series of festive get-togethers.

The thought of having your own exclusive home bar might seem unattainable but, in truth, it’s a lot simpler than you think. In this post, we run through the types of furniture you will need when crafting your own home bar:  

How much furniture do you need for your home bar?

The amount of furniture you need in your home bar will much depend on how much you are willing to run with the idea. How often do you host social events with friends and family? How many people on average come over each time? How much space to you have available in your home?

If you often have large groups of people around regularly then you might consider dedicating an entire room to your home bar area which offers a larger seating area complete with sofas, arm chairs and barstools to keep everyone comfortable.

At the opposite end of the scale, if you have limited amounts of space but are dedicated to having your own home bar, a freestanding home cocktail bar could be added to a kitchen, dining room or living space. For such a bar, all that’s needed will be a handful of bar stools to be propped up next to the bar for while you guests wait for their drinks.

Home bar furniture pieces

The ideal style of your home bar will depend on your lifestyle and entertaining habits as well as the amount of available space. Choice of furniture is an ideal way of making your home bar more appealing without spending big on fixtures and fittings. Here are a few furniture pieces to consider:

Bar stools

Let’s be honest, you aren’t going to have tables and chairs dotted around your home bar. All that’s likely to be needed is a few barstools for guests to perch on while you entertain them and make drinks. Remember, your guests aren’t customers!

Bar stools come in a range of different materials, styles, sizes, colours and finishes. Depending on your preference, you can get bar stools with or without a back and arm rests, and different heights.

There a stools to match every theme you’re looking to achieve. If you are trying to recreate a classic pub theme, try a traditional pub stool – just like one you’ll find up against the bar in your local pub. For a classier bar, try some art deco, vintage bar stools.

Sofas and armchairs

If you have enough space and are dedicating an entire room to your home bar, a basement area for example, you will need some sofas and armchairs to accompany your bar stools.

Because this room is solely for your hosting events, it’s where you and your guests will remain for the majority of the night. Sofas and armchairs will allow guests to fully relax.

The Chesterfield sofa and Portobello armchair are perfect additions for a large home bar area.

Storage

Every bar, including your home bar will need some storage space. Where else are all the glasses, equipment and liquors going to be kept? Wine racks, cupboards and drinks cabinets all spring to mind first but you could also add a stationary island which includes cupboards, add shelves on the wall so that you can proudly display your glassware, and transform an old bookshelf into a unique drinks cabinet.

Finishing touches

There are some small additions to remember before you reveal your finished project to your guests. Add some glamour to your bar area with a metal drinks trolley, ice bucket and cocktail shaker. Around the seating area remember to position some lamps, ornaments and artwork. If you really want to make an impact, how about a jukebox and pool table? 

7 Simple Christmas furniture tips for businesses

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Whether you’re ready for it or not, the festive season is upon us. It’s the time of carol singing, present wrapping and all the stress and excitement that comes with it.

However, for our customers in the catering and hospitality sector, the Christmas period includes a lot more than decorating the tree; it is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year.  With that in mind, we’ve put together our heads together and come up with some top tips to ensure you are prepared for the upcoming festivities.

Keep your furniture clean

An obvious tip, but perhaps the most important of all, keep your furniture clean. For busy restaurants and cafes alike, ensuring both your furniture and your establishment are clean can go a long way in impressing your customers, especially were food is concerned.

Caring for your furniture, whether it’s plastic or wooden, also ensures its longevity. Wooden furniture doesn’t need much maintenance, but cleaning your table or chairs after use with a damp cloth, prevents fluids from infiltrating into the wood. Oiling your table as well ensures liquids are absorbed less quickly, helping it to keep cleaner for longer.

Plastic furniture on the other hand, can be cleaned using a damp cloth and industry-safe antibacterial spray.  

Tidy Up

Keeping your furniture in tip top shape is one thing, but making sure the space around it is clean and tidy is vital too. It may seem obvious, but ensuring your guests have a good first impression is essential to both keeping them happy throughout their stay, as well enticing them to return for a second visit.

Vacuuming or mopping the floors, as well as keeping the facilities clean, are expected of eateries throughout the year. As the festive season is by far the busiest, it’s important that standards don’t slip.

Tidying away any broken or unused furniture will give a more presentable and professional appearance, as well as helping to save your floor space.

Know your numbers

With large numbers of people often gathering in one place at one time, having enough chairs to accommodate your guests is vital.  Depending on the size of your establishment, working out how much space you’d like to take up with tables can help you to manage space and avoid blocking any exits.

Stackable chairs and fold away tables can make a great, space-saving addition to your restaurant, café or pub. Trust us to help you find the furniture that meets your needs. We have a range of furniture, from the durable and stylish Shaker Tables, to our collection of Remo chairs; which can be stacked up to 10 high.

Decorate tastefully

Less is more, and changing up things ever so slightly can have just as much impact as going all out on decorations. With so many ways to decorate, finding ones that complement the style of your establishment is important.

Candles, as simple as they are, can create the cosy atmosphere you’re after. Whether you choose to enclose your candles in lanterns, or surround them with glittered pinecones, fashioning decorative centrepieces to add to your table is an inexpensive way to spread Christmas cheer.

Save space

Having some sort of floor plan over the festive period will help you to make the most of the space you have, especially if your restaurant, bar or café is tight on dimensions. Knowing the most effective way to arrange your furniture will help you comfortably accommodate the large numbers of people visiting your business over the season, as well helping your employees to navigate the increased number of customers.

your outdoor space

The great outdoors may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially in the colder months, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard your outdoor space completely. Patio heaters or outdoor fire pits can be great additions to entice your customers out the door and into the garden, along with outdoor furniture. At Trent, our outdoor furniture is both durable and weather resistant, and available in seasonal colours. Adding festive coloured cushions and throws will help to make your space cosier.

If the outdoors isn’t your thing, why not use your space for solely decorative purposes – especially if your indoor capacity has little room for a Christmas tree. Fairy lights can help to create a winter scene outdoors. If you are using lights, make sure they are weather resistant and securely seated on strong tree branches, but not too deeply hidden within the foliage that they don’t shine through.

Have fun!

Christmas is all about bringing people together, and having a warm and cosy space that does just that is key. Regardless of the size of your establishment, ensuring your environment is friendly, festive and clean is all you need to make this year a success.

From all of us at Trent Furniture, we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Dining, café and tea room furniture for National Trusts and historic properties

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A day out at a historic property and its gardens has been a mainstay of British life for many decades. Every year, families and tour parties descend on these attractions by the million, gaining a fascinating insight into the lives of their former (or sometimes still current) occupants, their tastes, their gardens, their furniture and their art collections.

It wasn’t always like this. Historic properties and stately homes were for centuries secluded and private places. But the 20th century saw a rapid decline in the power and wealth of the British aristocracy, which resulted in many of their ancestral properties being sold to bodies such as the National Trust or given over to charitable trusts and opened up to the public. In the 1930s Noël Coward saw the writing on the wall when he wrote in “The Stately Homes of England”: “The stately homes of England we proudly represent/We only keep them up for Americans to rent.”

Revenue from admission fees is vital for the upkeep of these historically important properties. Chartwell in Kent was once the home of Sir Winston Churchill and his family; now it is managed by the National Trust as a visitor attraction, and in 2017 it had more than 240,000 visitors. The numbers of visitors to these attractions are growing steadily: in 2017 visitor attractions in England reported an increase in visitor numbers of 2 per cent and a rise in revenue of 7 per cent.

Heritage and a cream tea

But admission fees are only part of the story. Catering is also a key revenue stream. Visitors are attracted by the prospect of coffee, lunch, snacks, afternoon tea, a cream tea or even a three-course meal. English Heritage, which manages properties such as Dover Castle, reported that in 2016-17 its retail and catering income was £23.3 million, a rise of 11 per cent on the previous year.

And so many former stables, cellars, outbuildings and kitchens at historic properties have been converted into cafés, tea rooms and restaurants. If you are managing one of these properties, or its catering facilities, you will appreciate the importance of catering as a source of income. And you will doubtless be aware of the need to cater to different needs and different markets, either by offering more than one catering outlet (from grab and go to à la carte), or by changing your offering throughout the day. But what’s universally true is that visitors will be looking for calm and respite, perhaps a retreat from information overload, a place to rest their legs. The ambience and furniture in your catering facilities should reflect this.

Purchasing tips

Buyers purchasing furniture for National Trust and other historic properties should bear several factors in mind. Will it be in place permanently, or would stackable furniture be a better solution, freeing up the space for other functions?  If it will be in place permanently, something substantial and solid would be best. Many historic properties opt for a more “rustic” look when choosing café and restaurant furniture. Trent Furniture’s Farmhouse tables and chairs would be a suitable fit in this context. Is it comfortable? Remember those weary legs. For outdoor furniture, again, it might be useful to go for a stackable option so that it can be stored away during the winter. Trent Furniture’s Monaco wicker chair is ideal for outdoor use and can be stacked away when not in use. Like all of Trent Furniture’s outdoor furniture, it is hard-wearing and weatherproof. And remember that many visitors to these properties are elderly and have limited mobility; for them, a visit to the café might be the main attraction, so it’s important that customers are comfortable, and that there is enough space between tables for them to gain access.

At Knole, a National Trust property in Kent which is one of the largest houses of its kind, visitors seeking a break from the deer herds, gardens and the house itself can find respite in the Brewhouse Café, which, as its name suggests, was formerly a brewery. Now it is a white-walled space furnished with simple light-coloured wooden tables, chairs and benches, modern in style but still in keeping with the surroundings. Knole also has a rooftop terrace café for use in warmer weather, with picnic benches and views of the house and surrounding countryside.

At the other end of the spectrum is Stoneywell, a small, immaculately preserved Arts & Crafts National Trust cottage in Leicestershire that is open to visitors (booking in advance is essential). Here, the café is a compact affair located in in the former laundry, furnished with simple wooden stools, tables and pedestal tables which, though not in the Arts & Crafts style, are nevertheless in keeping with the charming simplicity of the rest of the house and its contents.

In keeping with the times

But how important is it for furniture in the catering outlets to be in keeping with the period and theme of the building itself?  One of the country’s most popular attractions is Hampton Court Palace, former home to Henry VIII and housing a collection of fabulous artworks, artefacts and tapestries (it comes in at number 34 in a list of most popular visitor attractions). At this property, managed by Historic Royal Palaces, there are three catering outlets, one of which, the Privy Kitchen Café, offers (among many other things) Tudor-style pies. Customers sit on simple refectory-style benches and tables, very much in keeping with the “period” of the Palace. At the Palace’s Fountain Court Café, which offers table service, the furniture is more contemporary and more comfortable, given that customers will want to linger for longer.

Some visitor attractions have followed a different route. Eltham Palace in south-east London is a former home of Henry VIII, whose Great Hall has a fabulous oak hammerbeam roof – all very Tudor. But other parts of the complex date back to the 1930s and are stacked with wonderful examples of Art Deco furniture and décor. When the palace was refurbished recently, English Heritage created a large new café in a former glasshouse, which was furnished with cool, elegant chairs and tables in metal or metal and wood.

Grounds for optimism

Many visitors are interested not so much in houses and estates, but the gardens. Alnwick Garden in Northumberland is a popular attraction for its gardens, which include a “poison garden”, with specimens of plants such as hemlock and belladonna. At Alnwick, the catering facilities are housed in a treehouse structure. At ground level there is the Potting Shed café, furnished inside with intriguing stools created from carved stumps and blocks of wood, and outside with more conventional rustic-looking wooden tables, chairs and benches. Upstairs, accessible by walkways, is the Treehouse Restaurant, an eccentric-looking environment. The furniture is a curious affair: simple, solid, rustic-style wooden tables are surrounded by roughly hewn wooden chairs which look almost like Ents, the tree-creatures from The Lord of the Rings.

Another, increasingly popular category of visitor attraction is the sculpture park. These combine the attractions of a landscaped garden with the pleasures of artworks. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is perhaps the UK’s most popular; located in the grounds of the historic 18th-century property Bretton House, it has world-renowned permanent displays, including Barbara Hepworth’s restored collection Family of Man. Catering facilities include a restaurant, a kiosk and a café; the café is a cool, contemporary building, furnished inside with simple wooden tables and Arne Jacobsen-style bent plywood chairs, and outside with metal bistro-style chairs and tables.

At Yorkshire Sculpture Park, most works are shown outside but also in specially built galleries, to encourage year-round visiting. This highlights an issue that affects many historic visitor attractions: the seasonal ebb-and-flow of visitor numbers. During the winter months, visitors can be attracted by the prospect of a warm, cosy, comfortable café or restaurant, while in the warmer months catering can expand on to terraces and rooftops. Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire, a National Trust property, hosts a spectacular display of Christmas lights throughout its grounds (tickets sell out months in advance); food and drink is available from pop-up outlets and in the courtyard, with chairs and tables available.

To attract and re-attract visitors to your National Trust or historic property, café and restaurant furniture that is solid, durable, sympathetic and comfortable should be a key part of your offering.

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