The Star in Witley is the brainchild of co-owners James Lyon Shaw and Jamie Dobbin. The duo’s experience spans a constellation of London’s finest establishments. Jamie has worked at The Berkley, The Connaught, The Savoy, The Ivy and Soho’s Groucho Club, whilst James spent nine years as Head Chef and then Operations Director for gastropub operator ETM Group. We chatted to the duo about leaving the Big Smoke for countryside life, their recent big win at this year’s Publican Awards, and their new pop-up GOAT:

Tell us about The Star: 

Jamie Dobbin: Cosy country pub in the heart of the village with a beautiful garden. It has a lovely relaxed country atmosphere with a super seasonal menu and a team who welcome guests like it’s their own home.

James Lyon Shaw: Picturesque country pub with sun-soaked beer garden on the edge of the Surrey Hills. Offering a locals feel to the surrounding villagers and destination diners alike.

What type of food can people expect? 

Honest and seasonal, with a passion for nose-to-tail cooking. Every day there is wild day boat fish from Devon, Rare breed steaks from Dorset and wonderful produce from our farmers and foragers in Surrey and Kent.

How did you guys meet? 

At The Ivy Restaurant in Covent Garden 21 years ago. Both young Chef de parties, full of energy and passion,  needless to say, we butted heads for a while but after a few shifts and a few sherries best friends were born.

What has been the biggest challenge so far? 

JD: Like many other fellow hospitality businesses, and indeed other industries, guiding our business through the pandemic was the toughest challenge so far, keeping the business going and our teams employed.

JLS: The last 3 years have been a real challenge for our industry as well as many others and of course people personally. Navigating Covid as relatively new businessmen was a challenge and the subsequent pressures on consumer spending have meant a constant flow of dynamic ideas and changes to keep us competitive and trading well.

What’s next? 

JD: We have just launched our street food concept GOAT so spreading the word and cooking some seriously tasty goat burgers tacos and curry goat poutines is top of the list. But we are also always on the lookout for another unloved country village pub we can turn around and bring back to the hub of the community.

JLS: We’re always on the lookout for a new pub to take on, keeping to Berkshire and Surrey. We also have big plans for our new street food pop-up GOAT and would love to see that take to the road next year and maybe a permanent site the year after.

You’ve both worked in top-flight London kitchens over the years – what made you want to run a countryside pub? 

JD: Hailing from Newcastle the pub was always at the centre of any occasion and celebration. Having spent almost two decades cooking ‘up town’ in London it was time for a change and seizing the opportunity to help ‘as custodians’, I guess, breathe hospitality life and soul back into these lovely village pubs is quite an addiction.

JLS: For me, it was about seeing a gap in the market, an opportunity to enhance the areas with our style of hospitality and also to enjoy a balanced life outside of the Big Smoke.

You were awarded ‘best in class’ by this year’s Publican Awards judges – how was that?

JD: Well that’s a real testament to the wonderful team we have; they are totally invested in our vision, ideas and hospitably ethos.  The award is for them and an honour for us. A great achievement up against stiff competition.

JLS: Amazing feeling and what an achievement so early in our company journey. A real testament to the hard work of our teams and their shared passion for our vision of hospitality and honest food. We can’t wait to enter again next year!

Favourite dish on the menu?

JD: My northern roots won’t let me write anything other than fish and chips – if only it were in newspaper wrapping.

JLS: Venison cottage pie for me – I don’t care how hot the weather is at the moment, it’s rich and homely and like having a hug from the inside out.

For more information on The Star, see here. 

Petworth Rd, Wheelerstreet, Witley, Godalming GU8 5LU