We catch up with The Cleveland Arms owner Maria Tamander, who lets us in on the joys and challenges of redesigning a Grade II-listed building, as well as her recipe behind the success of one of Bayswater’s most-loved pubs.
Film executive turned gastronomy aficionado, Maria Tamander stepped onto a rather different career path when she took on the role of landlady at a large, old pub in the heart of Paddington. The 168-year-old establishment certainly needed some love but, after a journey of financing, renovating and restoring, Swedish-native Maria has turned this incredible, Grade-II listed building into an elegant and contemporary masterpiece – and a local hotspot.
For Maria, a pub is as much a place in which to bring a community together with food as being about the design and atmosphere. Here, Maria dishes up how the initial idea behind The Cleveland Arms came about, the biggest challenges she’s faced and how the neighbourhood inspired her.
How did you initially find The Cleveland Arms?
I can’t believe it was almost six years ago! My two daughters had just begun at their new school in Marble Arch and I was looking for a fresh project. I stumbled across an estate agency where I expressed my interest, and was introduced to this very old, run-down pub. At the time, the pub was nothing out of the ordinary; it was serving a few beers on tap, boxed wine and microwave meals. But I saw that the potential was there to turn it into something special.
Did you have any experience in the gastronomy sector before taking on the project?
My grandparents had restaurant and bakery businesses during my youth, so food was always at the centre of everything I did from a young age. Working in the restaurant industry even financed my degrees in marketing and management! And then my previous career in film helped me understand how to bring people together to create something really great. Films and gastronomy have similar frameworks of creativity and collaboration.
How did the pub’s neighbours feel about the reinvention of The Cleveland Arms?
Initially, a lot of the local area was very against us moving in and redesigning the pub. There were petitions involved! But I don’t think that’s uncommon in the restaurant business. The community around a pub is a vital part of understanding your customer – the type of drinks on offer, the price point, understanding the dynamics of the area and so on all had to be considered when thinking about the redesign. We’ve grown to become very much loved in the area and now have our own regulars, which is a fantastic feeling.
Has there been a ‘we’ve made it!’ moment?
One of my proudest moments so far was in November 2019 when The Cleveland Arms was featured on the front cover of The Times, and was the only pub in London listed in the ’20 cosy town and country pubs: blazing fires and great grub for a winter getaway’ feature. That felt great.
Describe The Cleveland Arms in one sentence.
It’s a home away from home for all who visit.
How does the menu resonate with the atmosphere you were aiming to achieve?
Our menu aims to bring appreciation back to simple food. Our seasonal menu varies weekly, with a few staples, to introduce our guests to new flavours and seasonal ingredients. We try to implement sustainable measures wherever possible, and using local and seasonal produce is much better for the environment than importing it. We also prefer to offer a smaller range of dishes, prepared to perfection.
What is your own favourite Notting Hill spot to hang out at?
That would have to be at my home with my partner, two daughters and dog. Having grown up travelling frequently, I was very happy to finally have a place to really call my home when I moved to London almost twenty years ago. There’s something comforting about being able to invite friends and family to your home and hosting them.