AN HISTORIC pub almost destroyed by fire two years ago has finally reopened.

The Abbot’s Elm, formerly known as The Three Horseshoes, in Abbots Ripton has undergone a dramatic transformation since the fire which gutted the Grade II-listed 17th century building in March 2010.

The pub, part of Lord de Ramsey’s estate, is being run by husband-and-wife team John and Julia Abbey, who have many years’ experience in fine dining, most recently at the Leatherne Bottel in Goring-on-Thames.

Lord de Ramsey said he had previously been prevented from installing flame-retardant materials in the pub by conservation officers: “The bit they wanted to protect was the bit that burnt down,” he said.

One of the outcomes of the fire has been that Lord de Ramsey and his team have been allowed to “do what they want” inside, as long as the external appearance is maintained.

“It’s now the most stunning room,” Lord de Ramsey said. “It’s open right up to the rafters. Instead of feeling like you are in a hobbit house it has a nice feeling about it.”

The £750,000 renovation, covered by insurance, took over a year to complete.

Mr Abbey said: “We’ve been involved for about six months. Lord de Ramsey asked if we knew anybody who wanted to run a country pub. As soon as we stepped inside we fell in love with it.”

After almost 20 years in Berkshire, the couple decided to make the move to Huntingdonshire.

The couple suggested the new name because there were four pubs called The Three Horseshoes within 10 miles of Abbots Ripton. Abbot’s Elm nods to the church land it is built on – and the fact that Abbots Ripton is home to more than 1,000 elm trees.

While the pub opened last week – after some friendly pressure from impatient locals – the restaurant will not open until the New Year.

Mr Abbey said: “It was a last-minute decision to reopen the pub before Christmas but it’s been a great decision. It’s been good to meet everybody.”

The restaurant will serve a wide range of dishes – from “light bites” to more unusual fare. One dish seems to have been inspired by another Berkshire chef, Heston Blumenthal – Julia’s steak tartare is served with horseradish ice-cream.

While rebuilding the pub was one challenge, finding the right people to run it was another, said Lord de Ramsey.

“We had two landlords before who had failed to make a success of it,” he said. “My wife and I found John and Julia by complete accident. We were having lunch in the Leatherne Bottel and we asked them if they had any friends who would want to run the pub. They had been there 18 years – it didn’t occur to us that they might want to move.

“When I was a boy, there were five pubs in Abbots Ripton,” he added, “but now there is only one left. It is important that it is a proper village pub. It’s wonderful to see it back in action.”