An enterprising couple have transformed the Castle Hotel in Eynsford with the help of Shepherd Neame.
Licensees Sharon and Gordon Thompson moved in last September, and took a bold approach to their new tenure by closing down for a 14 week, £90,000 refurbishment, jointly funded with the brewery.
Originally known as the Harrow Inn, the historic building dates back to the early 19th century, with the first record of the Castle Hotel in 1904.
Its decor had become tired, but the pub has now been lovingly refurbished to meet the demands of the 21st century customer.
The bar and dining areas have undergone a contemporary yet classic makeover, with comfortable leather Chesterfields sitting alongside re-conditioned furniture in soft tartans. The use of natural materials and subtle stag and antler motifs on cushions and light fittings complete the understated Caledonian chic and feel of a country house hotel.
A trained chef with previous experience as a property developer, Sharon designed and project-managed the refurbishment.
She said: “We have had pubs, restaurants and hotels all over the country for 26 years. We chose to take on this hotel as it is situated in the lovely Darent Valley and we saw the opportunity for a successful hospitality business in beautiful surroundings.
“Our aim was to keep the original features but make it a safe, light airy space.
“In an effort to be accessible, we are open all day, serving food all day, and everyone is welcome, including dogs.”
The couple have created a signature menu for the pub, putting their own spin on classics such as homemade beef burgers and beer battered fish and chips, and introducing a new selection of sweet and savoury sharing platters, all using locally sourced produce.
They are also completely refurbishing the pub’s seven bedrooms, which include standard doubles, a family room and a suite, in keeping with the pub’s contemporary, classic new look.
Gordon and Sharon currently have 10 members of staff, including their three adult children Leanne, Charlie, Elizabeth and teenage daughter Molly, but due to the huge surge in customer demand, are now taking on another trainee chef and more front of house staff.
Sharon added: “We have been incredibly busy since re-opening, but without that investment from Shepherd Neame there’s no way we could have been as successful.
“We were previously at the Kings Head in Wye, also a Shepherd Neame pub, and have been really impressed with how much support the brewery provides for people like us who have an entrepreneurial vision but not enough financial backing to do it on our own.”