Food offer

Sussex licensees open new "steampunk" country pub

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Tony Leonard: "We wanted to make it a cross between a lovely village pub and a destination venue"
Tony Leonard: "We wanted to make it a cross between a lovely village pub and a destination venue"

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Tony Leonard and Dom McCartan, owners of the Snowdrop Inn, Lewes, have reopened the Roebuck, in Laughton, Sussex with a new food offer after taking on a private lease for the site and giving it a major refurbishment.

McCartan, who will take the helm of the kitchen when they launch the site’s new food offer on Monday 22 June, said: “We’re going to keep the menu pretty similar to what we’ve done in the past, which is great simple food, cooked will with good ingredients.

“We always work with the best Sussex seasonal produce. For instance, we use a local charcuterie from Cooksbridge that was featured on Countryfile.”

During the refurbishment of the site a new kitchen was added, which enabled McCartan and Leonard to turn the old kitchen into a snug.

McCartan said: “We’ve got a Rationale oven in. I was sceptical – I’m an old-school pan and convection oven man myself but actually I’m really impressed with it. We’ve even gone for a push through dish washer - even the KPs have a more glamourous job now.

“We’re excited – it’s wonderful, if slightly daunting.”

As well as the addition of a new kitchen, the interior of the site was completely redesigned.

Leonard said: “It’s a huge transformation. Bits have been built on the outside, walls have been taken down, and staircases have been turned around. We’ve worked on a sort of steampunk theme – we’ve had lots of local artists and people involved in that, it’s been a long time in the making.

“We have gargoyles in the urinals, live jellyfish and a big brass time machine behind the bar – given that we weren’t tied to real history because that had all been stripped out years before, we went down a fantasy alternative kind of route.”

Drinks offer

A range of draught, cask and craft beers will be available at the site including local Sussex beers Burning Sky and Harveys.


Leonard and McCartan attempted to buy the Roebuck before it was due to close in March 2013 but their funding fell through.

Leonard said: “The bank put it up for sale and we got the funding again and put in a bid for what we thought it was worth as a business.”

But the couple were outbid by a property developer who reportedly wanted to demolish the site, which Leonard said “would have been a disaster”.

However, local resident Rachel Daniels outbid the developer and asked Leonard and McCartan to take on the roebuck on a free-of-tie private lease​ in January 2014.

Great British victories

The couple’s Lewes freehouse the Snowdrop has previously been a regional winner in the Best Food Pub, Best Cask Beer Pub and Best Freehouse categories at the Great British Pub Awards.

Leonard and McCartan also ran two successful Brighton pubs, the Eagle and the Spotted Dog, but gave up the sites’ leases when they fell out with landlord Greene King over rent prices​.

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