Facts ’n’ stats
Name: the Chequer Inn
Address: 4 Chequer Lane, Ash, Kent,
Owner: Janet Payten
Head chef: Craig Payten
Wet:dry split: 50:50
Year opened: July 2019
Covers: 62 inside, 50 in garden
We opened the Chequer Inn on 1 July 2019. The pub had been closed for years during which the Ash community battled against the proposed development of the 15th century coach house site being redeveloped into multiple housing.
The Chequer Inn Ash Society was victorious in its quest to purchase the site from the developer. Craig (head chef) and I secured the tenancy on a 15-year deal (across three five-year periods) in June 2019, and within three weeks had transformed what was a building site into our phase one vision of what we wanted, to be able to deliver our brand of hospitality.
We opened to some fanfare, with two soft openings to stress test ourselves, the second of which was filmed for the BBC’s The One Show.
We have tried, with some success, to retain the old charm of the building as an eclectic mishmash of contemporary art and artefacts from our experiences and travels around the world. The Chequer Inn boasts a wonderful bar area, beautiful dining room and massive garden spoilt with sun shine all day long. We have ambitious development plans for the garden to be ready for this coming summer.
We are a truly family-run pub, with family ethos and values. However, the perception of family-run pubs can be less than professional. This is very much the opposite with the Chequer Inn because we are all professional in our roles and deliver an exceptional quality of service, drinks and food, which are all very well received.
I own and operate the Chequer Inn. I’ve managed many successful ventures in different parts of England and in other countries, which have mostly been high-end establishments.
Before this venture, I opened a freehouse in Ickham, Kent, for Mark Sargeant and Josh De Haan to a great success.
As a family – with my husband Craig – we have lived in the north of England; Cape Town, South Africa; and Singapore, running successful businesses.
Craig manages the back of house to a high standard. He wasn’t supposed to be involved in the business on a full-time basis but having not been able to find a chef with the required skill levels who was willing to take on the challenge for a reasonable salary, Craig continued after designing the kitchens and menus.
He walked away from an international career and six-figure salary to ensure the Chequer Inn will be a success. Danni and Erin also work in the back of house, while Ayla and Nicholas work front of house with me.
We would not have been able to do this without the dedication and professionalism of our children. All are accomplished in a variety of fields, while not losing sight of their bright futures in other sectors.
Danni, Ayla and Erin all play touch rugby for England, Danni even played at the world cup in Malaysia, so there’s no wallflowers here.
I have managed Greenalls pubs in the north and held roles as front-of-house manager at high end high volume restaurants in Cape Town, South Africa. Craig is an accomplished chef but prefers roles in operations such as running multiple sites across many countries and continents.
We have built up a great regular trade while starting to attract guests from further afield.
We are a pub first and foremost, while offering a high level of quality food and service.
Our food and drinks go hand in hand, from an exquisite wine list, gin and whisky menu, to an extensive, high-quality menu.
We have wide demographic because we intentionally provide something for everyone – whether that’s this generation’s cocktails and vibe, professionals looking for a trendy environment or business lunch, business entertainment, family time to seniors lunches. We have a meet-up Monday session from 9.30am for those who do not have a circle of friends or family to come and meet others and chat.
We have definitive front-of-house and back-of-house teams, however, most of us have experience in both, so can transfer over when required.
I lead front of house and am the face of the Chequer Inn, Craig leads the back of house and is enjoying being in his natural environment once again. Most employees are from the village. We employ 12 people from the direct community and look for inspiring people with passion as opposed to those with qualifications.
Our team has been fairly stable but we realise some will go on to university and other adventures in the near future, so are always on the look out for new inspiring and passionate talent.
We have Kent’s best barman by far, supported by knowledgeable and talented team members. We offer a high-end drinks selection with some unique wines and whiskies that are not available in other pubs and we even have our own Chequer blend whisky made in-house in a 100-year-old sherry cask.
Our gins and cocktails delight our customers daily. The real ales have really made a name for themselves among our real ale drinkers.
What’s on the menu?
Sample bar menu
■ Posh sausage rolls – £4
■ Garlic mushrooms, crusty bread – £6
■ Gambas, sourdough bread and butter – £15
■ Roasted smoked ham hock,
crispy crackling, bubble and squeak – £18
■ Stacked burger (chickpea, mung dal and refried beans) – £13
■ Quorn chilli, rice and sambals – £14
Sample pub menu
■ Pan-fried chicken livers peri peri or brandy and cream, crusty bread – £10
■ Langoustine tails, apricot and chilli chutney – £12
■ Fresh grilled seasonal fish parmigiana on linguini – £18
■ Lobster (live) chips and salad – whole £50, half £30 (prices subject to change)
■ Fillet 8oz – £28
■ Sirloin 8oz – £25
■ Kent marsh lamb noisette, Lincolnshire and apricot stuffing – £18
■ Poached chicken supreme wrapped in prosciutto, with sun-dried tomatoes and brie (wild mushroom, white wine, Dijon and cream sauce) – £22
Food is at the centre of our business. It’s food that excites our guests and keeps them coming back to try other dishes all the time.
Our food is rustic and always honest. The menu is extensive for a country pub operation. However, each and every product is prepared to a high standard, freshly made using local ingredients where possible.
All our produce is grown, reared, caught, manufactured or procured within a 20-mile radius of the pub.
What are we good at? Meat and seafood, which features strongly on the menus, however, we have a good selection of vegetarian dishes and cater for all dietary requirements because our dishes are freshly prepared.
We change our menu every three to four months and run specials during each quarter that offers additional product choices. Our steaks and seafood are arguably the best in Kent and we continue to grow this side of our offer. We believe in real food, that must smell, taste and look good each and every time.
We run a number of regularly scheduled events. These are designed to ensure we are inclusive to our local surrounding communities and all sectors of society.
Meet-up Mondays run until 11am (as mentioned in ‘The trade’) when people of all ages and backgrounds, who do not have opportunities to engage with others, come for coffee, tea and biscuits, and interact with others who may be lonely or isolated during the week.
Monday lunch is senior lunchtime when OAPs can have two courses for £10 or three courses for £12.
Wednesday evening is family dinner time. Kids eat for £1 from our kids’ selection menu when dining with two adults eating from the main menu.
Thursday evening is steak night. Diners can have two 8oz fillets with all the usual trimmings and a bottle of house red or white for £45 (we mature our own beef on-site and cut each steak by hand ourselves).
On Sundays, we offer two lunches (beef or lamb) for £20 if you have booked in advance. We do this is create some certainty on numbers for Sunday lunch.
We strive to move forward, in terms of our offers, decor and expansion. Our new menu was released in February, which has enhanced what we do well (meat and seafood) and expanded our vegetarian and vegan offer.
Some of the new dishes were released before the formal launch to make sure we had everything right.
The go-ahead for the construction of the disabled toilets and baby changing facilities commenced in February.
We will be renovating the ladies and gents toilets as we have not done any work on these since 2019.
We have plans to remodel areas of the garden to enhance the outdoor experience of guests and attract new customers, the barbecue area will be a focus for this coming summer so much work will be done to this.