New licensee 31-year-old James Dench said he and his wide Hope were “ready for the challenge” of manning the Kent-based pub and caring for new-born Nora Violet.
He continued: “We want to keep the look of the pub and we want it to be really community-led which is really important to us.”
“We always wanted to have a pub. We know it; like it; it is a good pub. We felt we couldn’t turn it down.”
The pair hope to offer quality pub classics with a regularly changing menu at the Shepherd Neame site, with James leading the way in menu curation having trained as a chef at Westminster College before working at several London venues.
Born to run a pub
While this is the pair’s first venue, pub life runs in their veins: they first met as teenagers while working as a kitchen hand and a pot washer at the Duke of Wellington in Ryarsh, Kent, 15 years ago.
One of their prized additions to the rural pub will be a last orders bell, gifted to them by Hope’s grandfather, who used to run Ye Olde Leather Bottle in Northfleet, Kent.
James said: “It is daunting doing both at the same time but running a pub is something we have always wanted to do so we will make it work.”
Hope added: “We’re just throwing a baby into the mix! We know lots of people who have grown up in pubs and it’s a great way to bring up kids.”
It seems local wildlife agrees, as a mother duck hatched a brood of nine ducklings on the pond at the front of the pub as they moved in.
The couple also have a dog, six-year-old Perrita, who they adopted in Panama when travelling in 2016. “We used to walk here with the dog. There are some lovely walks in this area and the pub is dog-friendly, and we will be continuing that,” said James.
Following the takeover period, the pair aim to make gradual changes to the pub including improving the community room in the back of the building for functions and outside groups to use, and later improving the secluded garden at the rear.
Outgoing licensee Helen Paraskevas and husband Michael are retiring after 18 years. “We have loved the pub but we are ready to retire. It has been a huge part of our lives and it was emotional to say goodbye,” Helen said.