The Station Road outlet is celebrating opening its newly refurbished kitchen by putting on a special Valentine’s Day menu, which will also be on offer Saturday evening. Its new menu with daily specials will launch on Tuesday 18th February.
The new owners are former customers Garratt ‘Tup’ Wickham, Richard Spargo and Mark Lanning – the trio having teamed up to buy the watering hole from Andy and Carol Cottingham.
“It will be fantastic to once again serve up food and build on the tremendous atmosphere we have here,” Tup told the A&T. “We can’t wait to get going.”
As reported in the A&T, the pub’s future has been in doubt for the past two years as the Cottinghams tried to sell it to developers to fund their retirement.
They did so amid protests from dozens of locals angry with the potential loss of a community asset, and two bids – one to turn it into three homes and another to demolish the pub for two properties – were thrown out by planners.
Determined to keep it as a village pub, the business trio stepped in and secured the purchase in late October. They immediately set about giving it a spruce-up, installing high tables, decorations, carpets and flooring to rejuvenate the bar and eating areas.
While that was ongoing they kept the bar open throughout the festive season. “It was busy over Christmas and new year with many villagers, and they were all delighted the pub is staying open,” Richard added.
The final part of the revitalisation was an expensive overhaul of the kitchen – for which they have brought back popular chef Marek Okulinski, who was previously the chef when the Cottinghams opened the pub.
They have also brought in Paul Lester to run the bar and Kate Painter to oversee the restaurant. Both have extensive experience in the hospitality industry and have said they are keen to bring a friendly feel to the Station Road eatery.
“The whole idea is to make this a village pub with high quality food – a gastro village pub, if you like – which offers a very friendly welcome to villagers, visitors and commuters alike and is renowned for its atmosphere and its fresh, locally sourced food,” Tup continued.
“I’m really excited that people will be able to see and eat the fantastic menu that Marek has put together and I think they will be very satisfied with what we have to offer.”
“Marek is extremely pleased with all the new toys we’ve given him to play with, and we’re really looking forward to sitting back and enjoying what the staff come up with,” Tup, who formerly ran Redmayne Engineering, said.
Not only that, the owners have plans to introduce a special takeaway menu. The man behind that idea, Richard said: “I know of one example in the New Forest where it’s already being done and the meals are flying out of the door, so I think it could really be a feather in our cap.
“We are planning to have good and healthy meals in among the traditional takeaway stuff to cater for what people want,” he continued. “The train station is pretty much next door and there are commuters in the village it could appeal to them as well.”
There is one other pub in the village, the Hare & Hounds, but the owners are confident there is more than enough room for both.
“The Hare does plenty of trade and is on the main road and offers good, honest food. There’s plenty of room for both,” Tup said.
“I have been a customer of The Silver Hind for many years and remember it when it was a hugely successful restaurant a few years back and our aim is to return it to those glory days and get it back to that sort of standard.”
The Silver Hind will offer a healthy selection of ales and beer as well as non-alcoholic drinks, the range of which will be extended during national campaigns, such as Dry January.
Among the trio’s plans is helping the pub become a focal part of village life by getting involved in local events. They are already planning a beer festival and a tie-in with the carnival, quiz nights and live music performances.
They also have a dart board, and although there is no permanent television they will have one in the bar during special events, such as a coronation, rugby and cricket tournaments.
“The dart board is a distance away from the dining area, so it won’t impact diners and we don’t plan to have a television since we’re not a sporting bar, but a country pub,” Richard said. “We are a freehold, there’s no ties, so we’re exploring what we can do in terms of the drinks and the atmosphere.”
To capitalise on the pub’s attributes they are looking at extending the decking outside the pub into the garden.
“We would like to look at doing that sometime in the future, depending on what is possible and after having talks with the local councils,” Tup remarked. “One thing we have promised is our opening hours are 11am to 11pm, and we will be open as advertised.
“There were occasions in the past where, on the way home from a golfing event, we’ve decided to come in and have a quick pint and a chat, and got here at 8.30pm and it’s all closed up – we will not be doing that.
“In time there may be scope for coffee mornings and breakfasts and that sort of thing a little earlier,” he added. “We shall see what the future holds but for now it’s hugely exciting.”