Shepherd Neame reveals Pub Awards winners

The Blue Anchor at Crowborough has been named Pub of the Year in the Shepherd Neame Pub Awards, which returned this week after a two-year absence.

It is the latest in a series of accolades for the popular pub and restaurant, which has been named Pub of the Year in the Beautiful South Tourism Awards for the last two years and is a finalist for Best Destination pub in Sussex in this year’s Muddy Stilettos Awards.

The pub, which has been run by Amy Glenie since 2019, prides itself on fine, freshly-made food using locally-sourced produce where possible and also has a spacious garden and patio, including a newly introduced pizza shack, perfect for alfresco drinking and dining.

Amy, who was unable to attend the ceremony, said: “It has just been such an exciting time moving the pub forward over the last four years. We are constantly looking for new ways to make things better and keep things fresh – there is always something to improve. I absolutely love running the Blue Anchor and enjoy every moment of being there, and our hard work is paying off.”

Eleven of the independent family brewer’s pubs and hotels across Kent, London and the South East were honoured at the ceremony, which celebrates exceptional standards across its 300-strong estate. Two lifetime achievement awards were also given to dedicated long-serving managers and licensees.

Manager of the Year went to Steve Berry of the Jamaica Wine House in St Michael’s Alley in central London.

Steve, who has been with the company for a decade, has managed sites including the White Horse & Bower and the Samuel Pepys in London, as well as working at the Manor Farm Barn at Southfleet and The Boathouse at Yalding. During lockdown, he supported numerous sites with everything from moving stock to helping recruit team members, and since reopening after Covid, has presided over a fantastic performance at the Jamaica Wine House.

Steve said: “I enjoyed working through lockdown – it was good to keep busy! I am proud to receive the award and really grateful to everyone who has supported me, including my amazing team.”

Receiving the award for Licensee of the Year was Natalie Hennessy and her husband Andrew who are licensees of the East Kent at Whitstable, as well as the recently reopened White Horse at Boughton-under-Blean near Faversham.

Whitstable-born and bred Natalie and Australian Andrew relocated back from Sydney in 2018 to take on the East Kent in Whitstable, and have turned it into a successful, premium establishment, whilst also starting a family. Not content with a busy business and two young sons, they recently completed a full renovation of the White Horse and reopened it as a stylish boutique hotel and bar, with a treatment room to open next month – a first for Shepherd Neame.

Natalie said: “We are delighted to win this award. We couldn’t have done what we’ve done without the support of our amazing core team, especially Zac Rees-Mawson, our Head Chef at the East Kent, and Dillon Rees-Mawson, our dual site manager.”

The George Inn at Newnham, near Sittingbourne was named Heart of the Community Pub of the Year.

During the pandemic, the 18th century coaching inn, now run by licensees David and Claire Elliott since June 2018, became a focal point for the community, opening a farm shop, parcel drop-off and collection point, as well as launching a food delivery service and providing 5,000 meals for NHS staff. It continues to play a major part in village life, hosting regular community and fundraising events.

Claire said: “It is amazing to have won this award, as we feel we really have built bridges in the community since taking on the pub. We have fantastic relationships with our customers and everyone helps each other out.”

The George Inn at Leeds, near Maidstone, was named Beer Hero of the Year, which judges said provided a perfect pint of Master Brew, complementing the village pub’s great food and recently launched new menu. And the Oak on the Green at Bearsted near Maidstone received the Social Media Pub of the Year title, a new award.

Reflecting a record turnover in the last year, and phenomenal growth in its food sales in particular, Managed Business of the Year went to The Vine in Tenterden. General Manager Fraser Johnston started as a member of the bar staff 14 years ago, but has risen through the ranks to now run the successful business since 2019.

With wife Leigh, and in conjunction with Head Chef Dan Millen, the team at the pub have made it a popular drinking and dining destination for locals and visitors.

Fraser said: “It is amazing to win – I love my job, but I cannot do it without my fantastic team. We have got a brilliant Head Chef in Dan; a great front of house team, and the team in the kitchen all behind us, so this award is well-deserved recognition for everyone’s efforts.”

Hotel Pub of the Year went to The Marine Hotel at Tankerton, with judges praising General Manager Nick Ings-Kemsley for his calm, positive approach, focusing on ensuring guests have an excellent experience while ensuring his team are well supported.

Nick said: “I am delighted that the whole team at The Marine Hotel have been recognised for providing such a fantastic guest experience, as it is not an individual effort, it is about everyone working together. I am really proud of their achievement.”

Wine Pub of the Year was named as the New Flying Horse at Wye, and the Pub Food of the Year award went to The Sun at Feering. Licensee Andrew Howard, who has been at the pub 15 years, said: “I’m immensely proud of what the team has achieved to create a fantastic food offer.”

Tenanted Pub of the Year was awarded to the White Horse at Hawkinge. Since taking over in October 2018, licensees Nikki Richens and Mark Godfrey have increased beer sales by 25% and introduced a full menu, meaning they are also now often fully booked at weekends. Through lockdown they also launched a takeaway service for meals and drinks which proved popular with local residents.

Nikki said: “We are overwhelmed to have received this award – it’s amazing. The support we have received from our locals has been fantastic, and it is great to have our efforts recognised by Shepherd Neame with this award.”

A Lifetime Achievement award went to Karen Hazell of the Rose Inn at Herne Bay, who will be retiring next month after 28 years with the company. And Marc and Tracey Watson, of The Wharf, Dartford, also received a Lifetime Achievement award after 30 years with Shepherd Neame.

The couple ran a range of other pubs before taking on The Wharf in 2000, and will be retiring from the business later this year. Tracey said: “We felt it was time for a change, but we will really miss The Wharf – and we will also miss Shepherd Neame as it’s been a great company to work for.”

Shepherd Neame Chief Executive, Jonathan Neame said, “After a challenging time for all those within the hospitality industry, it is fantastic to be back celebrating the achievements of our outstanding licensees and team members.

“Despite the setbacks of the last two years, we have seen that more than ever the most important factor in the success of any pub is its people, and we are very proud of our talented team. These awards are aimed at recognising their hard work, dedication, and creativity, and celebrating excellence in our company.'

The awards were announced at the ceremony, held at the Spitfire Ground in St Lawrence, Canterbury last night (Monday, June 27).