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Alistair Lycett has been head chef at The Sun Inn in Faversham for the past seven years.
Born in Canterbury, his interest in cooking began at a young age, as he grew up helping his mum with her part-time outside catering business. Alistair said: “I initially stayed on at my school’s sixth form to do Business Studies, but I really didn’t enjoy it so I decided to try something else. My mum was also teaching catering at Canterbury College, so I decided to give that a go, and absolutely loved it.”
After qualifying, Alistair’s first job was as front of house staff for the House of Commons restaurant. He then went to work for a four star hotel in Reims, France, gaining experience in the restaurant and front of house. He returned to the UK and worked as a sous chef for Shepherd Neame pub The Granville in Canterbury then moved to the Fordwich Arms, where he was promoted to head chef after two years. After a decade at the pub, he left to start his own contract catering business, but after four years decided to return to working in pubs. He was appointed head chef at Shepherd Neame’s Crown Inn at Sarre in 2002, then after two years moved to another Shepherd Neame pub, the White Horse Inn, Boughton. He joined The Sun Inn in 2007.
Alistair manages five chefs and two kitchen porters, and works five days a week on a shift pattern. A typical day will normally start at 10am, checking the stock and any notes from the previous evening, placing the food orders if necessary, and then getting on to the food preparation for the day. Service is normally busiest from 1pm to 1.30pm, then he finishes at 3pm for a couple of hours. He is back again between 5pm and 6pm for the evening service, then finishes around 9.30pm.
He said: “I would say that the most rewarding part of my job is the instant gratification of successfully completing a busy service and knowing a job is well done. A real highlight is when customers enjoy the food so much they take the time to let you know. I also enjoy being able to help other chefs progress in their careers. One of our current chefs started out with us four years ago as a kitchen porter and has worked his way up, which is great to see.”
During his time at The Sun Inn, Alistair’s achievements include winning Pub Food of the Year at the annual Shepherd Neame Pub Awards in 2011. He also introduced a new daytime menu at the pub in November 2014, amalgamating the bar and restaurant menus to showcase restaurant dishes at lunchtime, which is proving popular.
Alistair said: “I have worked as a head chef for Shepherd Neame pubs since 2002, and I would definitely recommend it. Shepherd Neame has some fantastic pubs in the county, and because they are such a well-known, long-established family firm, there is job security, which can be rare when working for pubs.”
After learning his trade in London bars and restaurants, licensee Will Arnold has returned to his home town to take up his dream job - managing the pub where he worked as a chef a decade ago.
“I moved to London and spent six years running wine bars and restaurants,” said Will. “I have always loved food and I have worked in hospitality all my life, except for a season as a snowboard instructor in Banff. Much as I enjoyed it, I knew I had to return to the real world.
“I still kept in touch with my old manager and when he told me he was moving on to another Shepherd Neame pub I got on to the brewery straight away. The Black Boy is a wonderful pub and to be honest this is the only one I would have made the move for. ”Within days of arriving, Will was seeing some familiar faces. “Coming from the town and having worked here before, I know 80% of the customers,” he said. “This is a very friendly place.”
Will has compiled a huge book of recipes and ideas over the years which he uses to add a metropolitan feel to the pub. The Black Boy serves British classics at lunchtime and a light snack menu in the evenings, featuring dishes such as chargrilled chicken and sun dried tomato skewers, honey roasted cocktail sausages and Welsh rarebit.
“All our food is home-made on the premises, including soup and piccalilli,” said Will. “I’ve just appointed a chef who will be cooking dishes from my book of recipes.”
After all those years in restaurants, Will knows his way around a wine list and he has selected a range of wines from around the world to complement the menu. He has also made a point of including a wide choice of wines by the glass – six reds and six whites.
The pub supports local rugby and hockey teams and attracts a bustling crowd thanks to its excellent town centre location. “The bar has a great atmosphere,” he said. “There are no fruit machines or juke box, and we have wooden floors, light mahogany tables and chairs and a couple of sofas. Spitfire cask ale is a favourite with customers and I am looking forward to serving Shepherd Neame’s range of seasonal ales.”
Situated in the heart of London, the Jamaica Wine House attracts a wide array of customers, all of whom make good use of the “Jampot’s” warm welcome and perfectly kept Shepherd Neame ales.
The secret of Lee’s success is a combination of good teamwork – she has a small but dedicated bar staff – a passion for the business and a commitment to maintaining the perfect pint.
The variety of Shepherd Neame ales on offer – such as Spitfire, Bishop’s Finger and Master Brew as well as seasonal ales – is also important as Lee’s clientele comprises an equally varied assortment, from lunching businesspeople and devoted regulars to tourists, many of who stop at the 'Jampot' as part of the City’s walking tours.
But it is perhaps her rewarding relationship with Shepherd Neame that proves to be most important. Lee, who joined the pub in 2010 before taking over as manager in January of this year, said: “When I first joined Shepherd Neame I was surprised how well and how quickly they take you under their wing. There is a real family feel to the brewery that I like. Straight away they were so supportive. ”She concluded: “Shepherd Neame has such a long history and it is great to be a part of the team.”
One of London’s most historic pubs, The Rose & Crown in Blackfriars, was given an £84,000 makeover in January 2015.
The Shepherd Neame-owned pub dates back to the 16th century, and was among a small number of buildings to survive the Blitz bombings of the Second World War when much of the surrounding area was flattened.
Its traditional features have been accentuated by the recent two-week refurbishment carried out by the brewery, which included exposing historic wooden panels and removing carpets to reveal the original wooden floors. The downstairs bar has been reshaped to create more space and the customer toilets have been upgraded and decorated. The first floor lounge has also been completely refurbished, with the old bar removed and new carpet laid.
New furnishings and lighting, along with historic pictures of London and vintage street signs, have been added throughout the pub.
The exterior has also been completely repainted, with traditional hand painted signwriting added to highlight its long heritage, new external lighting and a gravelled standing area with rope fence created in a former car park at the front of the pub.
Manager Rory O’Dwyer has been at the pub since May 2014. He said: “I wanted to manage the Rose & Crown as I could see it had amazing potential, and it is in an area of London which is booming. There are lots of new office buildings all round us, and we are right by the Southbank.”
The pub’s menu has also been revamped, with new sharing platters introduced in addition to the traditional pub classics and snacks. It will continue to build on its reputation for great real ale, serving classic Shepherd Neame beers such as Spitfire and Master Brew along with a regularly changing selection of guest ales.
The Rose & Crown is located in an area of London once known as the Paris Garden, as mentioned by Shakespeare in Henry VIII, and has a large garden which should prove beneficial for summer trade.
If you think that taking on your first pub having spent 15 years working in advertising sales and never having worked behind a bar is brave, then imagine how gutsy you’d have to be to do just that, only for your new venture to be gutted by fire just thirteen weeks in and be forced to start all over again!
That’s exactly what happened to Sarah Firth, licensee of The Three Lions, in the village of Farncombe, Surrey, when she finally took the plunge, changed career and took on her own pub business with a Shepherd Neame tenancy.
Under her leadership, the pub has quite literally risen from the ashes to become a wonderful community pub, offering a warm welcome and the kind of homemade pub classics your granny would serve up.
Now with the title of Shepherd Neame Pub of the Year 2015 under her belt, she has no regrets: “Taking on the pub was the start of a new chapter for us - and a tough start to boot - but I absolutely love it and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It’s hard work and a way of life but with the support of the brewery and a great team at the pub, it really is a dream come true!”
When asked to share the secret of her success, Sarah is confident: “I’m a people person and I enjoy welcoming customers into the pub. I’m also grateful for the business experience I’ve gained from my previous role; I’ve put my marketing and advertising know-how to good use and this has allowed me to successfully promote the business online.”
“The expertise I lacked, such as knowledge about cellar craft and food, has been acquired though some superb training courses run by the brewery, where I’ve not only gained valuable know-how but also met other licensees and shared best-practice.”
Almost certainly the oldest pub in Farncombe, the Three Lions hosts bingo, quizzes and open mic nights and is very active on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Partnering multi-site operators is one way that Kent-based brewer Shepherd Neame ensures its pubs have a high-quality, consistent offer. These licensees bring their own flair and entrepreneurial eye to maximise the potential of their pub businesses and offer a distinctive customer experience.
Imagine training for and running your first-ever marathon, while over-seeing six Surrey pubs. Managing director of award-winning Baron’s Pub Company Clive Price did just that, showing he’s a man who enjoys a challenge!
Clive’s career to date is testament to his appetite for hard work: starting out as a kitchen porter at Thorpe Park, he has gone on to run his own group of pubs in Surrey, after working at Blubeckers and a spell running his first restaurant in 2000. He believes that understanding his business from the bottom up is one of the keys to his success.
Says Clive, “My first business was a restaurant in Cranleigh, the UK’s largest village, which was a real struggle. It was impossible to fill the tables and I quickly realised that our numerous competitors were suffering the same fate. At the time, pubs were fast becoming popular places to eat and so, I decided to run my own pub, The Star in Leatherhead, which was an instant success.”
The following decade has seen Clive take on five more pubs, two of which, The Cricketers, Horsell village and The Crown & Cushion, Blackwater, are Shepherd Neame pubs.
The pubs all retain their individual characters but have the following in common: nice settings in good areas, ample car parking and a family dining offer which caters for young and old and was recently feted with a ‘Family Dining Award’ at the Surrey Life Food and Drink Awards.
By applying this simple formula to each pub, Clive has become an expert at taking an under-performing business and significantly growing the turnover, in one case six-fold!
Says Clive: “The Cricketers is my local. It’s a fantastic community pub which raises money for Woking Hospice, the motivation for my marathon run.
“When we refurbished it, the brewery helped us out with a new cellar. They also assisted us in developing some interesting bespoke offers, such as a gin menu at The Crown & Cushion, which does very well at functions in the exceptional Meade Hall function room.”
Clive has discovered that new challenges always reap the greatest rewards: “I’ve had to step back from day-to-day running of the pubs to grow the company and put some structure in place, so that individual needs are met with dedicated resources and area managers.”
He adds, “We plan to grow the group to incorporate 12 to 15 pubs in the long term and are looking forward to creating further successful pub offers based on our tried and tested family dining offer.