Life’s a Beech for new pub owners in Wadhurst

Islay O'Hara

For husband and wife team Steve and Lorraine Rowley, taking over The Best Beech in Wadhurst as landlord and landlady earlier this month was ‘a dream come true’. Steve tells us about some of the dishes on the menu, and why the Sussex countryside remains a big draw for locals and visitors alike…

Tell us how you got involved at the pub
The Best Beech is an old coaching house that has been around since the early 17th century, and has had a series of landlords in recent years. I used to work in the city, but my wife Lorraine and I have a large family and wanted a lifestyle change, so we started looking for a pub to run. It wasn’t until The Best Beech came up that we found one we liked – we absolutely fell in love with the place when we came here and started on January 6 this year.

Why was Wadhurst such a big draw for you?
We were living in Sevenoaks and needed to find somewhere where there was equivalently good schooling. Everything fitted and it felt like home the first time we came here, so now that we’re here and we’re making it work, it’s absolutely fantastic and a dream come true.

What kind of dishes do you have onthe menu?
We’re doing traditional homemade pub food, and our chef Darren Sourour will also be doing some daily specials. To start, we’ve got devilled whitebait, smoked salmon and chive cream cornets, soup of the day, prawn cocktail, chicken skewers and prawn and chorizo gambas.

For the mains, there’s an 8oz rib eye steak, the Best Beech burger, fish and chips, chilli con carne and double lamb chop, as well as grilled chicken breast, ham, egg and chips, sausage and mash and a chicken, prawn or vegetable curry, which we can moderate the heat on. We’ve also got specials like a fish stew and crab or vegetable linguini.

We’re also doing freshly baked baguettes and sandwiches at lunchtimes only at the moment, including sausage and fried onion, bacon and melted brie, Cajun chicken, smoked salmon, cheese and pickle and a fish finger bap.

For desserts, we’ve got coffee crème brûlée, apple and blackberry crumble with vanilla custard, white chocolate chip brownie with vanilla ice cream, and warm waffle served with vanilla ice cream and Darren’s homemade honeycomb. We’re also doing an English cheeseboard where we’re specialising in Sussex cheeses to make the food offering even more local, plus we’re using the local W J Crouch butcher in Wadhurst.

On Sundays we serve a traditional lunch menu, always offering two choices of meat, a fish dish and a vegetarian option.

And the beers and wines on offer?
We’ll have some more expensive red and white wines that will go with the dishes we’ll be serving. We’re a Shepherd Neame pub in Sussex, so we serve Spitfire Gold, but we also stock Harvey’s.

How about your chef’s background?
We didn’t know Darren beforehand, but we put an advert out and he soon became the front runner. He was working at the Mount Edgcumbe in Tunbridge Wells where he was a senior sous chef and acting head chef. When we met him, he ticked all the boxes for us; he met with all our family values and how we wanted to run the pub and restaurant. We want to make it a wholesome experience for the entire family, and his thoughts on the food and atmosphere he wanted to create were basically identical to ours, so we couldn’t not get him.

Can customers stay at the pub?
We’re also a B&B, so we’ve got six en-suite rooms, which have all recently been refurbished. They’re absolutely fantastic rooms and we’re going to do some marketing to try and draw people to the local area, which has absolutely outstanding natural beauty. It’s an area for cyclists, walkers and explorers.

Where would you like to take the place going forward?
Our business plan is to make The Best Beech Inn the destination pub in the area, not just for families, but also for people who are working and can come and stay as well. We want to make it a community pub again, because it deserves to be one. Hopefully our enthusiasm for the place rubs off on others and we make it a pub that the locals can be very proud of, because of what it does and what it stands for. We want everybody who comes in the door to leave with a smile on their face.

The Best Beech Inn
Best Beech Hill, Mayfield Lane, Wadhurst, East Sussex TN5 6JH
01892 457 550 |

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