Believe it or not, it’s now been almost exactly three years since we took on The Windmill. It feels like as good a time as any to step back and have a look at where we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.
When we set up shop here, it had previously been a fairly popular village pub for food and drink but had unfortunately been closed for some long months. We realised immediately that the locals would be very open to having something new come to town, and would be more than supportive so long as we A) were consistent and B) involved ourselves in the community.
We knew that if we came in with the right attitude, and made sure we matched the high expectations they already had of Richard, the locals would be a great boon for our pub.
So, we set out with the goal of building our reputation among local drinkers, eaters and food suppliers first and foremost. We wanted to be known in the area for great service and consistent high quality, without becoming stale and repetitive. That would be our foundation from which we’d create a venue where visitors would travel to for a meal, just as locals would wander down for a few beers or a quick lunch. We wanted everyone to be sure they’d find something a little different (but equally good) every time.
To achieve this we did a few things.
We got to know the area’s hunts, farmers and fishers to ensure a constant supply of high quality fresh produce, which we believe lies at the heart of good pub good.
And when it opened, we formed a good relationship with the brilliant Musket Brewery to make sure that, as well as nationally known ales, we’d have a varying supply of locally brewed beers. That’s because, while we clearly have a passion for serving good food, we also know the value of a good drinker’s pub and want visitors to find something unique and different at the bar every time.
We also avoided overt competition with the other two pubs in the village. There’s simply no need for it – we all offer something a little different and for that reason we’re comfortable lending each other a helping hand or a few supplies if needs be.
Our other focus was consistency in the kitchen, and we’ve had an abundance of that. The Windmill was Will Devlin’s first Head Chef gig and he’s been here from day 1. While many pubs cycle through two or three chefs per year, it’s pretty astounding that we’ve had the same man for three years. He does a brilliant job of varying the menus regularly enough to keep it interesting, without sacrificing the honest approach that we’re known for. Will effectively integrates seasonal Kentish produce with straight-from-the-bag game and fresh fish, and has really stamped his authority on the place.
Has it worked?
Well, not to blow our own trumpet, but so far it looks like it has! We now do around 600 covers a week and have developed a consistent, loyal following without distorting our core values.
We attract Pilgrim’s Way ramblers, travelers and locals alike. We’ve built a great reputation while avoiding stuffiness and pretension. Honesty and consistency have been what we’ve aimed for and we think we’ve achieved it.
That’s not to say we’re content to rest on our laurels! Those of you who pop in regularly will know that Richard is always here, tweaking and tasting. Planning projects and making small changes.
The next change, in fact, is quite a big one.
You may have noticed the dramatic construction going on in the back garden: We are building an outside kitchen, smokery and BBQ for the Summer. We will be cooking meat and fish al fresco and outside diners will almost feel like they’re inside the kitchen. It’ll be utterly unique in Kent and, along with the regular live music we put on, will be a really special place to spend Summer evenings before long. Expect pictures very soon as it starts to take shape! The launch is planned for Sunday 3rd of May.
We also have events coming up like the Hollingbourne Beer Festival (there will be a blog post about that at a later date) and plenty more over the Summer.
We’re pretty proud of what we’ve done with the place, but we’re always open to suggestions and ideas. Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch about anything you love about The Windmill, or anything you’d like to see us start doing!