FUGGLES Beer Café in Tunbridge Wells has been voted Pub of the Year by the West Kent Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in what the organisation describes as ‘one of the closest competitions seen in recent years’.
CAMRA’s Jon Collins said: “All the pubs included in this year’s competition achieve a level of excellence to be commended, with the top three chopping and changing right up to the last scores being computed, and as such was impossible to predict.”
Fuggles on Grosvenor Road, which opened in 2013, came top in three out of five categories. It was runner-up last year and its success in the town has led to the owner Alex Greig opening a new branch on Tonbridge High Street this summer.
Mr Collins said: “Alex Grieg has, with Fuggles Beer Cafe, helped to transform the ‘beer scene’ in our branch area, whilst encouraging competition by setting new standards for the industry in respect of customer service and staff knowledge.”
The runner-up this year is The Windmill in Weald, near Sevenoaks, which has won the award for the last three years.
“Matt (Rudd) and Emma (Cole) at The Windmill might be disappointed as runner-up, but they shouldn’t be. They’ve set new standards from the beginning,” said Mr Collins.
The Windmill was closed and sold by Greene King, but was reopened in 2012 as a free house after a major refurbishment and has earned a reputation for its food as well as beer.
Third on the list was the Halfway House in Brenchley, followed by the Dovecote in Capel, the Queens Arms in Cowden, and the Crown in Groombridge.
He added: “Sam (Allen) has recently taken over the Halfway House from his father Richard and is clearly building on his dad’s precious success, continuing the quality beers and foods available whilst improving the summer beer festivals held and the music provided.
The award for the most improved pub goes to the Toad Rock in Rusthall: “Nicky and Shelley (Page) fully deserve their award, having worked tirelessly to turn this pub around.”
Formerly the landlords at the Dovecote.for 10 years, the Pages reopened the Toad Rock in February 2016 after it had closed for four months.
“It took us four months to redesign and refurbish,” says Mrs Page. “We started from scratch, we had no customers, but thanks to our team, with manager Lorraine and chef Jamie, we’re turning it around.”
The Cider Pub of the Year award goes to The Pantiles Tap for the second year running. “Geoff and Jo Wentworth retain their crown with one of the best selections of quality cider in the south, never mind the region,” said Mr Collins.
The Constitutional Club on Sandrock Road, Tunbridge Wells was named club of the year.