The Pantiles Tap is situated in the Grade II listed beer cellar of one of Tunbridge Wells’ oldest buildings, the former Gloster Tavern, in the Lower Walk. Geoff Wentworth is the proudly independent proprietor – and a man on a mission to bring the best beers to Tunbridge Wells
YOU OPENED IN THE PANTILES IN NOVEMBER 2014. HAD YOU RUN PUBS BEFORE?
Yes, I’ve been running them all over the country for 40 years, in Scotland, the North-East, the Midlands and the South. I’m originally from Darlington but my wife Jo and I have been in the south since 1986. This is the first pub I’ve owned, though.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF RUNNING YOUR OWN BUSINESS?
It enables you to buy beer from wherever you want, you know how much money you have to spend, and you’re not feeding a faceless head office.
HOW IS THE BUSINESS DEVELOPING?
We’re increasingly buying better beers. We have six keg beers from places like the US, Italy, New Zealand, and six cask beers which are generally more local.
One of them is very interesting, Rother Valley’s Keyworth. It’s made using an old hop, Keyworth’s Early, which was lost because it wasn’t very productive. In the past they didn’t want to use hops that were too intense either. But that’s changed now and this one is incredibly flavoursome. And we only sell two ciders but we won the Campaign for Real Ale’s West Kent Cider Pub of the Year award.
WHAT ARE YOUR MOST POPULAR LINES?
The more cider we get in, the more we sell, and we do sell an incredible amount of it. It’s an expanding market. Thistly Cross, a whisky-cask cider from Scotland, is popular. We only sell one lager, Curious Brew, which comes from Chapel Down in Tenterden, and that’s very good and sells well. And the Gun Brewery beers from Gun Hill are popular too.
HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR BEERS?
We never buy them in without knowing a lot about them. Normally we like to try them ourselves. Myself and Jo, who is also my business partner, went to Italy to check out the breweries there in May. We also visit many of the conventions and festivals, like the Independent Manchester Beer one and Craft Beer Rising in London.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO SET UP IN THE PANTILES?
We looked at various towns in the South-East. Tunbridge Wells is close enough to London to import craft beers easily, because it’s an expensive business. And the public here, who work in London, have experience of drinking craft beers. It’s an affluent town, and the council is encouraging The Pantiles to be a destination to eat and drink.
ARE YOUR STAFF LOCAL?
Yes, two of them are actually from The Pantiles.
WHAT SETS YOU APART FROM OTHER PUBS IN TUNBRIDGE WELLS?
We offer an opportunity to drink exceptionally good beers. We’re not a restaurant, we don’t do any hot food. Basically we are a proper pub.
It’s going back to what pubs used to be like. You could say it’s a hybrid.