The former Shepherd Neame house, closed in February 2017 following a decision by the brewery that it no longer fitted their “business strategy”. It was put on the market with the prospect of being used for residential purposes, but fortunately the local Barden Residents Association stepped in and managed to have it classified as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
It was at this point that Matthew Rudd and his partner Emma Cole stepped in with an offer for the pub. The couple had been running the award-winning Windmill in Sevenoaks Weald, but were looking for a new challenge. They had seen the Nelson advertised previously, before they took on the Windmill, but it was only available as a tenancy, and that was not what they were looking for.
new walls, ceilings and various other fixtures. The end result a fine-looking traditional town pub with three different bar areas.
Unlike the Windmill, which is something of a "foodie" destination, the Nelson will focus on serving high-quality beer, and will only be providing bar snacks. The pub will be stocking up to 10 cask ales, along with a range of craft "key-keg" and bottled beers. Whether this number is too many remains to be seen, but the pub was certainly shifting some beer when a neighbour and I called in yesterday evening.
We met up with friends from West Kent CAMRA; some of whom had been there since the pub opened at 4pm. The latter will be the weekday opening time, with longer hours at the weekends. I have to say that having known the Nelson from its time under both Courage and Shepherd Neame, that I was extremely impressed by the tasteful renovation and restoration work that Matt and Emma have carried out.
Low Rider Citra Amarillo - a 3.9% pale session ale from Bristol Beer Factory; Magic Rock Inhaler – a 4.5% Pale Ale, before finishing with a pint of Thornbridge Jaipur (a mistake with work the next morning!). There was a good mix of customers in the pub last night, many of whom were local residents, delighted to have their pub back.
When asked by one of the local papers, whether he thought it a risk to run a pub without a dining option, Matt replied that he was really interested in having a go at running a “wet-led” community pub. He went on to emphasise his belief in the demand for such a pub; especially in Tonbridge, where there’s a lot going on at the moment. He finished by saying, that the feedback had been really positive and how much himself and Emma were looking forward to running a pub that is an important part of the community.
The pub - prior to restoration
I’ll drink to that, and wish Matt, Emma and the Nelson every success. The pub is slightly under a half hour’s walk from my house, so I suspect I will be paying it quite a few visits!