Mystery has surrounded the relaunch of a once luxurious restaurant but new owners have finally opened the doors that were feared closed for good.
Plans for The Hengist, in Aylesford, have been kept a closely guarded secret since it was bought at auction in October.
But today the Kent Messenger was given an exclusive first look inside to see the £250,000 restoration project in action.
The interior of the grade II listed building, which has been nestled in the town’s historic High Street since 1980, has been completely gutted with its original beams and character intact.
Upstairs will boast a fine-dining restaurant split between two areas, The Crystal Room and The Blue Room, which will have a luxury feel with a “funky” twist. There will be Saxon themed champagne bar to tie in with the eatery’s name, inspired by leader Hengist who took on the King of the Britons at the Battle of Aylesford in 455AD.
The ground level will have a relaxed atmosphere with a old England feel - ideal for families to visit throughout the day. The garden area is already finished, ready for alfresco dining.
Co-owner David House said: “We really want to make it part of the village and make it welcoming for everyone.
Co-owner David House inside The Hengist during renovations
“We’re opposite the primary school so parents can stop by for a coffee or breakfast after doing the school run. We’re going to include nappy changing facilities, which were not here before. We can also host business lunches.
“Most importantly, we’re going to serve high quality food how it should be.”
Mr House, who lives in Aylesford, bought the building with business partners Steve and Alan Swift, who run Maidstone-based Swift Roofing.
The management team hope to bring back some of the former staff who lost their jobs when the restaurant suddenly closed after the death of its owner, Paul Smith, in September.
At an inquest, the coroner heard how 43-year-old Mr Smith was struggling with the eatery’s finances when he took his own life at his home in Rochester Road.
People can take a tour of the site, which is due to open for business in April, on Saturday, March 1, between noon and 2pm.
For more information or to make a booking, visit www.hengistrestaurant.co.uk.