Published: 05:00, 24 November 2021
| Updated: 15:01, 24 November 2021
A £5 million restaurant in Ashford is set to open tomorrow with an oyster bar, a bistro and a club house restaurant.
Stubbs in Canterbury Road, Kennington has replaced the former Croft Hotel along the A28.
It was snapped up by renowned restaurateurs Alex and Helen Bensley in early 2018 after plans to replace it with nine homes floundered.
The husband-and-wife duo - who have a proven track record of turning failing pubs into successful eateries - have spent roughly £5 million on renovations including an extension which hosts the new Club Restaurant.
The decor is based on the decadence of a Victorian gentleman's clubs in London, has hand picked artwork lining the walls, and has just enough space to wheel a cheese trolley between tables.
This is the 39th establishment in Mr Bensley's portfolio, but despite his wealth of experience, he says he is taking a risk with this business which he hopes will pay off.
He said: "It's not fine dining, it's dining for the fine.
"You might think people don't want oysters in Ashford but there is nothing like this around here and I believe there is a place for it.
"All the recipes are our own and we will have robust, generous portions. No one will ever say there wasn't enough on their plate.
"My rule is treat everybody as I would like to be treated and I will only serve what I would eat myself."
Close to the entrance is the oyster bar which has its own dedicated menu and also serves sushi based on a recipe brought over from a restaurant in Marbella.
Just around the corner is The Snug, a cricket themed bar where people can walk in for a drink with colleagues.
Next door is the bistro which acts as an overflow to the bar and also has its own separate menu.
There are 38 members of staff across the board with more positions to be filled in the coming months.
The management team includes personnel trained at some of London’s top restaurants and others who have worked with the Bensleys for nearly 20 years.
There are also three outside terraced areas which will soon be accompanied by a landscaped garden with a fountain.
There is also a living block for staff should they need it.
Because of Brexit, Covid-19 and lorry strikes, Mr Bensley says building the restaurant to his vision has taken much longer than expected but he is happy with the overall result.
Mr Bensley, from Benenden, added: "Last year I had to shut the site down three times because of Covid.
"Along the way I could have mothballed it but I suppose one of the definitions of an entrepreneur is a risk taker and I am probably one of the world's biggest risk takers.
"Hopefully this is my last project but I say that every time."
The restaurant, which is named after Billy Stubbs, the man who first taught Mr Bensley to cook as a boy, will officially open tomorrow and is already fully booked during its first week.
But the refurbishments wont stop there. Phase two which will make way for a pizza restaurant is likely to start next year.
Phase three could see a hotel built along the back but Mr Bensley is in no rush to make that happen any time soon.
In 2016, the Bensleys sold five of their restaurants to Shepherd Neame for £11.9 million - including The Old Mill not far from The Croft on the A28.