Published: 06:00, 02 December 2020
| Updated: 08:55, 02 December 2020
The owners of an acclaimed Michelin-starred pub are hoping to restore the reputation of a village inn left empty since its former boss was convicted of hoarding child sex abuse images.
Dan and Tasha Smith, of the award-winning Fordwich Arms, are taking on the White Horse in Bridge, near Canterbury, which has been without management since disgraced Christian Diamant left two months ago.
The young couple are confident they can unlock the pub's full potential and turn it into a much-loved community asset.
The first piece in the jigsaw is to give the high street inn a new name; The Bridge Arms.
"I know changing the name is controversial for some but unfortunately we've been left with no choice really," said Dan, who cut his teeth at London's Michelin-starred Clove Club.
"We want to disassociate it with the new reputation it has. We're not trying to taint any history the pub has; it's just a new chapter in its life.
"It's had a rocky path and for a site with so much potential, it's never really fulfilled that - especially in recent times anyway.
"By putting Bridge in the name of the pub we're hoping it can become a real community hub and the whole village can get behind it.
"We certainly won't be trying to replicate the Fordwich Arms - that's our baby now and we absolutely love it, but we want to do something different.
"There's no point doing two places the same in the same area."
Former White Horse boss Diamant was handed a two-year community rehabilitation order in September after admitting having indecent images and videos of children on his iPhone.
A judge spared him unpaid community work so as not to “upset his business”, ordering him to attend a sex offenders programme.
But following KentOnline's reporting of his court appearance, he left the pub.
The venue later had its windows smashed by vandals, and owner Enterprise Inns began marketing for a new pair of hands to take over the reins.
Dan, 29, who lives in Bridge with Tasha and their one-year-old son, says they jumped at the chance to take on a new challenge.
"This probably isn't the best timing but I don't know if it ever will be," he said.
"We've had our eye on it for a while. We've always loved the pub and we know the area very well, so it seems like an opportunity that shouldn't be missed.
"We're going to focus the menu around cooking with charcoal, so we're getting a charcoal grill oven made for us.
"Our emphasis is going to be on local produce from suppliers and farmers. There are a few cracking English vineyards within a stone's throw so we're focusing heavily on local wine.
"We really want to support as local as we can.
"We're restoring it to its former glory. We're stripping the carpet and exposing parquet floor that was originally here and we're getting furniture made in Stafford.
The couple, who took on the Fordwich Arms three years ago and secured a Michelin star within 10 months, will split their time between the two pubs.
With refurbishment work under way, they hope to open the Bridge Arms in the new year, or later this month if Covid rules allow.