Published: 17:00, 11 December 2018
A chef who once worked with Gordon Ramsay is looking to transform a pub’s image after taking over as landlady.
Claire Darcey, 41, is looking to turn the Queen Anne - known for years as Maidstone’s only gay bar - into a venue with more of a focus on families.
The pub on Queen Anne Road now offers karaoke, a quiz night, live entertainment as well as food served every day, including roast dinners on Sunday.
But Ms Darcey, who took over in September, insists the LGBT community remains welcome, despite the previous owners having taken the rainbow from the pub sign with them when they sold up and left.
There are also plans to open up the venue to give budding local artists an opportunity to showcase their work to a wider audience on Saturday afternoons in the new year.
Mum-of-two Ms Darcey, who is born and bred in Maidstone, said: “I’m trying to get it back into the community - we’re not really in the town centre but we’re not hidden away either, it’s easy to get to.
“I’ve come to know quite a few of the regulars already, it’s a really nice atmosphere. Children are also welcome until 9pm which gives families plenty of time to enjoy the pub in the evening.”
The landlady, who still works as a chef in the pub kitchen, previously worked under one of the business’ toughest bosses in TV star Ramsay at his Pétrus restaurant in the capital, before being head-hunted by Greene King.
“He’s not as shouty or sweary as on TV, but there were times when he got angry,” she said.
“One day he came up to me at the end of service and said ‘darling, cover your ears, whatever I say next is nothing to do with you’.
"He lined up the other staff and said ‘do you think that was good service? You should know better, how long have you worked here?’
"He then told them to pick up a toothbrush and start cleaning - that was the only time I really heard him shout.”
“I really enjoyed working there but it was difficult doing such long hours and travelling between Maidstone and London with children at home as well.”