Brought to life by a family team with strong local connections, The
Powell is back where it belongs in the heart of its community
Walking into the front bar at The Powell in Birchington on a chilly Friday evening, the buzz of happy chatter envelops me and I start to feel immediately relaxed and at home.
Greeted warmly by co-owner Clare Darby’s daughter Scarlet, who is the overall manager, I’m shown up steep wooden steps from the bar to my cosy room on the first floor. It’s one of six individually designed bedrooms that were opened last October and all bear the hallmark of Clare’s exquisite eye for detail.
I’m in the Queen Elizabeth, named after Scarlet’s gran rather than our monarch, and charming it is too in shades of taupe and grey, elegant furniture including a pretty four-poster, plus a feature fireplace, beams and a neat little shower room.
Back downstairs and I’m soon chatting to restaurant manager Sarah about which cocktail I should try. ‘Bathtub’ G&T in hand, I catch up with owners
Clare and Robin and hear the fascinating story behind the renovation of this handsome pub on the village square, right next to All Saints Church.
Very bravely, after buying sight unseen at auction five years ago what was then an extremely run-down building, the couple shut the doors for two and a half years and set about a total refurbishment and transformation of the thenunloved 17th-century building.
Despite being told they were ‘quite mad’ closing for so long Robin, who is in the reclamation business, took the lead while Clare (who grew up in a pub) was in charge of the finishing touches. They make a great team.
“We wanted everything perfect before we opened – and it was,” says Robin, adding how well the new Powell has been received, with a growing clientele of locals and those from further afield.
But there were also other incentives, as Robin explains.
“My dad worked for the PowellCottons and my first job was as a farm hand at Quex Park [which houses The Powell-Cotton Museum]. The pub is named after after Squire John Powell Powell of Quex, who was High Sheriff of Kent in 1822, so there was a real family connection for me.”
The family feel extends to the (largely female) team, who are a delight; friendly, chatty and effortlessly efficient as they glide between the bar and eating areas.
There are diners tucking into fish and chips in The Snug, but
I’m in The Orangery restaurant (the former coachhouse), which is a step down from the bar through a splendid arch. With its wooden floor, brick walls and reclaimed brickwork plus dramatic chandeliers hanging from the beams, it’s a fine setting for a simple menu of home-made classics, where the emphasis is on quality local, seasonal produce.
My home-made fishcake sets the standard: a substantial tower of piping hot, tasty fresh fish, it’s decorated with peashoots and accompanied by a lovely pear purée, with an extra kick from
The Orangery Restaurant was formerly an 18th-century coachhouse
The welcoming bar
My Queen Elizabeth bedroom