Builder takes 10 years to convert pub into restaurant – Kent Online

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05:00, 11 December 2021
 | Updated: 10:20, 11 December 2021
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Sheppey’s newest restaurant has finally opened and is ready for Christmas.
It has taken owner Mark Seagate 10 years to renovate the former Prince of Waterloo pub in Minster village on the Isle of Sheppey and turn it into Banks.
After a “soft launch” only opening for lunch Tuesdays to Sundays the 40-seat restaurant is now taking evening bookings for Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Head chef James ‘Bernard’ Johnson, 40, who gave up a career in sales to retrain, said: “The feedback so far has been really good. We don’t have one particular style for our menu. We pick the best of English, French and Italian dishes and serve them with our own special flair.”
Joining him in the open-plan kitchen, which can be viewed by the diners as the meals are prepared, are sous chef Gee, Blake Verlin and Ashleigh Hutchison.
Heading the six-strong front of house team is manager Emily Fuller, 24, who was previously at the Ferry Inn at Harty.
Bernard, a dad of two who was formerly head chef at the boutique Clarendon Royal Hotel in Gravesend, said: “All the staff are from the Island except me. I live in Lenham. But my aunty Patsy, who first inspired me to cook, lives on Sheppey. The Island is like a second home to me.”
It was her who put him in touch with the owner.
Bernard said: “Mark and I sat down for a chat and realised we both shared a similar vision for this place.”
Mark, 66, a builder, bought the run-down pub with his cousin Paul Dare in 2011 for £120,000 and has since spent thousands more renovating it from top to bottom. All the electrics and plumbing have had to be replaced, the walls and roof repaired and the once-dank cellar is now a wine vault.
He admitted: “It has taken a long time. It was falling apart and needed an awful lot of work but we are now open.”
He added: “I come from London but we stayed at a caravan at Sheerness for our holidays as boys. People ask why we want to open a restaurant on Sheppey but it is a wonderful location and, crucially, there aren’t any other restaurants like us. We are hoping to attract the ‘foodies’. If they can go to Read’s at Faversham or the Sportsman at Seasalter then I don’t see why they won’t want to come to Sheppey.”
There has been a pub on the site of the former Prince of Waterloo since 1633. Historians believe it was visited by author Charles Dickens who based a number of his characters on Island people when he was living in Blue Town.
The pub has been renamed Banks in honour of architect Sir Edward Banks who built the Royal Hotel in Sheerness, designed most of the town and created Sheppey Court which was once an imposing mansion.
He worked under engineer John Rennie on the Lancaster and Ulverston canals.The pair built lighthouses, prisons and bridges including Waterloo, Southwark and London bridges – for which Banks was knighted in 1822.
They also created new channels for the rivers Ouse, Nene and Witham in Norfolk and Lincolnshire and built Sheerness Dockyard.
Banks was also chief controller in Jolliffe and Banks, a partnership between him and William John Joliffe.
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