After well over a year and one or two false starts, The Old Oak Inn in Arlington can finally throw open the doors to its sheltered but spacious south facing beer garden today, Monday 12th April.
Landlady Kate Maynard and her husband, bought the popular country pub situated right opposite Abbots Wood, at the end of November.
“We were able to open for substantial meals for the first three weeks of December but then came the lockdown on Boxing Day. It was, however, a great opportunity to meet many of the locals and to showcase our new menus. We have been doing takeaways Thursday to Sunday ever since and they have become increasingly popular as word gets around.”
Neither Kate nor her husband Paul, have been involved in the hospitality sector before, so what prompted them to buy a pub in the middle of a pandemic? “Good question! To be honest, when we heard the pub was on the market, we knew we had to go for it – although persuading banks to lend on a pub at the current time was something of a challenge. There is no other pub we would have contemplated buying. Our families have been going to the Old Oak for generations and it seemed a perfect fit.”
Steeped in history
What else was it about the Old Oak that made it stand out? “Well, the character of the building itself for a start – low beams, inglenook fireplaces with real log fires and a genuine cosy feel about it. It was built in 1733 and started life as a poor house. There is history everywhere – even in the oak engravings embedded in the bar which depict the history of the pub in four different eras.
Apart from that, it is the location. There are views from the garden across the Cuckmere Valley towards Wilmington and Firle but of course, literally on the doorstep is Abbots Wood, which is about to spring into life with its renowned carpet of bluebells. During the latest lockdown and as the weather started to improve, the pub has become increasingly popular with walkers, dog owners, horse riders, cyclists etc and many choose to start or finish their journey with one of our takeaways or hot or cold drinks.”
Fine food for all
In terms of their ambitions for the pub, Kate added, “We were thrilled to recruit our Head Chef Alex Jones, who was trained in a Michelin starred kitchen and who has cooked and travelled around the world, including New York, Japan, France and Canada. The pub has always had a good reputation for food and wine but we want to try to lift the standard of the food by a notch or two if we can. It won’t immediately become a ‘fine dining’ establishment – we will still be doing pub classics but perhaps with a modern international twist. We’d be pleased if people started to regard the Oak as a ‘gastro pub’. Despite only opening on 3rd December the pub has already had some rave reviews on social media.
Five star rating
The pub now boasts a brand new wine list with an eclectic and carefully selected range of new and old world wines, with some unusual bottles from places such as Judea and Romania. Most are reasonably priced but for those who want to splash out in style there are some top wines “from the owners’ cellar”.
The new owners have also invested in new chairs and solar lights for the garden as well as a new floor in the kitchen – essential to maintain the pub’s five star food hygiene rating. Beyond that there is talk of a beer and cider festival and bringing live music back to the Oak – watch this space.
The Old Oak Inn
East Sussex BN26 6SJ