My Pub: the Tiger Inn, Stowting, Kent

By Gary Lloyd

- Last updated on GMT

Hear me roar: the Tiger Inn near Ashford, Kent
Hear me roar: the Tiger Inn near Ashford, Kent

Related tags The Tiger Inn My Pub Gastropub Pubco + head office Food Beer

Rural pub the Tiger Inn is big on food – so much that it was a finalist in the Great British Pub Awards Best Food Pub category in 2022 and for Best Pub Chef in 2023.

The Kent venue offers a mixture of décor styles but still has original features plus quirky additions.

Real ales and a great wine list combines with an ethos is to use the local and seasonal produce to deliver gastro food with a twist.

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Licensees of Contemporary Pubs Nadine and Will Sheldon

Here, Hugh Thompson – group manager of Contemporary Pubs, which operates the Tiger Inn – tells The Morning Advertiser​ all about the south-east site.

The pub

The business has organically grown rapidly at a time when hospitality and other industries have faced challenges.

Our ethos is to offer the best of what Kent has – utilising seasonal and local produce. Our chefs have all worked in AA Rosette kitchens with some of them having honed their craft in Michelin kitchens prior to establishing themselves at the Tiger Inn.

We give our head chef the freedom to be creative within the parameters of our offering, enabling us to cater for a wide demographic.

Our food offering is fantastic, gastro food with a twist, all made fresh and inclusive of some home favourites done to perfection as well as some as some more complex and creative dishes.

It is imperative the front and back of house work in complete synergy, complementing one another and creating a uniform product. Our approach to the customer is friendly, warm and relaxed and let our staff express their personalities and uniqueness.

The Tiger Inn has gone through a huge transformation, having completed on the purchase back in January 2021.

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The design of the pub mixes both contemporary and classic with beautiful handmade tables and antique wood throughout the pub giving it a real country feel with some carefully upcycled and intricate design bringing a modern and light twist.

The terrace has been transformed with a floral element and long handmade tables with huge slabs of slate serving as the tops, with booth-like wooden displays creating almost natural barriers, a slight nod to the pandemic.

This award nominated and winning pub has achieved a huge amount in a short period of time, having been awarded the Best Pub in Kent (within its first year), and finalists in the Great British Pub Awards for Best Pub for Food 2022​ and Best Chef 2023.

The publican

Contemporary Pubs was established in January by husband-and-wife duo, Will and Nadine Sheldon. After a total renovation, the Marquis of Granby, situated in the picturesque valley of Alkham, opened its doors in April 2019 to great acclaim.

Facts ’n’ stats

Pub name:​ the Tiger Inn

Address:​ Scott’s Lane, Stowting, Ashford, Kent, TN25 6BA

Senior staff:​ licensees Will and Nadine Sheldon, group manager Hugh Thompson

Wet:dry split:​ 42:58


The couple’s ambition was to expand into multiple venues and that dream became reality after the purchase and refurbishment of the Tiger Inn, Stowting, Ashford, Kent, in 2021. And what a first year the pub had with lots of award wins and nominations.

This has enabled the journey to continue with our latest purchase, the Kings Arms in Elham, having waited three years for planning permission and conducting an 11-month restoration and refurbishment of a beautiful Grade II-listed building. What was looking like it was destined to be converted into residential property, this now jewel of a beautiful village, has become the centre piece of Elham Valley.

The trade

We endeavour to cater for all ages and palates, allergens and dietary requirements.

Our menu is diverse and methodically created with elements based on some home-cooked favourites with a twist or some more obscure dishes showing the skillset within our kitchen, bringing consistency and aim of perfection, to every dish.

We also make sure we are inclusive in our seating arrangement. Our bar area has been designed purely to encourage our locals from a drinks and snacks perspective, with the ‘snug’ offering a more informal evening and our ‘old bar’ section bringing the wow factor with the contemporary and classic design at the centre point of this room.

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Hugh Thompson

Our upstairs ‘Birchie’s’ private dining room has been used for a variety of family events and special occasions or purely to have a Sunday lunch with a view over the Kent countryside.

The pub has become a focal point for the community and our weekly music nights on a Saturday and the consistent food offering and happy staff is a way for us to  the chance to capitalise on what we think a  country gastropub should be.

The team

I can’t think of a better service than what our team offer. Staff members are outstanding with their aim to continue to grow and develop. This is from the bottom to the top.

The owners are incredibly hands-on but let the staff grow in their positions and don’t believe in micromanaging unless needed when it comes to further learning and training new staff. What makes this even more special is that for a lot of the team, they are at university locally and looking at alternative careers in the future but still work harder than any team I have come across.

Some of the team have decided to continue their education online as opposed to going to a campus in order to continue their employment with us. Others have decided to join us full time and push for the prospect of developing within our business through promotion.

They constantly test one another and gel as one, I couldn’t be prouder and hope they all have fantastic careers, whether with us or in other industries should they choose to in the future.

Our staff retention is incredibly high and we have struggled considerably less than others when opening our doors.

As well as ongoing product training and development in-house, our staff are given the opportunity to take on courses and qualifications.

We have put members of the team through courses such as Level 1 WSET training, personal licence, cellar management, Level 2 and 3 chef HIT Training, food safety and health & safety courses. Regular tastings are conducted, and we quiz our team quarterly to develop the individuals.

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We also visit vineyards, breweries, gin distillers and suppliers so team members understand the process on how the products are made and why they may differ from their competitors. It is important for the team to also develop an eye for detail to make sure the ambience within the pub is at its optimum and are naturally gifted when adapting to different clientele, something we look for within recruitment but also assist and train with ongoing support.

What’s on the menu?


Kentish Blue cheese mousse, puff pastry, salt baked beetroot, toasted walnut, pickled celery - £8

Guinness cured salmon, Guinness bread, endive, horseradish mayonnaise - £10

Coronation chicken terrine, mango & papaya salsa, sourdough - £11


Satay baked cauliflower, peanut and lime dressing, fried rice noodle - £17

Pan roast cod loin, creamed butterbean & leek cassolette, baby spinach, tarragon pesto - £24

Confit pork belly, pulled pork suet pudding, honey glazed carrot, pork puffs, carrot puree, red wine jus - £25


Lemon posset, white chocolate and raspberry granola - £8

Pear & ginger cheesecake, ginger honeycomb - £9

Salted caramel fondant, white chocolate crumb, chocolate ice cream - £10

As well as regular service incentives, such as a meal for two to whomever sells the most specials, for example, we also regularly take staff – who continue to perform at the highest of levels – to various restaurants in the county or in London in order to have a different perspective of how another venue conducts a service but so that they can enjoy a much-deserved treat.

We also send staff to sparkling wine houses and local vineyards. Team bonding is also crucial and every six months, some of the staff will go for a round of golf or all go for a team meal.

We are able to motivate the team by creating a friendly and fun atmosphere to work in and it is crucial that all of the staff gel well together, not only professionally but also personally.

As a growing entity, there is an opportunity for the right individuals to grow within the business and we try, when possible, to promote within.

The owners are also incredibly hands-on which sets an example to the whole team. They have paid towards cars being fixed, helped finance home moves and are approachable to all the staff which has, as well as many other things, developed loyalty and very low staff turnover.

Our product, I believe, is both unique and of the highest quality. The design of the pub to the food offering is both diverse and of the highest quality which we reflect and emulate in our overall offer. The team completely believe in us and what has been created by all involved and strive to make everyone’s experience a memorable one.

The drink

We have a fine-tuned offering when it comes to our drinks menu, with a Kentish ale, cider and two local lagers as well as other premium draft products from further afield.

Our ethos with both our food and drink offering is to source locally utilising the very best produce made in Kent. Our bottled and draft ciders are also made within 15 miles of us.

Similar to our food offering, we expand our demographic to find some of the best produce should we need, travelling across the Continent to find some of Europe’s finest craft offerings on our taps.

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Will Sheldon

With Kent producing some of the best sparkling wines, we are fortunate to be situated in the neighbouring valley from Simpson’s Wines of which we utilise as well as other fine producers in Kent.

Our wine list is carefully curated by our trusted suppliers, owners, senior management and a master of wine, Clive Barlow, who consults for us. We quality test everything and adapt our wine list with household names as well as more obscure wines from Lebanon and Hungary to name a few.

The food

We try to create a balanced menu that caters for a variety of palates, educating with finer dishes as well as home-made favourites that are executed to the highest of levels.

Our head chef is incredibly personal and passionate and keen to go to the tables to discuss the creation and execution of the dishes as well as get feedback from the customers. This is regularly commented on from our customer base positively and an extra part of the service that we feel as an additional part of the service. 

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It is imperative front of house and kitchen interact to create synergy and understanding with how dishes should be served as well as have a full understanding of the plate as a whole. Dishes are served in different ways and various accompaniments and sources are served at the table with an element of theatre.

Another aspect of theatre is the inclusion of dry ice on some of the desserts which are carried through from the pass to the table for all customers to view.

All of our chefs have worked in either AA Rosette or Michelin-awarded kitchens and have been imperative to the success and the consistency to our food offering.

The events

We employed a new events and marketing manager at the beginning of the year with the objective of focusing on promoting the business, driving traffic to the pubs and taking control of all events and marketing.

Within this new role, we have increased our reach via email campaigns, our social media presence and community engagement. Having email campaigns going out each week allows us to promote and offer individual special offers.

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With events from quarterly dining clubs to charity days and big bank holiday weekend events, we have many events coming up throughout the calendar year. We also look to work with local partners, such as food suppliers, vineyards, and other restauranteurs to promote the very best of Kent.

In order to drive sales within our community, we promote a locals’ music night on a Monday that brings a fabulous mix of all ages, drinkers and music lovers. We are also constantly engaged through Kent-based magazines and social media platforms, with a Kent based company managing our accounts and promoting us monthly with a newsletter providing our client base with continued updates.

The future

The property was purchased in late 2020 with refurbishments beginning in January 2021 and completing mid-May 2021. As well as internal changes, we underwent major works in the car park to not only increase the size but to hide the storage tank from sight.

The front terrace, which had become a former shadow of itself, is now a floral masterpiece, with external seating for up to 100 guests creating an atmosphere that is unrivalled within our competitive proximity.

We were keen to keep some key memorabilia from previous ownerships and ornaments that have a place within the community such as the original sign that now hangs from one of our internal walls.

We have also refurbished the original beer pumps and continue to use them.

The kitchen has been completely refurbished and is now partially open plan with state-of-the-art equipment in order to facilitate the broad menu and high standards our kitchen team and senior management have put in place.

In January, we close for three days in order to let the staff enjoy a Christmas party and do any maintenance that needs carrying out. We have had painters in to touch up any wear and tear, an electrician to carry out compliance checks and replacement of light fittings.

This year, we have replaced two chefs’ fridges and one freezer as well as inputting an air-conditioned system within the extraction unit to improve the heating conditions within the kitchen.

We have sent three members of staff on cellar management courses and carried out a WSET course Level 1 at the Tiger for 16 members of the team.

Another important investment is our partnership with the Chef’s Partnership for both individuals and groups. This is at a monthly cost and we see a fantastic return due to the welfare of the team and continued support they receive.

We have attempted to acquire land locally to increase the parking capacity as well as offer some accommodation, however, we are still searching for the right land with permission.

In terms of expansion, we have bought and refurbished the grade II-listed Kings Arms pub that was in complete disrepair, which has enabled our growth. We have also acquired some properties surrounding this pub that will be transformed into accommodation.

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