October 11, 2022
Kings Head, Holmbury St Mary
Nestled at the foot of Holmbury Hill in the beautiful Surrey Hills, The Kings Head in Holmbury St Mary is a popular spot in this picturesque village. Its local owners have turned this newly refurbished freehold country pub into a hidden gem.
You can relax and explore the menu inspired by seasonal, local and fresh ingredients in one of its cosy sofa nooks or sample a selection of real ales from local breweries at the traditional standing bar. We spoke to manager Katy Bowker to find out more…
Tell us about The Kings Head
The historic building dates from the 17th century, and rumour has it that smugglers travelled through the area on their way from the coast to London with their contraband. We don't know a great deal more about it – but if only the walls could talk!
The current owners took it on around three years ago and set about refurbishing it, which took around two years. They're local and wanted to put something back into the community and create a place where people could gather and enjoy good food, a sociable atmosphere and a warm welcome..
What can anyone expect when they visit The Kings Head?
We pride ourselves on offering an exceptional fine dining experience as well as a beautiful, landscaped country garden, a private function room and accommodation so you can stay overnight. Everything has a luxury feel - the refurbishment was completed to a high standard, but at its heart, there's a friendly feel and our bar has a traditional rustic English country pub feel with many original features.
Who is your typical customer?
For the most part, it's still locals. We're a bit of a community hub and a place where people are enjoying coming back together. Word of mouth is spreading though, as well as walkers and cyclists stopping on their journeys, it's becoming a destination and people are travelling to find us.
Tell us a bit about your background Katy and how you came to The Kings Head.
I started out as a chef and began my career at another King's Head – in nearby Cuckfield. That gave me the passion for a great career in the industry, which has enabled me to travel extensively, cooking in Switzerland, France and Canada.
I worked at South Lodge when Tony Tobin was Head Chef, then I got a taste for the pub industry and discovered a love for front-of-house. After that, I had various other adventures before finding myself here with an opportunity I couldn't refuse. I didn't think I'd find myself back in the pub trade, but here I am again – privileged to be heading up such an exciting project with a great team of people.
Tell us about the menu.
Seasonal, local and fresh ingredients inspire all our food. The owners have a kitchen garden and so much of our produce, such as leaves and vegetables, comes from there. Our Head Chef, Ryan Cain, is really enthusiastic about the local area and what he can create from what's on the doorstep. So the menu is forever changing depending on new discoveries, what's in season and what the gardeners bring down to the kitchen.
Local food and drink are clearly an important objective. How did you go about sourcing the various suppliers?
Yes, making sure everything is as local as possible was an important objective for us. We went to local artisan markets, food fairs and farm shops to see exactly what was available. It's so important to look after local producers, and we're lucky to have so much quality and variety surrounding us.
What are some of your favourites?
Surrey Hills Coffee Roastery simply allows us to make the best cup of coffee, and it couldn't be more local – there's even a Holmbury Hill espresso blend. They're so knowledgeable and they seek perfection in every cup. They'll only send us new coffee when our stocks run out as they're so scrupulous about making sure it's all freshly ground.
Firebird Brewing Company over in Rudgwick is another fantastic local business that provide us with some of our local ales. The beer's great, it's a friendly service, and the company has a real community feel about it. There are so many others, but Taurus Wines also allow us to serve up a fantastic wine list. Again, they have amazing knowledge and provide an excellent service.
Tell us about the shop at The Kings Head.
Its run by Anastasia, who comes from Ukraine and is 100 per cent passionate about coffee. Anastasia trained as a Barista and knows everything about how to choose the right bean and grind to make the perfect cup. So as well as serving up consistently good coffee, we also stock a hand-picked selection of local produce and essential groceries from our artisan producers, such as bakery items, beer, cheese or just a pint of milk.