Marco Pierre White at The Chequers, Maresfield - East Sussex

Marco Pierre White wants to enrich the lives of locals living near to his latest venture, The Chequers at Maresfield. He is bringing his vision of a great pub to them...

Marco Pierre White wants to enrich the lives of locals living near to his latest venture, The Chequers at Maresfield. He is bringing his vision of a great pub to them...

The ChequersHigh Street, Maresfield, TN22 2EHT: 01825 763 843Email: info@the-chequersinn.co.uk

Villagers popping into their local in an East Sussex village have been doing a double-take recently as it’s been adopted by world-renowned chef Marco Pierre White. The Chequers, an 18th century coaching inn on the old London to Brighton stage coach route, with 12 en-suite rooms and two suites in the picturesque village of  Maresfield, near Uckfield, is the latest incarnation of White’s Wheelers of St James.He and his colleague, hotelier Paul Clark, have joined pub entrepreneurs Jack Bowyer and David Butcher to bring White’s vision of “good, honest food” to the good folk of East Sussex.It will be unashamedly English too. Its publicity material describes the aim as being “to create an eating, drinking and sleeping experience which is unrivalled in its Englishness”.Sitting in what used to be the restaurant and what will be the lounge area, White said: “I’m a great believer that success is born out of a collaboration of individual talents. Paul’s talents are different to mine, Jack’s talents are different to Paul’s, David’s talents are different to all three of us so therefore we all contribute something different. “Firstly you have to think of the locals, so therefore it’s still going to be a watering hole for the locals. “I think a restaurant should be multi-dimensional in a way so, for example, I’ve finished work today, I can’t be bothered cooking, I can go and have a shepherd’s pie and a pint. It’s mother’s birthday, I can take her for her birthday. I want to go with a business colleague for lunch, I can do that as well.“You’ve got to create a menu that ticks all boxes. I think that just to say, right this is the market we are aiming for, I don’t really agree with that. I like democratic environments. I like different sectors of society mingling into one. I like different age groups in an establishment rather than it being quite tribal.”

He stressed that it is very much a work in progress with work going on to improve the building and its bedrooms as well as the development of the menu.“Actually the locals kind of like seeing a work in progress because they’re involved in it. They’re seeing it on a daily basis, changing, and therefore they see the investment we’re making and I’m not talking about money now. It’s the investment we’re making with our time, with our emotions, with our expertise.“And they can see that what we’re trying to do is make The Chequers a great place, because it closed for a while and the locals had to go six miles down the road for a drink. “I come once or twice a week. I live in West London so it’s an hour 15 down the road for me, not too far.”White has brought Neil Thornley from his renowned Berkshire pub The Yew Tree as head chef. Thornley is utterly committed to White’s vision and much of the project’s success will depend upon him.“I’ve been here eight weeks. My vision for the food is the same as White’s. Like he says, it’s meant to be an extension of your living room.“It’s value for money. Good, well-cooked food. I believe it all to be good quality. I don’t believe there are any hits or misses.”And The Chequers is very much an extension of how you might imagine White’s own living room with the skulls of stags he has stalked on the wall of one room and prints from his extensive collection of JAK cartoons and David Hughes’ caricatures on the walls.The remaining space is taken up with photographs of old Maresfield including many of The Chequers.Both White and Thornley say the menu will, like the pub, develop over the coming months and visitors are bound to find changes each time they come back. Why not try it?

What was it like?On the basis of having the simplest thing on the menu to try the "good, honest food", I had steak and chips. And it was, as you would hope and expect, delicious. The steak was perfectly pink in the middle (I’d asked for medium) and the chips were chunky, crisp and fluffy inside. Definitely worth a visit.

Who are they?

Marco Pierre White is a legendary chef.  He left school at Leeds with no qualifications, trained with the Rouxs at Le Gavroche in London and by 24 was Head Chef and joint owner of Harveys with a kitchen staff that included the young Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. He was awarded his third Michelin star at the age of 33 – the first British and youngest chef ever to achieve this.

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Paul Clark has associations with a number of significant UK and Global businesses, including Trust House Forte, Virgin and Sea Containers.  More recently, Paul led a start up venture with Virgin Hotels and acted as CEO of DeVere Hotels. Currently he is providing management and consulting services to a number of operator/owners, Marco Pierre White amongst others, developing new restaurant and hotel concepts.

Jack Bowyer (first) and David Butcher are co-founders of the Powder Train Pub Company. Jack is a qualified brewer and entrepreneur, and has a long standing family connection with the industry, dating back to the time of Dr Johnson. From Barclay Perkins (which became Courages) to George Gale & Co in Horndean (which was sold to Fullers in 2005) Jack’s DNA is firmly rooted in this side of the business. Jack and David were both directors for family-owned Gales Brewery. When it was bought at its peak by Fullers, Bowyer and Butcher formed Powder Train. They have a number of other pubs, including the Kings Arms, in Fernhurst, West Sussex.

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