The Tilbury reaches finals of top pub competition

James and Tom Bainbridge of The Tilbury, finalists for the BII Licensee of the Year Awards 2019

The landlords of a local pub have reached the finals of the industry’s most prestigious competition. The Tilbury in Datchworth, near Knebworth, run by James and Tom Bainbridge, is one of just six pubs from across the country shortlisted for the BII (British Institute of Innkeeping) Licensee of the Year Awards, with the overall winner announced in London on 4th June.

James and Tom have been at The Tilbury, owned by pub operator and brewer Brakspear, since 2014. In that time, they have built it into a thriving and friendly pub offering top notch food, drink and customer service, within an informal and relaxed environment. Although the reputation around its food attracts diners from far afield, the pub is still firmly rooted in the local community, sponsoring the local boys’ football and girls’ rugby teams and giving meal vouchers and other support to local groups.

The Awards judges were impressed with The Tilbury’s menu, created by Tom, whose passion for interesting flavour combinations produces ‘wow factor’ dishes such as a white chocolate & peppercorn hummus with anchovy toast, and by its wine list, which has achieved AA accreditation. Front of house, James’s years of hospitality experience including a stint at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, ensure professional, attentive customer service.

Judges also considered The Tilbury’s employment practices. With a total of 15 staff including two apprentices, James and Tom are keen to develop talent and have helped a number of young waiting or kitchen team members to build a successful career in hospitality. Team members receive regular training across all areas of the business from wine appreciation to mental health awareness.

The BII Licensee of the Year Awards receive entries from hundreds of licensees across the country.  James and Tom reached the finals after successfully coming through a rigorous judging process involving several stages.

James said, “Applying for the Licensee of the Year Award has been really tough, but also tremendously rewarding.  We never imagined we would reach the finals, so it’s been wonderful to have this recognition from experts in our industry that the way we run the Tilbury is ‘best in class’.

“We couldn’t have progressed past the first stage of the Awards without the help of our fantastic team at the pub, including my wife Nicola, Tom’s wife Emma and our father Ian, who all help in the business. We’re also grateful to Brakspear, who have supported us in building the business over the last five years.

“We’re up against some strong competition on the shortlist, but we’ll give it our very best shot in the final stage of judging, and hope that our names will be called out as Licensees of the Year 2019!”

Mike Clist, chief executive of the BII, said, ““The BII Licensee of the Year competition has long been renowned for being the most rigorous of all the awards in licensed retailing and is the one that individual operators really want to win. We consistently see an extremely high standard of entrants and 2019 has been no exception.”

Tom Davies, Brakspear chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to see James and Tom in the finals for the BII Awards. They have been outstanding landlords at The Tilbury and thoroughly deserve this recognition. We wish them every success for the announcement next month.”

On 3rd June, James and Tom will face three judging panels made up of industry experts and be grilled on Business Development, People & Training and Financial Awareness. The overall winner will be decided and announced at the BII Summer Event the next day, on 4th June attended by over 800 people from the pub industry.

The Tilbury, 1 Watton Road, Datchworth, Hertfordshire, SG3 6TB

Telephone:   01438 815550