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The King’s Arms Reopens After Stunning Renovation

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

The highly anticipated reopening of The King’s Arms in Dorchester has arrived in style. Having been acquired by Stay Original in 2016, the historic venue has undergone a major renovation with a spacious ground floor bar and restaurant.

Now the popular bar, restaurant and hotel is open once again. We couldn’t be more delighted to give the new owners a warm Dorchester welcome!

kings arms dorchester bar

The Grade II-listed building is located on Dorchester’s High East Street and featured in Thomas Hardy’s novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge as well as Far From The Madding Crowd.

As part of the first phase of opening there will be 20 delightful bedrooms and a further 14 bedrooms will open next year.

We caught up with Rob Greacen from Stay Original ahead of the official opening on 17th September 2020.

rob greacen kings arms dorchester
Rob Greacen – Managing Director, Stay Original

What is the background behind you and your business?

I live in Pilton, Somerset and my background is in property and private equity. Having become involved with River Cottage as a Director and shareholder, I acquired an interest in the food we were producing there.

We set up Stay Original about 10 years ago – a pub and hotel business across the South West. We buy buildings, refurbish them and produce interesting food in a similar style to River Cottage.

So that’s really where this project started – the fifth that we’ve completed now and we’ve been slowly working our way around the West Country looking for the right sort of buildings, we take them on, build them, develop them and run them as part of a small group.

The building has much history in Dorchester. Have you managed to preserve many of the original features of the King’s Arms?

We have tried to reveal the original pattern of how the building was built. We’ve got a room that dates back to the 16th Century. We show the stables that used to be here and various columns and features that we’ve discovered that were hidden by walls. Wherever we’ve found anything that we think shows a bit of the history, we’ve tried to use it.

What does phase 1 of the opening include for guests?

Phase 1 of the renovation includes the bar and restaurant plus a couple of additional meeting rooms and 20 bedrooms. Phase 2 will follow with another 15 bedrooms, also the Casterbridge Room and probably another couple of receptions rooms too.

kings arms hotel bedrooms

Have you received many bookings since announcing the opening date?

Yes we have, it’s looking pretty busy over the next few weeks. However, we want to grow the business gently. We don’t want to be too busy, and too overwhelmed to begin with because we’re still training the team and finding our feet here.

kings arms Dorchester restaurant
The line-up of chefs are ready and raring to go and Kirsty Schmidt – General Manager, King’s Arms Dorchester (right).

What highlights can visitors expect from the menu?

There are lots of interesting highlights. We have a lot of local fish and a very good local meat supplier from the Jurassic Coast. A particular favourite of mine at the moment is the pork rotisserie and some excellent halibut. We tend to have a very short menu which changes regularly.

kings arms menu
kings arms food
Delicious crispy lamb scrumpet starter with slow cooked rotisserie pork belly, ‘nduja, dates and honey main.

What extra measures has COVID-19 made you introduce as part of the opening?

It’s had a very big effect on how we space plan. We’ve had to space all the tables further apart and as a result we have fewer covers because of that. We have a member of staff who’s only job is to sanitise all of the surfaces that may be touched during the service. We have also introduced a track and trace booking system.

It has been quite a rigorous routine, but everyone’s got used to it as we’ve just had to deal with it the last few months. Luckily our buildings are reasonably large so we have enough space to accommodate everybody. It’s a well-established routine now across all of our hotels and restaurants.

What are the next phases planned for the development and what are your long-term plans and aspirations for the venue?

The business needs to find its feet and see how it fits in Dorchester. We have the additional phase of bedrooms to supply next and some interesting ideas of how to use the Casterbridge Room. Potentially, The King’s Arms can be a place for people to come and work in Dorchester as well as a meeting room.

In the meantime, we are just concentrating on providing very good food and excellent bar service and seeing what people want. We’re very flexible and taking a long-term view with this project. In our experience with our other businesses, we’ve found that it can take a while before it grows into itself. We’re all feeling very positive!

The attention to detail is impressive with fitting tributes to the history of the building dotted around the venue.

The King’s Arms in Dorchester reopens its doors and welcomes guests on Thursday 17th September 2020. We’d like to wish Rob, Kirsty and all of the team a smooth launch and successful future at the iconic Dorchester venue.

Find out more, book a table or book a room at The King’s Arms Dorchester.

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