A London property developer with a passion for beekeeping has rescued a 400-year-old pub in the centre of Swanage and says he wants to bring back a real community buzz.
The Grade II listed Anchor Inn in the High Street, closed in December 2022; a victim of the cost of living crisis as its electricity bill alone soared from £18,000 a year to an estimated £80,000.
Khalid Undre, the new owner of the Anchor Inn at Swanage with his beehives
Anchor Inn ‘too important’ to be lost to the town
Previous managers who had taken over at the Anchor in 2019 were forced to shut due to Covid restrictions in March 2020, then spent much of 2020 and 2021 either closed or restricted and were just rebuilding trade when soaring fuel and food prices made the inn no longer viable for them.
But Khalid Undre, a property developer from London who also runs a growing beekeeping business, believes that the Anchor is too important to be lost to the community, and if run effectively could have a long and exciting future.
“I now get asked on a regular basis, why I decided to buy a pub in Swanage, especially given the cost of living crisis at the moment.
“The Anchor Inn has been there for 400 years, it’s a landmark building and part of the fabric of Swanage which is too important to lose – and also has fantastic footfall.
“It can be a very viable business, so we decided to offer something different. People don’t just come into a pub to have a pint of lager and go home, they want to meet their friends, have a good time, enjoy some great food, it should be a real hive for the community.
“So we have decided to focus on the vibe, to make it a place where you don’t drown your sorrows, but go in to celebrate life.”
The ultimate burger and JJ’s bangers and mash are on a simplified menu
Simple traditional foods are back on the menu
The new team is bringing simplicity and tradition to the menu while making sure that the food is sourced from local butchers, fishermen and farmers, cooked to a high standard and aiming for a taste that will keep people coming back for more.
The menu will offer pie and mash with ‘the most beautiful gravy you’ve ever tasted’, fish pie with seafood caught fresh off the coast of Swanage, and burgers or bangers and mash with meat from local Swanage butchers.
And while going back to basics will make the menu manageable and viable, at the same time as being high quality, the Anchor’s chefs will also be able to do special events like Valentine’s Day and Mothering Sunday when families have something special to celebrate.
Their Valentine Night menu for 2023 included lobster, oysters and chocolate dipped strawberries, a ‘sticky fingers’ sharing platter or a vegan Lebanese mezze, and bookings are already being taken for a Mother’s Day event on Sunday 19th March 2023.
A lot of attention has been paid to the beer cellar, making sure that drinks are served at the right temperature with several real ales on tap, while the decor has also been changed to make the Anchor more comfortable and welcoming.
A friendly greeting behind the bar at the Anchor Inn from Bryanie and Jordan
A vegan Lebanese mezze was on the menu for Valentine’s night
“We are putting money into a landmark pub”
“We need people to understand that we are investing in Swanage, putting money into a landmark pub to make sure that it isn’t lost to the town. We have rescued it from bankruptcy and given it a new lease of life, and would love the community to support it in return.
“There are pubs that will really struggle while the cost of living crisis is still with us and only the best will survive. We are not some big international company, the only other pub we run is a cocktail bar in Poole, but we do understand what makes a great night out.
“We will make it a very friendly place at the centre of the local community, we are employing staff with great communication skills and there will always be a warm welcome at the Anchor.”
The food of love – local lobster and Dorset oysters were served up for a special meal
“The Anchor needs someone to love it”
“When I was growing up, if you wanted to meet up with your neighbours or get the family together, you would do it down the pub. I’d like to freshen up that idea and make it relevant to the 21st century.
“Some pubs might need £500,000 pumping into them and you know they would never make a return, but the Anchor isn’t one of those. It needs someone to understand it, to love it and to make it a community hub again.
“It’s never going to be a fine dining restaurant, and if you are feeling the pinch you may not feel like going to a Rick Stein restaurant for fish and chips at £25, but we can serve you a great fisherman’s pie at an affordable price in an atmosphere you will want to come back to.”
Sunday roasts are back on the menu and getting more popular every week
The Anchor aims to be both a traditional pub and a space where special events can be held
Honey hobby has become a sweet success
Live music will be introduced every Friday night at the Anchor from 31st March 2023, pie nights are being run every Wednesday and roast Sunday dinners are back on the menu every weekend as the pub looks to build up its community custom through word of mouth.
Unfortunately, as there is no beer garden at the Anchor, Khalid’s bees are unlikely to find a Dorset base, but his London-based honey business is going from strength to strength.
He bought some land in Harrow in 2010 after he returned from a spell working in Dubai, originally to create greenspace in his local community. As a hobby, he bought half a dozen hives to put in the back garden, but it soon developed into something much more serious.
His original plan with the land was to create a food forest, filled with edible plants, but became fascinated with the bees and then found out that his millionaire friends were genuinely excited when he brought jars of homemade honey to their events.
He began selling his honey in 2017 and now has more than 300 hives dotted around a dozen location in London and Essex.
Khalid’s bees live on a rooftop in Holland Park where a two-bed flat sells at £7 million
Hives on the roof of £7 million flats
“I always wanted to get into growing crops and having a bit of land, getting my wellies on and digging holes to plant trees.
“Bees are fascinating, there’s so much to learn about them. Each hive has around 20,000 bees. They are so intelligent, they won’t enter a hive other than their own and, if a bee were to try to enter the wrong hive, the other bees would stop them.
“As soon as daylight hits the entrance of their hives, they’re off to forage for pollen and nectar. If they find a good spot to pollinate, they’ll share the coordinates with other bees in the hive so they can find it too.
“There’s plenty of room for more beekeepers and hives, there’s not enough people looking after them. I even have hives on a roof garden of a building in Holland Park where two-bed flats go for £7 million and the service charge is £40,000 a year – but I just saw space that was not being used.
“It’s been 12 years since I first started planting on the land I bought and now, it’s a beautiful space with trees and flowers.
“We have since built three large ponds with islands in the middle so that birds can lay their eggs away from foxes. I’m really proud of the natural environment I’ve created and I’m looking forward to watching it continue to thrive.”
Open again for business and looking to be a bustling community pub
Locals barricaded themselves in to avoid press gangs
The Anchor Inn was originally the building where stagecoaches and Royal Mail coaches left for Wareham, and was also the local market house where business was conducted on Fridays every week.
The inn was also used as a place of refuge by local men who barricaded themselves in when the King’s press gang arrived seeking to recruit crews for ships in Poole Harbour, especially during the wars of the 17th and 18th centuries.
It is a Grade II listed building, believed to date back to the 17th Century, partially built in Purbeck stone and with unusual double-hung sash windows on each floor.
- More about the Anchor Inn on the High Street in Swanage is on its Facebook page