Hitchin's Red Hart surging back under Groundworks coffee kings Tom and Ben
PUBLISHED: 16:56 19 May 2018
An iconic Hitchin pub that closed last year is back with a bang under the team behind one of the town’s favourite coffeehouses.
Tom Weller and Ben Hedley, who founded Churchyard café The Groundworks back in 2014, have revamped the Red Hart in Bucklersbury – now known as Kite at The Red Hart.
The two 27-year-olds have been an unreserved success at The Groundworks, despite having the might of Starbucks around the corner in Market Place.
And Tom told the Comet their new venture was seeing similar success during its opening month.
“It’s been going brilliantly,” he said.
“We got off to a great start over the bank holiday weekend and we’re fully booked in the restaurant evey night this week.
“I think so far the best thing has just been seeing the the response from the public – it’s been phenomenal.
“The building has been iconic in Hitchin for decades and it’s just in the last couple of years it has faded away. It’s died quite a sad death – but we’re very glad to be the ones bringing it back to life, and returning it to how it was in its heyday.”
Tom said Kite at The Red Hart was not just a restaurant or pub but an all-day venue – and aimed to become a big events hub, with a lively events programme and a function space available for daytime or evening hire.
The Red Hart is one of Hitchin’s oldest pubs, dating back to at least the 16th century. It billeted Cromwell’s soldiers, hosted the Home Guard during the Second World War and is claimed to have been the location for the last public hanging in Hitchin.
It was a Greene King pub until last March, when the brewery closed and sold it.
Tom and Ben, who both live in the town, have known each other since they were at Hitchin Boys’ School together. Hitchin BID manager Tom Hardy helped them cut the ribbon at their new venture, with their staff looking on proudly.
Asked how running the Kite differed from The Groundworks, Tom stressed the different hours – 11am to midnight at the Kite, compared to 8am to 5pm back at the Churchyard café – and the fun of working in another part of the town centre.
“It’s a different crowd here, but we’re still providing the same kind of premium experience,” he said. “It’s very exciting, and it’s great to work with people in a different way.”