The Delme Arms in Fareham has been crowned The News' best pub for third year running

THE landlord behind The News’ Pub of Year has revealed major expansion plans after following a ‘simple plan’ to success.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 1:40 pm

Neil Matthews at The Delme Arms has won our accolade for the third year running – but is nowhere near complacent, with plans to increase the dining area in a £100,000 expansion.

The landlord and his landlady partner Sarah Eccleston have run the pub in Cams Hill, Fareham, for four and a half years.

But on being named winner of our award, a stunned Neil said: ‘When I took over the pub, if someone had told me I would win the award three years running, I would have thought they were nuts.’

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The Delme Arms in Fareham, has won The News, Portsmouth competition for Pub of the Year. Pictured is Nadine Derrick, bar staff, Sarah Eccleston, landlady, Adrian Leslie, head chef, Neil Matthews, landlord and Ruby Jermyn, bar staff. Picture: Sarah Standing (030120-4441)

Neil, who first won the award in 2017, said: ‘We are hoping to expand the dining area to accommodate about 70 diners, compared to our capacity of about 40 at the moment.

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‘We are turning down people who want to host functions here because we don’t have the space.’

Neil credits his success to following ‘a simple plan’ based on his experience running leisure centres in Worthing and Southampton for more than 20 years.

The Delme Arms in Fareham, has won The News, Portsmouth competition for Pub of the Year.Pictured is: Nadine Derrick, bar staff, Adrian Leslie, head chef, Sarah Eccleston, landlady, Neil Matthews, landlord and Ruby Jermyn, bar staff. Picture: Sarah Standing (030120-4448)

The dad-of-five said: 'We have followed a fairly simple plan – have a happy smiling face greet people as they come through the door, keep the facilities clean, and give them what they want.’

The pub’s success is drawing customers from across the area, with 70-year old Joe Walling regularly cycling from Emsworth to enjoy a pint in the Fareham pub.

He said: ‘Neil is fantastic landlord, and he works very hard to make the pub a success.’

Landlord and landladies from across the area are looking at Neil and Sally’s three-year reign while hatching plans to knock them off the top spot.

Kelly Rainey, landlady of The Royal Albert in Albert Road, Southsea, took second place in this year’s competition but said she would ‘definitely’ take first place next year.

She said: ‘This is our first time nominated, so we are really chuffed to do so well as a pub in the Southsea area.

‘We will keeping doing what we are doing, but even better.’

She will have competition from Ian MacLennan, assistant manager of the Cuckoo Pint in Stubbington, which came third in this year’s competition.

He said: ‘We’d like to thank everyone who nominated us. It feels good to get recognition from regular customers.

‘Hopefully we will get the top spot next year.’