A COUPLE from Ringwood are celebrating after their pub was named 'newcomer of the year' at an awards ceremony this week.

Phil Hoyle and his fiancée Sarah Williams took on The London Tavern in Linford Road, Poulner just last year.

The venue has now claimed a top accolade at the Ei Group Awards for Excellence.

Mr Hoyle has known the building since 1988, when it became the first pub he drank in.

He went on to run several pubs in the Bournemouth area, including the Pig and Whistle, before working as an estate agent for four years.

Mr Hoyle then returned to the London Tavern in August last year, this time as the landlord

Ei Group chief executive Simon Townsend said: “It’s widely reported that the first year of running a business is, for many, the most challenging, but those first few months can also be the most rewarding.

"I think Phil has made a huge success of the London Tavern, and we’re sure he and his team will continue to bring his vision to life as they keep up the great work.”

Each of the pubs nominated for awards were judged by a panel of industry experts before site visits were conducted by 'pub expert' Phil Dixon.

Finalists were invited to attend a gala awards ceremony at the Old Thorns Hotel in Liphook, Hants earlier this week.

Mr Townsend said: “The standard of entries to our awards this year was exceptionally high with so many of our publicans going the extra mile to make a real difference in their communities."

The London Tavern opened in the 1860s.

The bar features a tribute to one-time regular Ray Dean, a 19-year-old Spitfire pilot who was killed over France on November 17, 1941.

A photograph of Ray with some of his fellow airmen is displayed in the corner.