THIS year marks the 15th anniversary of Piers Baker's independent ownership of the Sun Inn.

Found at the heart of one of the most popular villages on the Essex/Suffolk border, the 15th century Coaching inn was in a sorry state when he arrived, with what he admits was a shoestring budget in 2003.

But the only way was up for Piers and after turning its fortunes around, the special birthday has been marked with a major refurbishment which has included a new kitchen and overhaul of the menus.

Piers says : "When we arrived at The Sun in 2003 with a shoestring budget, it was unbelievably grotty and we have carefully transformed the pub and bedrooms with a programme of ongoing improvements over the years, including a new terrace, garden bar and improving the rooms.

"But after 15 years’ footfall in the bar and dining room, we have take the opportunity to fully refresh the pub and give our excellent kitchen team the facilities they deserve."

Piers, who also owns Church Street Tavern in Colchester which he launched four years ago, explains the pub was closed for three weeks during January for the work to be carried out and has involved sanding and polishing the floors in the bar and dining room, installing bespoke banquettes, chairs, sofas and tables and putting in the new kitchen.

A team of eight staff work in the kitchen, lead by head chef Jack Levine, and the day to day running of the restaurant and rooms at the front of house is overseen by Charlotte Green and Alex Rogers.

Echo: The Sun at Dedham, after £150,00 re fit..The front (unchanged).

As a result of the new look there will be a more casual bar menu for customers which includes steamed mussels, a charcuterie platter and a daily special prepared by chef Jack, called Jack's snacks which is inspired by what he likes to rustle up from his own fridge when he gets in at midnight.

Piers, who employs a team of 25 staff at the Sun Inn, says they have never experienced a drop in sales in the time he has been there and he confident the recent refurbishment can only set them up for a strong future.

"We maintain our standards and do not deviate from that.

"Customers are certain about what they can expect here and that is what keeps them coming back.

"We can't be a place people only come for a special occasion because then they would only come once every now and then.

"We have people who come in for lunch on a regular basis, or dinner, or others who just want to have a drink but this is not a fish and chips, bangers and mash place, we are very serious about the food and what we do here.

"We don't have a huge menu in the restaurant, for example, because if you have tons of things on there you are not going to deliver high standards every time and that is what we always want to do," he says.

The Sun Inn prides itself on its seasonal, locally grown or raised where possible, produce and this is something Piers is passionate about.

"We would not serve Asparagus, for example, out of season, because there is something really special about having it as it is grown in the fields in Essex.

"You can make a real event of it.

"It can be difficult to stay seasonal, as in the winter not much grows in Britain because the ground is so hard, but if we have to get it it will be straight form France and not the supermarket.

"All our fish comes from the Little Fish Company, which launched day boats out of Wivenhoe and when it can;t it has boats across the south coast so it is not coming from a vessel which has been out for days o n end and is keeping its fish frozen on board," says Piers.

He adds : "We are happy to make changes to keep that freshness of food which people expect.

"This month we were meant to have plaice on the menu but there wasn't any so rather than get it further afield we had skate instead."

Piers worked in London for a number of years where he owned a gastro pub which soon turned into five.

But struggling to see a long-term life in the capital, he and his wife looked to move out and chose the north Essex area.

"My wife is originally from around here so that is why we chose here, and then the next stage was looking for a business.

Echo: Piers Baker who owns and runs the Sun Inn, Dedham

"And Dedham is an iconic village with a really lovely feel to it, lots of people visiting and coming through and a good footfall so it seemed ideal.

"The place was, as I said, pretty run down but it had a good lounge area, guest rooms and so much potential.

Guests and diners from across the world have stayed at the Sun Inn over the past 15 years, from Canada and Japan to France and Spain.

A few famous faces have also dropped in during that time too - including musician Sting who was particularly struck with one item on the menu.

"It was the first summer we were here and I was working in the kitchen that day.

"The manager took a call from someone who wanted to order food ahead,

"I said it was fine and she read out the menu to them and got as far as Tuscan Sausages and they stopped her straight away and said they would have three of those.

"When they arrived they sat in the garden and the staff came in and told me it was Sting and I didn't believe them at first.

"He was very nice, and very taken with the sausages, I think because they had a villa in Tuscany."

Other fans of the Sun Inn include actor and presenter Griff Rhys Jones, Frank Lampard and his wife Christine Bleakley and the actors from the Inbetweeners.

Piers adds: "We have a really loyal clientele and we are still a traditional inn but with modern standards.

"You can choose from something light, like a ploughmans or seabass for two but the quality is the same for both.

"We have really high quality cheese, bread we bake ourselves and chutneys which are made here too."

Customer feedback has also formed part of the decision to increase the steak element of the menu to include three permanent cuts of rare-breed steaks – skirt, sirloin and prime bone-in-rib with seasonal changing accompaniments.

"We can, and do, make changes for customers because we have the fresh food here ready to prepare.

"They might just want some plain chicken, or they might have a child with them wants to have a small steak."

It is what puts the Sun Inn, Dedham, at the forefront of dining out.