A triple Michelin-awarded chef believes a Lancashire village can become one of the best restaurants in the country.
Tim Allen has graced the highest caliber of restaurants in London and in Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds.
His next adventure will see him go it alone to start his first restaurant – so named Sō-lō.
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But rather than travel to a big city, Tim moved to Aughton in the countryside of West Lancashire, a village which the Daily Telegraph recently described as “the hottest culinary destination in the UK”.
Nearby, two-Michelin-starred Moor Hall has racked up countless awards since opening, earning critical acclaim and attracting visitors from all over the world.
Speaking to LancsLive, Tim said the success of Moor Hall and its boss Mark Birchall, with whom he is good friends, was part of the attraction of the area.
A £ 200,000 transformation of the Wine Bar, which closed when the owner of the Seafood Pub Company ran into financial problems, is nearing completion and Tim is delighted to open for the first time on November 5th.
On the menu is his modern take on British cuisine – designed to be high quality but accessible rather than elite. In Tim’s words, “modern but accessible, nothing too far-fetched”.
Traditional dishes will be enriched with influences from around the world and the classic training of the chef.
Initial plans include plenty of herbal options as part of the a la carte and lunch menus, while Tim said that even before they open there is such demand that a test menu will likely be offered.
A signature gin is currently in the works, while some jaw-dropping cocktails are expected to feature as well.
The chef, who has graced the television screens of Saturday Kitchen and the Great British Menu, is excited to help Aughton become a culinary capital.
When asked why he chose this location for his solo adventure, he replied, “To be honest I could say why Mark opened Moor Hall in the middle of nowhere in a field. Having Moor Hall down the street is part of the attraction.
“Competing for me is a fantastic thing, we push each other to do better things.
“We entered this [purchase] late. There were a couple of other offers and we got there late.
“We wanted to work with an owner rather than a venture capitalist. Ian Mercer, owner of the building, is local, very well known around here and we liked him very much.
“He’s also very excited about what we’re doing here. “
Tim added: “It’s clear that people like to eat well here.
“If we get it right on a regular basis, they will come back.
“I think it’s going really well, I think it can become a bit of a food hot spot.”
Tim has two decades of experience in the best restaurants in the UK, having started at the age of 15 washing pots and working in Yorkshire pubs.
He joined Launceston Place in London in 2012 as a chef and in six months he received his first Michelin star. Four AA rosettes soon followed.
In 2015, Tim joined Lady Bamford at The Wild Rabbit in Kingham, Oxfordshire as Executive Chef and again earned a Michelin Star.
In 2018, he reunited with two Michelin-star chef Daniel Clifford as the partner chef of his restaurant with rooms in Little Dunmow, which was quickly renamed Tim Allen’s Flitch of Bacon Inn.
Serving seasonal British cuisine with a modern twist, the restaurant earned its first Michelin star in six months, becoming the only place in Essex to hold this honor.
In Sō-lō, the best local ingredients will be used in the dishes, another thing that drew Yorkshireman Tim to the area.
He said, “When you have that level on your doorstep, it makes it so much easier.
“If you start with shit, you’re going to end with shit.
“If you start with quality, you can cook with quality and end with quality. “
The focus was on sustainability throughout the renovation, which was led by Karen Mills. About 70% of the old property has been preserved, and some furniture has been recycled for the new business.
Having had to “beg, borrow and steal,” Tim is proud to have turned the place into less money than some spend on a kitchen on their own.
The high-end cuisine came from the newly redesigned restaurant of Michael Wignall, another Michelin-starred chef, and its cap was purchased at a reduced price after being made as a prototype sample and remained in its factory.
While Sō-lō is likely to attract customers from all over the place, Tim thinks it’s essential to keep those nearby happy.
“The first 90 days are really important. It is about listening to customers because they are your regulars.
“We have a small bar for about 12 people who come just for a drink.
“We have draft beer because if you’re a neighborhood restaurant, you have to have draft beer. We just want to be accessible, we don’t want to be elitist.
“We want people to come and say ‘wow, this is good food’, but we want it to be accessible.”
He continued, “What I love to do is have this informal dinner with great service and great food.
“For me, eating is that way. What we want is a relaxed environment, quality food where people can come and enjoy the environment.
A terrace outside the restaurant will be set up in the spring and plans are underway to open rooms as part of the third phase of the project.
So far, the prospect of Sō-lō opening has created a buzz of excitement in the village and beyond.
“People are very excited to come and see what Sō-lō is.
“Just down the street there is a street where a lot of shops have been set up, there is a great bar called Arthur’s which has just opened, there is a great butcher’s which has just opened by a young boy. The neighborhood is booming. “
Tim working hourly to get the restaurant ready in time for the November 5th opening, he was delighted to be able to announce the arrival of Simon Ulph as Head Chef.
“It is important that there is a very stable and visible team.
“I’m really happy he’s here, it’s going to be very exciting.
“Restaurants can take a lot of ego and that sort of thing, but I don’t want Sō-lō to be like that.
“If I hadn’t had the people around me, I would have sunk.
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