Shropshire’s culinary scene has received a welcome boost when the Fox and Hounds in Shawbury opened its doors for the first time.
Well-known local entrepreneurs Jeff Blundell and Nigel Lee have invested more than £1 million into transforming the dilapidated building into a gastro pub, employing almost 30 people.
Helped by a £62,000 Redundant Building Grant from Advantage West Midlands’ Rural Regeneration Zone, the duo have completely stripped out the 1970s building to create a “rustic” haven for people looking to sample cask ales or for diners enjoying high quality home-made food at reasonable prices.
The culmination of two years planning and eight months of design and construction was marked when Daniel Kawczynski, MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham, and Coun Judith Williams conducted the official opening.
“The Fox and Hounds had been empty since 2002 and, following a failed attempt by Gallier Homes to turn it into an exclusive residential development, was literally falling into a state of disrepair and a magnet for anti-social behaviour,” said Mr Blundell, who previously ran the Four Crosses in Bicton Village with his wife Carol.
“I had spotted it a few times driving past and always thought to myself what great potential it had. So when the for sale sign went up I approached business acquaintance and friend Nigel Lee to look at plans to buy the land and transform it into a new venue. We both have extensive experience in the licensing trade and in construction so it seemed a natural fit and, when the council approved our idea for restoring the pub to its former glory and beyond, we formed L&B Inns to take the project forward.”
Mr Kawczynski was delighted to perform the opening: “A lot has been written in the media about the difficult times our pubs and restaurants are facing so to see the Fox and Hounds completely transformed and open again for business will add something to both the social scene in Shawbury and, equally importantly, the local economy.”
The Fox and Hounds caters for 120 covers inside and, within a few weeks, a further 80 in the garden will give it real potential to grow.
It is anticipated that it will be a combination of a “destination dining venue” and community local where you can sit and enjoy a pint or a glass of wine in a relaxed and informal environment.
Mr Lee, who until recently owned The Bellstone in Shrewsbury and previously ran the Shrewsbury Hotel in the town, said: “High quality, home-made food will be at the heart of our offer, with a changing daily menu featuring a diverse selection of more than 40 dishes.
“The menu will, whenever possible, use locally sourced produce, such as mouth watering Bings Heath smoked salmon and Wenlock black pudding.”
Rural Regeneration Zone’s Ian Edwards added: “Jeff and Nigel have invested huge sums of money into the project and they have delivered a business rich in potential that has already created employment opportunities for 30 people.
“Its commitment to local produce will also provide a major boost for the economy in and around Shropshire.”