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Dorchester Hotel chef has the recipe for success at Nantwich's oldest pub

visitor economy 8/17/2022 12:00:00 AM

Darren Snell is putting the Black Lion, Nantwich on the map

A PUB landlord who worked as a chef at the famous Dorchester Hotel in London is whetting appetites with a new menu at one of South Cheshire’s most recognisable timber-framed landmarks

Darren Snell is putting the Grade II-listed Black Lion in Nantwich on the map for five-star pub grub after introducing a range of mouth-watering dishes inspired by his time working in the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant.

Now the Welsh Row Freehouse, which has been part of Cheshire life since 1664, is nominated for ‘Best Pub with Food’ in the upcoming Nantwich Food Awards celebrating all that is great and good about local eateries and their importance to the town economy.

And to Darren, who has notched up many awards in his career including Great British Commis Chef of the Year and various gold accolades for the Dorchester, the local recognition holds special significance.

He said: “There was no expense spared at the Dorchester and while the food was exquisite, only the rich and famous could enjoy the experience and I believe local people should be able to enjoy delicious food without breaking the bank. So I’ve given The Black Lion menu a make-over and I’m delighted it’s going down well.”

There’s been success on a plate for the lunchtime and evening selections including Wild Mushroom and Black Pudding Pastry, Thai Beef Salad, Crispy Duck Confit and Moules Mariniere. Top-selling deserts are Eton Mess Cheesecake, Banana Waffles with salted caramel ice cream and the classic Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Renowned for its beer, the pub is also a gin-lovers paradise. Raspberry and marmalade varieties from its regular supplier, Weetwood Brewery near Tarporley, have been hot-sellers this summer.

Darren, who has previously run The Dysart Arms in Bunbury, added: “The Black Lion is renowned for real ale, winning CAMRA awards down the decades, but we don’t blow our own trumpets enough when it comes to food so it’s really humbling people have taken the time to nominate us for an award.

“We try to keep everything ‘local’ and source as much as we can from nearby suppliers even if it means paying more to keep food miles down and ingredients as fresh as they can be.”   

Steeped in history, The Black Lion is Nantwich’s oldest pub - built 20 years after the Battle of Nantwich re-enacted every January by the Sealed Knot.

It’s original stone floors, beams and wattle and daub walls make it the go-to watering hole for the Society’s soldiers who march up Welsh Row  to swap their pikes for a pint after a day on the battlefield.

Every Monday night sees general knowledge buffs stage their own battle to be quiz champions of the week. Weekly rounds help raise money for local charities.    

Meanwhile Darren and his business partner Louise Gulland are hoping for glory in the Nantwich in Bloom Awards this autumn.

Well-known for its roaring fire in the winter, the summer heatwave has seen more people enjoy the pub’s outdoor seating area festooned with flowers grown by the green-fingered landlord.

The Black Lion has stood empty a few times in its long history but Darren and Louise, who took over just before Covid, added: “Getting back to normal has been a challenge for the entire hospitality industry but we have loyal support and welcome visitors from all over the world.

“It’s certainly a responsibility maintaining a building of this age. Every nook and cranny needs to be carefully preserved but we are proud to look after it.”

Voting for the Nantwich Food Awards is underway. Winners will be announced in October. Visit www.nantwichfoodfestival.co.uk

For more on the history of The Black Lion and its food go to blacklionnantwich.co.uk