John Campbell to open chef school and restaurant on Five Bells site

03 December 2013 by
John Campbell to open chef school and restaurant on Five Bells site

John Campbell has announced plans to open a restaurant, bar and cookery school on the site of the former Five Bells pub in Belmont, Woodspeen, in Berkshire.

Plans for the 19th-century property, acquired from Greene King in May by JCR (John Campbell Restaurants) and WSH (the parent company of BaxterStorey), are currently with the local planning department, and show an intent to create a 70-seat restaurant, 28-seat bar, a cookery school with dining for 12, and a half-acre kitchen garden.

The opening of the restaurant will see the chef, who left Coworth Park in Ascot in November 2011, returning to his old stomping ground of Newbury, where he earned two Michelin stars at the Vineyard at Stockcross. The as-yet-unnamed restaurant, which was advertised for £395,000, is situated on Lambourn Road.

Campbell, who is expected to open the restaurant next summer, told Caterer and Hotelkeeper: "I have been working on this project for 18 months. It's quite a project. We are looking to remove the later additions of the pub and retain the original 1827 building."

An extension will create the main dining area, while an outbuilding, situated across the road from the pub, will house the cookery school, where private dinners will also be held. "This space will be quite special," explains Campbell. "It really gives me an opportunity to cook with and engage with customers, to chat to them, talk about the food. It's interaction at another level, somewhere for me to teach, and give people something quite exclusive."

Former Acorn Award winner Chris Warwick, who was head chef of the Barn at Coworth Park, has moved from his position as chef-director of Marco Pierre White's Wheeler's Inn group, to support Campbell in his new venture.

Campbell, the winner of both the Chef Award and Education and Training Award at the 2008 Cateys, said it felt amazing to be driving this new project forward. "It's going to be brilliant," he said. "It's what I love doing and it's where I'm at my happiest - I can't wait to get back into the kitchen.

"I want to create a beautiful environment for people to work in, learn their craft, and for guests to enjoy their food - a nice hospitality unit. That's it. It's not about the chef anymore. It's not about being competitive, I want to enjoy my craft. I really want to enjoy what I do."

He said that despite 70 seats, with an open pass the dining room would still feel intimate. "With beautiful views from the property and the kitchen so close, it will feel as 'one'," he said.

Asked if he would be serving the Michelin-starred food he is reputed for, he replied: "We plan to cook really tasty food. The idea is to take great ingredients, cook them well and serve them well - if that migrates into something more fine-dining and less pub, that's fine, but if it retains its place as pub food then that's great also. I want to get into the kitchen and cook good food, and put hospitality back into hospitality. It's why I love the industry so much."

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