A Kirkham restaurant boss has invested in the town’s future by opening a new local eatery.Advertisement
Restaurateur Andrew Booker and his son, James, have opened the fine dining establishment The Old Bank on Poulton Street.
They have transformed the former Midland/HSBC bank premises into a 44-cover restaurant serving British cuisine, all created using locally sourced ingredients.
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The Old Bank has been the talk of the town ever since a griffin sculpture appeared above the door to the premises during lockdown.
Modelled in part on the old Midland bank logo, Archie, affectionately nicknamed after being created at Archforge blacksmiths, has become a famous local landmark.
Andrew and James set up the Tap and Vent brewhouse on Poulton Street three years ago. Their creation of the Old Bank, which boasts a kitchen housed inside the former bank safe, took place during lockdown.
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James and Andrew believe there is a bright future for Kirkham. The town is at the centre of a £10m regeneration masterplan thanks to funding from Historic England and the Future High Streets Fund.
Andrew said: “Our plans for the restaurant were in place before the pandemic. We identified that Kirkham was crying out for dining out establishments.
“We always felt a high-quality eatery would be well received, and it has been great to finally welcome customers, whether they are visitors to the area or locals. The feedback since we opened has been pleasing.”
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Kirkham was awarded £6.3m from the Future High Street Fund (FHSF) – the only town in Lancashire to receive funding. It followed the £3.6m secured through the town’s successful bid to become one of Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ).
With the funding, historic buildings are transformed, with a range of new uses planned. Significant improvements will help the public realm, with opportunities to help existing businesses bounce back and thrive post-pandemic, encouraging new ones to open on the high street.
The Old Bank is already becoming a popular new addition to the high street. Alongside Archie, there is also artwork created by local artist Jo Catlow-Morris, alongside pictures charting Kirkham’s history.
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Kirkham can trace its roots to before it was a Roman garrison. Its boom time came in the days of cotton and the manufacturing of sailcloth for the Royal Navy.
Andrew, who previously ran Hastings restaurant in Lytham, and set up Lytham Brewery with James, said: “I think it is exciting times for Kirkham – here is a real sense that the town is on the up.
“We do have a few empty shops, but not as many as other similar towns, and I think Kirkham is up and rising. We must create a culture where people choose not to go out of town to eat but stop in their hometown. I think that is changing for the better.
“It’s a great time to invest in the town. The cost of property is a lot less than other areas on the Fylde coast. It is a great location with good transport links and great potential.”
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Like many towns of its size, its historic high street has faced challenging times but is welcoming new shops and businesses – such as Bull Horns Smokehouse, another new eatery on Poulton Street.
James added: “When we first opened Tap and Vent, the initial comments we had was that this would never work in Kirkham – it has enough pubs.
“We only stocked premium products, and it worked – we created something new for the town. We got a lot of people visiting us who had never been out for a drink in Kirkham. With all the new homes built, there is a real untapped market. Kirkham now has many different options of where to go, and that is great for everyone.”
Andrew and James managed The Old Bank’s build themselves, assisted by a £10,000 grant from Fylde Council’s ARG Vacant Premises Grant scheme.
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Andrew said: “If we can look after each other’s businesses, it creates a nice future for the town.
“For instance, during the build, we used Grundy’s ironmongers and Peter Miller Plumbing and Heating – our next-door neighbours – together with Red Rose Carpets, who are also on Poulton Street. The more we could source locally, the better. That was really important to us.
“For those who don’t know, this used to be the Midland Bank. We felt it was appropriate that we had something that reflected the past and the future. The griffin was handmade by Archforge in Kirkham as a bespoke piece.
“We wanted to create a talking point, and we think we have achieved that with Archie!”
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