Reproduced with permission of Ashbourne News Telegraph

Ashbourne Campaign for Real Ale chairman Mark Grist says he is looking forward to the Ashbourne Beer Festival, which starts tomorrow

SO, here we are on the eve of another Ashbourne Beer Festival. Hopefully, you will know that it starts at 6pm tomorrow (Thursday) at the Town Hall and we have been busy all this week getting everything prepared.

ONE of Ashbourne’s best- known institutions is marching out on an ambitious new venture by opening a town centre restaurant.

The volunteer-run Ex- Servicemen’s Club, also known as the Legion, in the Market Place, has transformed its function room into a purpose-built new dining area, in response to a call from its members for somewhere to enjoy food.

After three years of discussion, designs and development, the new restaurant served its first ever carvery on Thursday.

Several local dignitaries invited to try out the treats on offer.

Stuart Lees, chairman of the 12-strong committee which runs the club, says he feels that now is the right time for the club to develop what it has to offer to its members.

He said: “We’ve needed to give the kitchen a big revamp for quite a while, so we can provide food to our darts and dominoes leagues and so on.

“The function room, which doesn’t get a lot of use, has also needed updating.

“Our members have often been asking if we’re going to start serving food.

“And the way pubs are going these days there’s more money to be made from food than drink, so it’s the right time to be doing something like this.

“It’s been really hard work, getting it looking as good as it does, but we knew if we were going to do it, then we’d have to do it right.”

The restaurant is to be man- aged by seasoned Ashbourne publican and chef Paul Mellor, who has penned a menu which includes a Sunday carvery with all the trimmings.

Although the club is for members, non-members can still eat there however, they have to be signed in on arrival.

Membership costs £3 per year and is open to everyone. Tom Donnelly, chairman of the district of the Derbyshire Dales and a member of the club for more than 35 years, was invited to open the restaurant on Thursday. He was amazed at the transformation in the function room.

He said: “I hadn’t had any sort of preview before I opened it or walked into the new restaurant, but it’s got a real ‘wow’ factor.

“It was a drab, unused function room and seeing how well it’s been revamped really hits you.

“I think they’ve got a great business venture.

“It was just a drab room and now it looks fantastic. I think it will do really well.”

The restaurant will be open every day except Monday, from noon until 2.30pm and then from 5pm until 9pm.

It will open from noon until 6m on Sundays. Mr Lees said:

“We’re hoping it will be a big success – but only time will tell.

“It’s a big step forward for the club.

“We’ve had a really good reaction to it so far but the proof will be in the food and how well it gets supported.

“It’s up to the members now to use it and enjoy it and make it viable.”

The new restaurant has not yet been given an official name.

Mr Lees says the club would be keen to hear from anyone willing to suggest a suitable name.

To find out more about the restaurant, suggest a name or book a table, call into the club or call 01335 342079.