A tranquil visitor attraction outside Chester is opening a stylish lakeside bar and restaurant as the venue heads upmarket but with an appeal to local residents as well.
Chester Lakes is set in 100 acres of Cheshire countryside, off Church Road, near Dodleston with fishing, camping, caravan pitches and waterside ‘barbecue pods’ that can seat 10 and sleep up to four.
Now hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested in the Wild Goose licensed restaurant which is taking bookings from this Friday (March 3) – and with a sneak preview on Thursday – replacing the cafe that went before.
There are plans to add to the existing seven lakes and introduce lodges and glamping – upmarket camping with more permanent shelters and fewer actual tents – to increase the average visitor spend.
Acting general manager James Newman, who lives near Tarporley, said: “This is a sort of statement to say to the Chester tourism board and the council, we’re serious about what we’re doing at the Lakes and there’s been a hell of a lot of investment go into this place.
"And it’s not just for campers we want to be known locally as well. It’s setting the tone for where we want to go in the future as to what else we do down at Chester Lakes.”
The 54-cover restaurant, open Tuesday to Saturday until 10pm, will offer coffee and cake as well as small plates of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes plus a range of main courses, desserts and a children’s menu for ‘Little Goslings’.
It offers views of one of the lakes which attracts plenty of wildlife, including wild geese.
Among the dishes available is slow cooked duck leg, Thai yellow curry, shredded salad and toasted peanuts for £13 or grilled cod fillet, prawn and caper butter, charred broccoli and crushed potatoes for £16 – diners will be relieved to hear carp fish caught by the anglers are all thrown back and certainly don’t appear on the menu!
Explaining the background to Chester Lakes, James said the Pickering family developed the venture from farmland after selling their herd.
He continued: “So they obviously had a huge estate and land here that they dug some holes in and sold the clay, the holes filled up with water, they stocked it with fish.
"Fisherman started coming and then the fisherman started saying ‘can we stay the night?’ and so we started camping and campers started saying ‘can we get some food?’ so we started the cafe and hence 15 years have past and we are where we are.”
Husband and wife owners Alec and Katy Pickering, who also run Anglesey-based luxury self-catering cottage business Sage and Sea, are behind the ‘passion project’ with James helping to drive the business forward.
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