“It’s exciting times for Kirkham – there is a real sense the town is on the up,” says restaurant boss
Restaurateur Andrew Booker firmly believes Kirkham has turned a corner and can flourish. So much so, in fact, he has firmly put his money where his mouth is and invested in the high street’s future.
Andrew and son James have opened the ancient market town’s newest fine dining establishment – The Old Bank on Poulton Street – to widespread acclaim.
They have transformed the former Midland/HSBC bank premises into a 44-cover restaurant serving the best in British cuisine, all created using quality, locally sourced ingredients.
The Old Bank has been the talk of the town ever since a stunning Griffin sculpture first appeared above the door to the premises during lockdown.
Modelled in part on the old Midland bank logo, ‘Archie’ (as he has affectionately been nicknamed after he was created at Kirkham’s Archforge blacksmiths) has become a famous local landmark already.
Andrew and James are no strangers to Kirkham having set up their popular Tap and Vent brewhouse, also on Poulton Street, three years ago.
Their creation of the Old Bank – which boasts a stunning décor and hi-spec finish, together with two kitchens (one housed inside the former bank’s safe!) – took place during last year’s many lockdowns.
The result is testament to James and Andrew’s belief there is a bright future for Kirkham which is at the start of a £10m regeneration masterplan thanks to funding from both Historic England and the Government’s 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 should be well received and it has been great to finally welcome customers, whether they’re visitors to the area or locals. The feedback since we opened has been really pleasing.”
Kirkham has been awarded £6.3m from the Government’s Future High Street Fund (FHSF) – the only town in Lancashire to win a slice of the fund. This followed hot-on-the-heels of the £3.6m secured through Kirkham’s successful bid to become one of Historic England’s High Streets Heritage Action Zones (HS HAZ).
With the money, historic buildings are being bought and transformed – with a range of innovative new uses planned. Major improvements will be made to the public realm and opportunities created to not only help existing businesses bounce back and thrive post-pandemic but encourage new ones to open on the high street.
The Old Bank certainly fits into this category. Open Thursday to Sunday, and boasting a relaxed atmosphere where diners are not rushed, it is already becoming a popular new addition to the high street.
Together with Archie there is plenty more eye-catching artwork inside – created by local artist Jo Catlow-Morris – alongside many pictures charting Kirkham’s proud history.
Kirkham, as a town, can trace its roots back to before the days it was a Roman garrison. Its boomtime came in the days of cotton and the manufacture of sailcloth for the Royal Navy.
However, like many towns of its size its historic high street has faced some challenging times. But with more new shops and businesses being attracted to the town – such as Bull Horns Smokehouse which is another fine new eatery on Poulton Street – there is a real buzz about the place right now.
Andrew, who previously ran Hastings restaurant in Lytham, and set up Lytham Brewery with James, added: “I think it’s very exciting times for Kirkham – there 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.
“What’s important is we create a culture where people are choosing not to go out of town to eat and actually stop in their hometown. I really think that is changing for the better.
“It’s a great time to invest in the town. The cost of properties is a lot less than other areas on the Fylde coast. Put simply it is a great location with good transport links and has great potential.”
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.
“Our mantra was 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. And with all the new homes being 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 project managed The Old Bank’s build themselves and were assisted along the way by a £10,000 grant from Fylde Council’s ARG Vacant Premises Grant scheme.
The partnership between the Old Bank and Archforge not only created a stunning new piece of high street art, but is an example of Andrew and James’ aim to work with local firms.
Andrew explained: “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 we did. That was really important to us.
“For those who don’t know this used to be the Midland Bank and the symbol of the Midland Bank was a griffin, so we felt it appropriate that if we had something that reflected both the past and the future of the town. It 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!”
For more information, reservations and to check out the menu go to www.theoldbankkirkham.co.uk or call 01772 382401
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