The Rose and Crown in Ulnes Walton - the 200 year old pub that is now a top dining destination
- Credit: Kirsty Thompson/Archant
Tom Evans and Craig Mather have created a dining destination to be proud of in Ulnes Walton.
When Tom Evans and Craig Mather first heard the Rose and Crown in Ulnes Walton was on the market, they jumped at the chance to run it. They had both worked in pubs and restaurants across Lancashire but the Rose and Crown was a place they had always had their sights set on. Craig sold his hair salon business, the pair sold their home in Wigan and they ploughed it all into the traditional inn. Within weeks they had the keys in their hand and were ready to set about the daunting task of bringing this once unloved pub back to life.
And they didn’t delay. They ripped out some of the old furniture and fittings, keen to put their own stamp on the place without losing the traditional feel. They worked with the brewery, Marstons, to create their dream and put their plans into place.
'We knew we wanted it, says Tom. ‘We wanted to put the community back into the pub. We’d seen it lose that sense of belonging over the years and we wanted there to be more in its future.
‘We didn’t want to rip out the heart of what it was. It was a proper drinkers’ pub 20 years ago. It was a place where everyone used to meet. But over the years, there have been lots of different landlords and people got fed up as it just wasn't what it had been.
‘We used to drink here ourselves and we knew the pub should be full, but it wasn’t. It was sad and we wanted to try to do something about it. The brewery had ideas of how it should look and so did we. Once they saw what we could do, they trusted us to get on with it and inject our own style without losing the gorgeous country feel.’
The Rose & Crown has been a pub for more than 200 years. Tom and Craig were keen that everyone from new diners exploring the area to regulars should feel at home. They enlisted the help of their head chef, Dan Halton, who formerly worked at The Ship at Lathom and the hugely popular Wayfarer at Parbold. Dan, along with his loyal kitchen team, create impressive plates with local produce at the heart of the menus, including lamb from the farm next door, other meat from Clarkson Butchers in Leyland and game sourced from shoots.
Local gins are popular behind the bar too, with botanical beauties from the likes of Brindle Distillery and Pooley Bridge-based Chestnut House.
They had opened the pub in May 2018 and within just a few months, business was booming. But then you-know-what struck and, like so many hospitality businesses, their future was thrown into doubt.
They innovated, of course, launching takeaways in lockdown and creating an elegant and fun outdoor dining area when we were once again able to eat and drink alfresco back in April. The support they received from customers and staff
is something they will never forget.
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'When everything had to close, we didn’t know what to do,’ says Tom. 'Everyone was the same, everything just stopped. We didn’t know what the future would hold. It was so important to us to look after our staff and they have stayed with us, which we are so pleased about.
‘Our customers were also really supportive. We were out delivering Christmas meals to diners on Christmas Day and it was really special for us to be able to do that.’
Before the pandemic, Tom and Craig had grand plans to open more pubs and venues but now they want to recover and nurture the fortunes of their beloved Rose and Crown. Not just for their own benefit, but for their loyal diners too.
They have plans to extend the pub further but mostly just want to make it the best experience for people who visit and instill that feeling of community.
‘I hope we’ve done it,’ says Tom. ‘Our customers tell us we have, which is so wonderful to hear. We wanted a place where anyone would feel comfortable coming to eat good food, share good company and enjoy excellent service. We were honoured to be shortlisted in the 2019 Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards. That was a really special moment for us and made us realise we were on the right track.
‘There is so much more we would like to do with the Rose and Crown and, once things have recovered a little more, we are really excited to be able to do that.’