The Great British Experience Company has announced that, in partnership with Staffordshire-born chef Niall Keating, they will be opening a new restaurant – Lunar – at the home of Wedgwood in Barlaston, near Stoke-on-Trent, on 25 November 2021.
The concept at Lunar is a modern dining experience that is centred around great food, but it will also reflect the rich history and heritage of the Potteries and the industrial revolution, whilst also focusing on a sustainable future.
The restaurant’s name – Lunar – was inspired by the legendary Lunar Society, a supper club for the Midlands enlightenment, of which Josiah Wedgwood was a founding member. Craig Wilkinson and Ed Myhill of TGBEC with Niall wanted to celebrate the rich legacy that Josiah Wedgwood and his fellow ‘Lunatics’ began over 200 years ago. Membership included many forward thinkers, entrepreneurs, scientists, philosophers, poets and inventors.
Niall Keating has been Executive Chef at Whatley Manor in Wiltshire for the past five years, where The Dining Room holds two Michelin stars. Prior to that, he quickly climbed the culinary ranks by working in renowned kitchens across the world – including Restaurant Sat Bains (2*) in Nottingham, Benu (3*) in San Francisco, and Kong Hans Kælder (2*) in Copenhagen.
As one of only a handful of chefs in the UK to currently hold two Michelin stars, Niall’s impressive career has earned him a reputation as one of the leading chefs in the country today – and he has only just turned 30. A plethora of accolades already include BBC’s Great British Menu Champion of Champions 2020 and Michelin Young European Chef of the Year 2018.
His distinctive cooking style, inspired by Korean, Japanese and French cuisines, will bring a progressive and creative instinct to Lunar’s menus. A passion for sustainability will also encourage strong environmental and ethical standards across the supply chain and throughout the restaurant, as is a huge priority at Whatley Manor.
“I’m incredibly passionate about Staffordshire, its rich heritage and amazing local produce,” enthused Niall. “To have the opportunity to celebrate that whilst paying homage to the Potteries, all ten minutes from my hometown of Stoke-on-Trent, is a dream come true.”
Although Niall will oversee Lunar, the kitchen will be run day-to-day by head chef Craig Lunn. Having known each other for over a decade, Niall and Craig have worked together in various kitchens, including at Whatley Manor, while Craig also has experience at Gordon Ramsay Royal Hospital Road in London (3*), and restaurants under Alain Ducasse in the Middle East.
“Ever since we met, Niall has talked about opening a restaurant in Staffordshire. He is so proud of where he comes from, and it’s an honour to be given the responsibility of head chef at a place so close to his heart,” said Craig.
Typical dishes on the Lunar launch menu will include a mix of smaller (from £8) and larger (from £22) plates and sharing dishes (from £30pp). Highlights range from Wild mushroom congee with sea herbs to Tempura pumpkin with tamarind and chilli, and Grilled langoustine with wasabi and cucumber, while Bigger Plates will include Poached lemon sole with nashi pear and yuzu kosho; and Glazed beef brisket with crispy shrimp and pomme purée. Sharing main course options will feature Staffordshire clay-baked chicken with treasured rice; Roasted tranche of day-boat turbot with truffle and caviar; and Meat from the dry-ageing fridge, cut to order. Desserts will include Matcha mille-feuille; Spiced pineapple tart tatin; and Toasted nori doughnuts.
The drinks list will combine classics with contemporary and experimental themes. The team has spent the last few months travelling across Staffordshire to meet artisans, distillers, brewers and growers of wine, beer, gin, vodka and rum, to create a strong drinks repertoire for Lunar. Cocktails will be available from £8, with wine from £24 (bottle) and £8 (glass) from a concise British and international list.
The décor of the 120-seat overall space has been inspired by the history of Wedgwood and The Lunar Society, with a core focus on upcycling and creative artistry. The colour scheme has been influenced by Josiah Wedgwood’s experimentations with colour through oxidation. Artwork is from local artists and galleries in the area, including Barewall Gallery in Burslem, which was Josiah Wedgwood’s birthplace.
A focal point of the 80-seat restaurant area will be a large, four-metre concrete Chef’s Table for up to 12 as a group or for individuals to share, with a window into the kitchen to watch the team at work. Covering the adjacent wall will be a massive mural by local artist Ethan Lemon depicting the skyline of the Potteries.
A large, overhead full moon in the Lunar Bar recalls and celebrates how the Lunar Society would meet under a Full Moon in the 1700s. Additionally, The Botanist’s Room for private dining will accommodate up to 20 – accessed by a secret bookcase entrance, it was inspired by Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood’s business partner and fellow founding member of The Lunar Society. The Bubble Room area, separated from the main restaurant, is an informal space ideal for drinks and light snacks, and pays homage to Joseph Priestley, another founding member of The Lunar Society, famed for many achievements including the invention of carbonated water.
The furniture throughout has been carefully selected and upcycled from all over the UK, with over 100 pieces from Wales, London and locally in Stoke-on-Trent. Across the venue there are also Wedgwood casts and moulds, as well as Wedgwood tableware and Waterford Crystal glassware to be used for service.
The Great British Experience Company was forged during the pandemic by local friends Craig Wilkinson and Ed Myhill, who have worked on events all over the world. Upon their return to Staffordshire, they decided to bring their skills and experiences back to their home county, and have partnered on the Lunar project with Niall, who is a major shareholder.
Craig Wilkinson explained: “Our aim is to celebrate the revolutionaries that began such change with their meetings of minds, ideas and actions in the Midlands; they are our inspiration. We aspire to add to their history while protecting our future through everything we do – from upcycling furniture to working with sustainable suppliers.”
Jemma Harrison, Head of World of Wedgwood, stated: “We are delighted to welcome Lunar to Barlaston. The restaurant space has been developed with incredible creativity and enormous respect for the heritage of the beautiful estate and the Wedgwood brand. The combined passion and experience of Niall, Ed and Craig brings something unique and very special to Staffordshire; it’s been a real privilege to be involved in this project, and I’m so excited to see the concept come to life at World of Wedgwood.”
As Craig Wilkinson further commented: “We are immensely proud to have Niall on board, and feel that with his influence, Lunar is destined to be a great success. We want Lunar to be something that Staffordshire is proud of – with a reputation and reach across the country and beyond.”
Lunar – Wedgwood Drive, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire ST12 9ER
Bookings – Email email@example.com
Website – www.lunarwedgwood.com Twitter/Instagram – @lunarwedgwood
Opening Hours – Thursday/Friday 5pm-Midnight; Saturday/Sunday Noon-Midnight
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