Reinventing seaside food at the Aspect Bar and Bistro in Morecambe
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 May 2016
The tides are changes at an award-winning bar and restaurant in Morecambe. Emma Mayoh reports
There were times when food at the seaside meant fish and chips on the beach and a bag of candy floss on the pier. But seaside resorts are reinventing themselves with restaurants that rival some of the best country inns and fine dining venues.
Working hard to make this turnaround have been Paul and Judy Bury, who run Aspect Bar and Bistro in the Lothersdale Hotel on Morecambe’s seafront. The couple are changing perceptions of the quality of food available at seaside resorts starting here in Lancashire.
Paul, whose grandparents William and Mary first took on the Lothersdale, has grown up as part of the family business but finally took the reins four years ago from his parents Geoff and Penny. Since then he and Judy have worked to regenerate the hotel including most recently, Aspect 320, a gin and cocktail bar that overlooks Morecambe Bay.
Their ambitions to change people’s perceptions of dining in seaside resorts are the driving force behind their plans. Two years ago, after being named Best Bistro in the FOOD Awards, they masterminded a Seaside Chef of the Year competition. It attracted hundreds of entries from across the country.
They now have queries about it every week and have had to restrict the number of entrants because it has become so popular. Chefs from across the country have been eager for the opportunity to take the top spot.
‘When we won Best Bistro we wanted to be able to use this as a platform to champion chefs in traditional seaside resorts around Britain’s wonderful coastline,’ said Paul. ‘It’s fantastic how popular it’s been and it’s shown there is a real need for it.’
According to Paul and Judy, the competition has started to change perceptions.
Paul said: ‘This contest is challenging the traditional image of seaside food and proving that seaside eateries, like Aspect, can be amazing destination dining venues.
‘It has taken on the snobbery that exists in a foodie world in which diners will readily head to an untried country inn or city restaurant for a meal, but think twice about driving to the seaside.
‘It has already begun to give seaside chefs a voice and we can continue to spread the word. What has been disappointing has been a lack of entrants from Lancashire. There are some fantastic restaurants in our coastal towns and we want them to come forward.
‘Marcus Wareing, a very talented chef who is renowned in the industry, is from Southport. There are other people in the county who are very talented and we would love them to come forward.’
Aspect’s transformation is also helping to rejuvenate restaurant and evening trade in Morecambe. Since they reopened the restaurant and Aspect 320, people have started to consider this traditional seaside town as a desirable place to spend a night out. They have also launched a gin festival, which was held for the first time this year.
Judy said: ‘We want to offer a fine dining experience for our customers. And there are also other places in Morecambe now doing the same thing. We really complement each other and it gives people different places to visit.
‘There was a time when people would choose to go out in Lancaster rather than here but we’ve found people are coming back. It is fantastic to see. But it is also a sign that Morecambe is so much better at offering diners what they want.’
It has been largely thanks to the former head chef Kevin Sutherland and Tony Murray, who is currently in the role, that the dining scene in Morecambe has gone through a transformation.
Fish from Morecambe Bay is used when in season and other produce is sourced nearby, including lamb from the Holker Estate.
Paul said: ‘We are lucky to have some of the best produce. The fish comes from the waters right outside the restaurant. When customers ask us where our ingredients come from we can point to various places on the horizon.
‘We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved and we want to grow and do even more not only just for Morecambe but for seaside places around the country. We’re confident we can do it.’