Devil of the detail

Marco Pierre White at the Swan Inn
Marco Pierre White at the Swan Inn
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He has won three Michelin stars with his restaurants in London. Now celebrity chef Marco Pierre White has chosen Lancashire for his first British eaterie outside the south. Jenny Simpson speaks to the TV star about The Swan Inn

Marco Pierre White is in laid-back mode as he signs copies of his latest book at his Lancashire restaurant.

As he chats to a seemingly never-ending queue of diners eager to meet him at the Swan Inn, it’s worlds apart from the high-pressure scenes behind the stoves seen on his TV shows, Kitchen Burnout and Hell’s Kitchen.

The laid-back atmosphere is one Marco hopes has rubbed off on the restaurant itself, which is just off the A59 in Aughton, near Ormskirk.

With its muted, dove-grey decor and cartoon sketches hanging on the walls, The Swan Inn aims to deliver top-class dining without pretension or stuffiness – what Marco calls “affordable glamour.”

A framed print behind the bar of a magazine cover, featuring Marco holding arch rival Gordon Ramsay’s head on a silver plate, is the only reminder of his fearsome reputation.

“The restaurant is great, we’re constantly busy and there’s a fantastic ambience around the place,” Marco says. “It’s my job to make sure this continues and the standard of food and service are where they should be, which is what I’m doing.”

It was a long-standing friendship with Cheshire-based restaurateur Francis Carroll which encouraged Yorkshire-born Marco to make the move north and launch the Swan Inn with Sanguine Hospitality a few months ago.

And it’s been a huge success so far. Francis says the restaurant, previously a pub called The Swan, took in one week what the pub used to make in two months,

Marco says: “I’m from the other side of the Pennines and I’ve known Francis for 20 years. He brought me to this part of the world and I come here six or seven times a year.”

Marco hung up his chef’s hat some years ago, meaning he won’t be rolling up his sleeves in The Swan Inn’s kitchens.

But he oversees the menus to ensure they come up to the standards diners have come to expect of the youngest ever chef to receive three Michelin stars.

Marco says it was important to him to make sure The Swan catered for northern tastes, rather than simply replicate what’s on offer at his string of restaurants in London.

“When you go north, you want to create that package,” Marco muses.

“People want to enjoy themselves.

“When we leave a restaurant, we are all the same. It’s, ‘Did it represent value for money’ and, ‘Did we enjoy ourselves?’

“They just want to have fun and enjoy the restaurant.”

The Swan Inn: 01695 421450.