AN AWARD-winning restaurateur has joined forces with the landlord of a 17th century watering hole in a bid to turn it into a gastro pub and country store.

Andy Lennox – known for the Zim Braai restaurants in Poole and Bournemouth – has gone into partnership with Nick Pestana, who has run the Old Thatch at Stapehill near Wimborne since 2018.

They say the Old Thatch will become the centre of the local community under their plans for a gastro pub, kitchen and country store.

It will sell freshly baked bread and cakes, local meats, eggs and dairy produce as well as other household essentials.

The Old Thatch menu will be locally-focused and Dorset producers have been invited to get in touch. It is due to open on April 12 when outdoor hospitality is allowed.

The pub menu will include British-inspired “gastro” cuisine and fresh local produce.

Nick Pestana said: “You can be assured of a warm welcome, for a cold pint, a glass of wine, a local gin and tonic, artisan baking, to grab provisions from the store or enjoy a meal as we’re all set to offer it all.

“Our aim is to become the centre of the community for those living in and around Stapehill, Colehill, and Ferndown but you’ll still receive a warm welcome if you’re just passing through or dropping in after a long walk or cycle ride.”

Andy Lennox, who previously co-founded the Koh Thai restaurant group before exiting the business in 2018, said: “When we moved into the area a few years ago the pub became our local, and I’ve watched with great interest, as Nick transformed the pub with his excellent stewardship. Now, with Covid-19 receding, it’s time to take the pub to the next level.

“The pub will continue its award-winning community credentials, whilst we develop the kitchen quality, the new country store and the bakery. We can’t wait to serve the first pint on April 12.”

The pub is opposite Stapehill Abbey, just off the Castleman Trailway path which links Wimborne to Ferndown and Ringwood to Poole.