What: Located on the site of former restaurant 263, Aven is a bijou 32-cover fine dining restaurant serving a hyper seasonal menu that celebrates the best of Lancashire’s produce.
Who: Business partners Alex Blamire and chef director Oli Martin have taken on the lease of the restaurant to create Aven. Lancashire born Martin, who was in the final three on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2018, worked in restaurants including Northcote and Gilpin Lodge before joining Hipping Hall as sous chef and later becoming head chef at the restaurant for seven years. Joining him in the kitchen is executive chef Sean Wrest, who has worked at The Fat Duck and and Maaemo in Oslo, Norway, and more recently headed up the kitchen at Roots in York when it won its Michelin star. Front of house is run by manager Samantha Haigh, another Tommy Banks Alumnus who joined from Michelin starred The Black Swan at Oldstead. 263 launched in September 2019 with Martin joining the restaurant in 2021.
The food: Aven serves a set menu at lunch for £40 per person and a longer dinner menu at £60 but also gives diners the freedom to opt for supplements if they so wish to broaden the experience. The kitchen’s focus is on hyper seasonal British cooking using foraged and preserved ingredients – “things that people don’t often come across day to day in restaurants in Preston,” says Martin. Examples of dishes on the current menu include cod, artichoke and shrimp; pigeon, beetroot and kale; cured mackerel and horseradish; and Baron Bigod with black garlic. One supplement option is a modern take on a Lancashire butter pie that Martin says has been one of the most well-received dishes since the launch of the restaurant. “We like to cook very northern dishes,” he says. “The butter pie originated from the outskirts of Preston and was a bit of a poverty dish back in the day; it’s essentially potatoes, onions and butter in a pie but we have put our spin on it.” Aven’s Lancashire butter pie is made with truffle dauphinoise, caramelised onion and truffle jam, a chicken and madeira sauce, crispy onions, truffle and a Lancashire Bomber cheese custard. A vegetarian menu is also served, with dishes including beetroot, hash brown and hot sauce; Jerusalem artichoke, lovage and whey; and celeriac and horseradish.
The vibe: The small, eight table restaurant has retained much of its cosy charm from its 263 days and has a smart but casual feel with green wooden panelling, white walls and wooden furniture. The interior reflects the owners’ desire for Aven to appeal to travelling gourmands as well as locals. “We want to become the destination restaurant in Preston,” says Martin. “Preston is on the rise and is often described as the gateway to the north. The restaurant is down the road from the Lake District and is a five-minute walk from the train station with a direct route to London and we’d like people to travel to visit us.”
And another thing: The restaurant takes its name from nearby Avenham Park, which Martin describes as an influential and important place in Preston.
10 Camden Pl, Preston PR1 3JL