A VILLAGE pub is under new ownership after an award-winning chef took the reins this summer.

Dave Watts, who in 2013 was named Chef to Watch by the Good Food Guide, took over at the Crown Inn, in Upton, in July and reopened the venue earlier this month.

Having given the interior a fresh lick of paint and put together a brand-new menu, he is already stamping his mark on the place as he creates what he believes a proper pub should be.

“Pubs, for me, are great social entities and a village hub,” said Dave.

“And that’s what I want – that warming, welcoming, comforting environment. That’s what we want to create at the Crown. That pub with a hug.”

As well as setting out what he would like the pub to be, the 39-year-old has also put plenty of thought into what he hopes the pub will not be.

He added: “I don’t want to shut people down. I want people to feel that they can come in whether they’ve got a dog, whether they’ve got wellies on, whether they’re in shorts – it’s a place where people can come and feel relaxed.”

“I really don’t like being pretentious and that’s one thing I really hate about some places. ‘You can’t do this. You can’t do that.’ You feel looked down upon and that’s what I don’t want.

“I look at the things I don’t like about somewhere and I want to make that different for the Crown.”

Dave, who spent eight years training at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons, says the pub will feature both a dinner menu and a ‘pub classics’ menu that make the most of local ingredients.

He says the idea is to keep things “really accessible for lots of people” and has brought his old friend Tim O’Shea to help him out as sous-chef.

“I worked with him in Wales,” said Dave. “He was my sous-chef and we have remained friends ever since.

“[Before we reopened] I said to him, ‘come and have a look,’ and he was just as hooked as I am. And we have quite a similar ethos on food and cooking so it works very much hand-in-hand.”

“It’s not about doing too much with the food, it’s more about the quality of the ingredients to start with.”

Dave says the pub will be relying on “as much local good as possible” as long as its of good quality. He already sources food from Oaktrack smallholding, in Charlton Down, plus the bar stocks beers from the likes of Penton Park Brewing and Test Brewing.

Dave is also hoping to build a space in the back garden for homegrown herbs and other vegetables, plus he has hopes of expanding upwards one day and building hotel rooms above the pub.

He added: “The vision for me is not to stand still and keep pushing things and keep changing. That’s the biggest thing – don’t stand still.”