A BUSINESSMAN who has breathed new life into an iconic pub says he is "extremely encouraged" with its progress - exactly 12 months after he opened its doors.

The 19th century Talbot Inn, at Newnham Bridge, near Tenbury Wells, re-opened its doors exactly one year ago after a two-year redevelopment programme by businessman Ian Dowling.

Mr Dowling transformed the former coaching inn’s derelict shell into a 90-seat gastro pub with seven bedrooms.

Over the past 12 months Mr Dowling has turned the ailing pub’s fortunes around after welcoming over 25,000 customers through its doors, providing new jobs and securing a place in the prestigious Alastair Sawday ‘Special Places’ guide.

Mr Dowling said: “Since the reopening we have received tremendous feedback from people from across the West Midlands and those who visit us from further afield.

“People like how we have kept to our pledge of using quality local produce, suppliers and maintaining an attention to detail with our food and customer service.

“That detail has kept people coming back for more in the past year which is great in an economy where couples and families are rightly more selective about where they eat.”

Mr Dowling said that he is continuing to invest into The Talbot and this summer opened a new outside dining area and beer garden.

Plans are in place to develop a section of land across from the 8,000 square foot pub into extra parking and a possible wedding venue for next summer.

The anniversary has also seen the arrival of new head chef Simon Szymanski.

The 38-year-old chef spent ten years as right hand man to Glynn Purnell at Michelin-starred Birmingham restaurants Jessica’s and Purnell’s. He will oversee the kitchen and a new-look menu.

Mr Dowling added: “I am extremely encouraged that we have managed to make such an impact in our first year - the news that we have been recognised by someone as respected as Alastair Sawday is simply the icing on the cake.

“His independent guide recommends only a select number of UK pubs and restaurants and is based on honest customer comments and his own unannounced and very detailed ‘mystery customer’ visit. To be placed alongside some really special British pubs and restaurants is amazing recognition.

“I said last year that I wanted the Talbot Inn to become a proud local landmark again – not a blot on the landscape. In 12 months we’ve achieved that, provided new jobs and I hope in our own little way are helping tempt people into the region.

“We have an exciting 12 months ahead, especially with Simon now onboard. I think he is one of the region’s most promising chefs and will play a major role in taking our reputation to the next level.”

The Talbot Inn now employs 18 people and has become a popular venue for small private dining parties.