Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dinner at the Willcox

It won't be long before you could be having dinner at the Willcox. The Willcox is one of Aiken's most historic and iconic hotels. It was started as a catering enterprise back in 1897 by Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Willcox. The Willcoxes provided lunches, dinners and elaborate picnics for Aiken's Winter Colonists. Eventually, they turned their home into a grand inn, adding an elegant restaurant and a ballroom.

Although the Willcox was originally all about the food, it has not had a restaurant for quite some time. Last winter, Tina McCarthy, the general manager of the hotel, opened a piano bar in the lobby on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and it has become a favorite meeting place for Aiken's equestrian crowd. This September, guests will be able to consume more than just cocktails and snacks because the Willcox will once again feature a full service restaurant.

According to Geoffrey Ellis, the general manager, The Restaurant at the Willcox will be a "gastro pub." A gastro pub is a restaurant that has the atmosphere of an English pub, but which focuses on the science of food and has the energy of an up-market bar. The head chef, Regan Browell, is coming here from New Zealand, where she was the head chef of Rain, a gastro bar that featured Heineken beer and an updated, pub-type menu. Geoffrey Ellis, who has deep roots in the Aiken area, was the manager of Rain as well as of a wood-fired pizza restaurant in New Zealand, but he recently sold those businesses to move back to South Carolina along with his wife and family.

The Restaurant at The Willcox is scheduled to open during the third week of September.

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