Local restaurateurs Geoff and Shannon Ellis are bringing a new dining experience to Aiken.The two recently opened The Restaurant at The Willcox, a gastropub, which is the first of its kind for the area, according to Geoff. "Gastropubs began in the U.K. 20 years ago," he said. "The concept arose from a conscious effort to promote great food in well-loved places."Geoff Ellis said historic pubs were revitalized by adding restaurant-quality food while offering the same types of drinks and the friendly, inviting atmosphere of traditional pubs, with a focus on customer value, affordability. "Gastropubs are now one of the biggest trends in the restaurant industry," he said.The Ellises also own another gastropub in New Zealand called Rain and a wood-fired pizza restaurant called Nextdoor Restaurant. Rain is a Heineken bar, one of only 25 in New Zealand. Geoff Ellis said the bar has been ranked among the top three in the country since its opening.The couple describe The Restaurant as the community's living room. "You do not need to dress up, and you are welcome as you are," Shannon Ellis said. "If you are coming from a day of sport or heading out to a black tie, you will not feel uncomfortable here. This is your living room, and we mean it." Diners are offered the choice of eating in the restaurant or other areas at The Willcox, such as beside the fireplace in the lobby, by the pool area or on the rear patio. Geoff Ellis said a pub room, which includes two high-definition televisions, is the perfect place for sporting afternoons. The library area is also available for large groups or parties. The Restaurant's menu ranges from dishes such as chicken wings to pate, hamburgers, fried chicken, fresh seafood, certified Angus beef steaks and more. According to Geoff Ellis, the prices are affordable and each dish is unique. Regan Browell will serve as the restaurant's executive chef. Browell has worked for several years as a chef for The Ritz-Carlton hotels and fine-dining restaurants in London and other European cities. The Restaurant's kitchen is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Breakfast is available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. daily. It also offers Sunday brunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. A children's menu is offered, and the bar menu is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Geoff Ellis encourages residents to take part in Tuesday piano bar nights, where free hors d'oeuvres will be served. Piano bar nights were introduced at the hotel by The Willcox General Manager Tina McCarthy. Diners can register at www.therestaurantatw.com to receive a gift certificate good during the month of their birthday and to get updates on The Restaurant. The Restaurant has established a loyalty program that encourages customers to dine often by allowing guests to accumulate points that will go toward a gift certificate. For more information, call 648-1898.
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