Shropshire Star

Region's top rated restaurant announces shock closure as it blames economic woes for its fate

The only Michelin star restaurant in the Shropshire, Worcestershire, and Herefordshire region has announced its shock closure.

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Pensons near Tenbury Wells.

Pensons at The Netherwood Estate, near Tenbury Wells, has been open for five years, with the team led by head chef Chris Simpson but it has now announced closure with "immense sadness and heavy hearts".

While there are many Michelin guide listed restaurants in the region, those with the coveted stars are rare, with Shropshire having no starred venues. Pensons, just over the Shropshire border, has one star.

In a statement posted online, Pensons says: "It is with immense sadness and heavy hearts that we announce Pensons will be closing its doors after dinner on Friday, December 22.

"As a team we are incredibly proud of everything we have achieved over the last five years, from the quality of the food and service to the collaborations with local producers and artisans.

"We aimed to showcase all that is wonderful about this area and raise the national consciousness of this small corner of the country.

"But most of all, we wanted to bring people together to enjoy the conviviality of a shared love of wonderful food and wine in beautiful surroundings."

Pensons near Tenbury Wells. Head chef Chris Simpson.

But the state of the economy has meant that the business, deep in a rural area, is not financially viable.

The statement explains: "Persistent inflation and interest rate pressures mean that as a small, independent, very rural business, it is no longer financially viable to stay open.

"We are deeply grateful to you all for supporting us over the last five years. We have loved your company, valued your friendship and hope you have some delightful memories of us."

In the few weeks it has left, the operators of the award-winning venue are inviting people to "enjoy our last few weeks".

The statement reads: "We remain open until Friday, December 22, so please come enjoy our last few weeks. We also have a few rooms available for an overnight stay between now and then to make the most of the time left with us."

Diners with reservations after December 22 have been told that the reservations team will be in touch to discuss options.

The statement reads: "If you have a reservation with us for a date after December 22 our reservations team will be in touch with you to discuss options shortly.

"If you have a valid gift voucher we urge you to book in with us before this date to be able to experience Pensons as the gift was intended."

The statement signs off with a tinge of sadness and pride.

"Thank you from - the very sad but very proud - Pensons Team."

The restaurant was reviewed by the Shropshire Star in the summer by our writer, Andy Richardson.

Andy wrote: "Pensons, which sits at the place where Shropshire, Herefordshire, and Worcestershire meet, is remarkable.

"It has a Michelin Red Star and a Michelin Green Star, the former being awarded for culinary excellence, the latter for embracing progressive, environmental practices.

Head chef Chris Simpson told Andy: “Everything we do at Pensons focuses on local because the superior flavour of what we grow here in our kitchen garden or source from the suppliers nearby really shows on the menu – and therefore the experience for our guests.”

As well as currently being the only restaurant in the counties of Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire to hold a Michelin Star, Pensons was also one of only 40 restaurants in the country to hold a Michelin Green star for sustainability.

The restaurant opened in 2019 – marking the start of a steep learning curve. It has focused on applying sustainable principles in a restaurant environment.

Pensons near Tenbury Wells.

Owner, Peta Darnley told the Star in the summer that things had been tough.

Peta said: “We’ve been open for four-and-a-half years – and if we’d have known then the difficulties of Covid, energy prices and cost of living prices, perhaps we wouldn’t even have got started.

“It’s really tough, but you have to focus on the good and keep moving forward.”

Peta Darnley of Pensons Restaurant at the Netherwood Estate

But now it looks like the challenges of keeping even a top class rural business open in these challenging times for the economy have claimed yet another victim.