Award winning chef appointed to lead new restaurant at Rochdale Town Hall

Darren Parkinson working in a kitchen.
Rochdale-born Darren Parkinson will head up a talented team of chefs as they create a brand new dining offer for the town centre.

A new executive chef has been appointed to lead Rochdale Town Hall’s restaurant.

The stunning building is gearing up to reopen to the public in 2024 following a multi-million pound restoration supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Rochdale-born Darren Parkinson will head up a talented team of chefs as they create a brand new dining offer for the town centre, housed in the incredible neo-gothic surroundings of the Grade I-listed town hall. 

Darren brings a wealth of experience, having honed his craft at the multi-award winning Shibden Mill in Halifax. During his 14-year tenure, the restaurant picked up a string of accolades, including 2 AA rosettes. It was also awarded UK food pub of the year in 2022 and Sunday lunch pub of the year, as well as Les Routiers Inn of the Year. His most recent role was at the Fleece Inn in Ripponden, which also boasts 2 AA rosettes.

The new restaurant will offer a fine dining experience on Friday and Saturday nights

The talented chef hails from the borough of Rochdale, having grown up in Heywood and trained in catering at Hopwood Hall College, before kicking off his long and successful career in kitchens across the UK, as well as in northern France. 

The new restaurant will be named ‘The Martlet’, which is a mythical bird that appears in imagery throughout the building, including in the newly restored Bright Hall.

The Martlet will offer a variety of foods, including light lunchtime ‘grab and go’ offers, traditional afternoon teas and classic north west dishes like rag pudding and fish and chips.

Guests will be able to see the team in action, with banquette seating and high chairs surrounding an open kitchen. On Friday and Saturday nights, The Martlet will transform into a fine dining restaurant, serving up dishes like Fillet of Beef Wellington and Halibut Loin with shrimp risotto, sea greens and marsh samphire.

‘We want to celebrate local produce and have already contracted a number of local suppliers’

Darren said:

“It’s gone full circle for me in Rochdale, as I remember doing some catering for an event in the town hall when I was first studying in the 90s. The town hall is an incredibly well known and loved landmark, not just in Rochdale, but far beyond. The Martlet will be a really valuable part of the wider town hall offer, which is going to wow our residents and visitors when it reopens next year. I’ve had a successful career that I’ve really enjoyed, but coming in at the beginning of something completely new, which this restaurant will be, is an incredibly exciting opportunity which I couldn’t pass up.


“In addition to our weekday menu, our Friday and Saturday nights will offer fine dining, something which is not widely available in Rochdale, and which will really complement the food and drink offer which we already have here. With cooking at this level and the kind of surroundings you have at Rochdale Town Hall, it will be something really special.


“Our menu will be full of regional produce and we’ve already recruited a number of local suppliers. We’re now putting together our team of talented chefs and we can’t wait to open our doors next year.”

The town hall team has also leaned on the expertise of top chef Tristan Welch, who has worked in the world’s leading restaurants, including Le Gavroche and L’Arpege, as well as appearing on the BBC’s Great British Menu. Tristan will be advising Darren and the team, including supporting the  creation of the menu, as the town hall gears up to reopen to the public in March 2024. 

Councillor Janet Emsley, cabinet member for equity, safety and reform, said:

“From the very beginning of this restoration, we’ve worked with people who really are the very best at what they do, because we know how important this building is to the people of the borough, to whom the town hall ultimately belongs.


“Now we’re nearing the completion of this huge restoration project, we’ve recruited a first class team, whose responsibility it will be to guide this building once it reopens to the public next year. I’m very proud to welcome Darren, who is Rochdale born and bred, into his role and I know our new restaurant will be a fantastic asset to the building and the wider borough, once it opens next year.

Rochdale Town Hall will reopen following a multi-million pound restoration in March 2024

The creation of the Martlet restaurant is part of the wider restoration of Rochdale Town Hall, which is being supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project is being delivered by Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) on behalf of the council. 

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Published: 12th December 2023