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The town of Congleton is now home to a ‘quirky’ cocktail bar thanks to an investment by independent pub company Punch Pubs & Co.

The Bench Bistro, formerly known as the Young Pretender, was acquired by the pub company back in January 2024. Fast forward five months and the bar has opened with Publicans Richard and Verity Shaw taking on their second Punch venue to bring their exciting and unique offering to Congleton.

Having mastered the art of their trade at the Bench Bistro in Nantwich, Richard and Verity have been working hard to bring their ‘Bench’ brand alongside their new team just 20 miles away.

Richard said: “The Young Pretender stood out to us instantly. Verity and I saw so much potential and immediately saw our vision come to life. The building lends itself to what we do and how we work, and the location is perfect, we would struggle to find a better second venue!”

The investment spends of £200k have seen the former Young Pretender go through a complete transformation meaning what was an ordinary bar is now totally unrecognisable.

Guests will be bedazzled by the Bench Bistro’s bright and colourful interior coupled with multiple archways adorning bold flowers and foliage. Neon signage compliments the colourful setting whilst murals of the Bench Bistro’s food dishes and drinks are displayed on the walls.

Distinct to its brand, the venue boasts its own unique quirks from garden gnomes and hummingbirds to a pick ‘n’ mix station. Following on with the theme of being unique, every food item on the menu at the Bench Bistro is delivered on a signature picnic bench, an eccentricity that Richard and Verity say has helped to greatly improve efficiency.

Richard added: “Almost everything we do is a little bit different. It’s taken Verity and I five and a half years to develop our brand but we’re proud of the journey we’ve been on and firmly believe that our offer is very good.

“We designed our menu to be delivered on a bench which means it can be taken out by one person very quickly, the benches not only look great, but they also give our guests a fun dining experience too.”

The Bench Bistro’s extensive menu is also distinctive, offering dishes such as Lamb Lollipops, Dr Pepper Chicken Wings and Popcorn Mussels alongside more customary options of Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Pork Belly and Baked Camembert.

A popular hit, guests can also indulge in an equally unique afternoon tea, served on their signature benches with savoury treats including Curried Falafel Lollipop, Bench Mini Beef Burger and Scampi & Chips, complimented by their Strawberry and Banana Smoothie, Lemon Fondant Cake and Mini Doughnuts.

Richard and Verity are also proud of their playfully curated and vast cocktail menu. With over 30 drinks available to enjoy alongside their renowned food, the Bench Bistro offers cocktail classics including Pornstar Martini and Daquiri, as well as their very own ‘Gummy Bear’, ‘Watermelon Sugar High’ and ‘What’s Poppin’ served with a sachet of popping candy.

Punch Pubs & Co’s Head of Operations, Andy Wilkinson has worked alongside Richard and Verity for four years, he said: “Richard and Verity are fantastic Publicans, and the Bench Bistro has gone from strength to strength over the years. It’s a privilege to have been a part of their journey and I’m excited to see their incredible hard work come to life here in Congleton too. The Bench Bistro is a pub like no other and I’ve no doubt that it will become a popular hotspot here too.”

The acquisition and subsequent investment of the Bench Bistro has generated several new roles and will be ran on a day-to-day basis by Manager Olivia McDonald and the team.

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