AN East Lancashire pub has joined the national fine dining elite after being named England’s best restaurant of the year.

The Freemasons at Wiswell, owned by chef Steve Smith, landed the title of AA Restaurant of the Year 2017-18 at a ceremony in London.

The award is the latest in a long line of achievements for the gastropub, which recently confirmed it will take a new direction next year, when it adds four bedrooms.

Described as ‘offering an outstanding dining experience without compromising on being a pub’, The Freemasons has enjoyed a wealth of accolades in recent years.

They include being the first pub to receive a seven out of 10 in the Waitrose Good Food Guide, winning gold at the Visit England Awards and being named best food pub at the Great British Pub Awards.

Mr Smith, chef owner at The Freemasons, hailed the latest achievement as “truly life-changing”.

He said: “Momentum has been building at The Freemasons for the last few years and this award truly sums up everything we’ve been working so hard for.

“As a chef you have ambitions and dreams and the AA Awards is one of them.

“To have achieved this on top of everything else is truly life-changing, and with the plans we have for the pub extension next year, I believe we’re positioning ourselves as one of the best establishments in the country.”

Mr Smith also paid tribute to his staff, adding: “None of this would have been possible without the fantastic team we have working here, both front of house and in the kitchen.

“This award is testament to their hard work and we’re truly proud and honoured.”

The AA award, introduced in 2000, recognises restaurants that provide cuisine of a truly excellent standard, as well as demonstrating innovation and ambience and providing a high standard of hospitality.

Previous winners include Kenny Atkinson’s House of Tides in Newcastle, Gary Usher’s Sticky Walnut in Chester, and most notably, Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.