A landmark building is to be transformed into a Turkish restaurant by undergoing a £1.5million revamp.

Restaurateur Memhet Hassan, 46, who owns the Dining Rooms, in Leigh, is ploughing the seven-figure sum into renovating the former Ocean City Chinese in The Ridgeway, Chalkwell.

He said he wants to turn the dated building into a “palace”.

It Baboush with a 100-seat restaurant downstairs, a 26-seat mezzo-themed area upstairs, for lighter meals and a cocktail bar.

The new restaurant, which is planned to open in November, will create 22 full-time jobs and ten part-time roles.

Mr Hassan, who is Turkish, said: “Turkish cuisine is big in London and that is filtering through to Southend, so this is the right type of cuisine at the right time for the town. It’s the flavour of the month.

“I love the area, as it’s unique and it’s a landmark building. It’s not going to be a Turkish takeaway, it’s going to look like a palace, internally and externally, when I’m finished with it.”

It will add to the host of finedining restaurants that have popped up in Southend and Leigh over the past few years, including Bourgee in Western Espalande, and a revamped Mangetout, off the High Street.

The Royal Hotel, at the top of Pier Hill has also been taken over by Canvey businessmen looking to turn it into a quality restaurant.

Mr Hassan added: “There is a big appetite for fine-dining in the area, but food that is well priced.

People don’t want to pay a-lacarte prices any more.

“Our main courses will be no more than £15 and starters will be about the £3 to £4 mark.”

He has run the Dining Rooms in London Road, Leigh, for nine years, and has 25 years’ experience in the catering industry.

Lucy Courtenay, 55, of Crowstone Avenue, Westcliff, chairman of Chalkwell Residents’ Association, said: “There is not a great deal of fine-dining venues in the area, you have to go the seafront, so I think people will be happy.

“There were plans for a bistro on the Ridgeway, but that got refused because of noise issues, so I would hope this venue wouldn’t have the same issues.”


Planning row over outdoor area

Plans for an outdoor seating area at the restaurant have been rejected by Southend Council.

Despite the decision being made last week, Memhet Hassan has not been told by planning officials their reasons for the refusal.

The authority’s said the extension would be out of keeping with the area, and would create excessive noise.

But Mr Hassan hit back, saying the outside area, with a retractable roof, would be on his land, and the restaurant would only be open until about 11pm. Southend Council gave planning permission to an almost identical proposal from Bourgee, in Western Esplanade, despite its outdoor area being built on public land.

Mr Hassan, who needs to submit another planning application to move the door of his building, said: “I think it’s great Bourgee are doing well, but I don’t understand how it has got permission and this is refused.

“This was a Chinese karaoke bar before.

“Would people rather have that, or a Turkish fine dining restaurant?”