VILLAGERS who saved their pub for the community have recruited some top talent to run it.

Ian Neale, 32, is a former senior sous chef at top-rated Chelsea restaurant Bibendum, and his 34-year-old partner, Lisa Lyne, previously worked as front of house manager at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant in London.

And they aim to build up a roaring trade at the Red Lion, in Northmoor, which was saved from being sold for development.

Villagers raised a total of £300,000 to save the building, buying up shares to safeguard their beloved local.

More than 30 people applied to become tenants of the pub.

Miss Lyne, who has run two pubs in Devon and Newbury with Mr Neale, said they had redecorated the Red Lion and plan to create a vegetable garden outside.

She said: “It’s great for us because we’re not tied to a brewery, and at the same time we have 70 shareholders who will be using it regularly so there’s a stable customer base.

“It’s a lot more achievable to build without being under the pressure of a brewery and there’s so much long term potential.”

Owners Greene King put the pub up for sale in January after failing to find new tenants following the departure of Colin and Alison Beland, who took over the Plough Inn at Appleton.

Villagers set up the Northmoor Lion company and bought the building within two weeks after a resident loaned them the money.

Since then, almost 70 people have bought shares in the company, ranging from £250 to £50,000.

Northmoor Parish Council chairman Graham Shelton, who led the bid, said: “This village revolves around three things – the pub, the church and the village hall – and we need to sustain all three parts as they are critical to the community. We have a great group of people who like to help each other out and buying a pub together is a great thing for us to do.

“It gives us certainty about our pub and with the people we’ve got it could be one of the best pubs in Oxfordshire.’’ A pub launch party will be held tomorrow from 6pm.

It will include live music, barn and maypole dancing, a hog roast and a speech by Countryfile TV presenter Adam Henson.

To buy shares, call Graham Shelton on 01865 300873.