The Forest Snug looks like an ordinary food van but Tim Lightbody’s food is of a far higher standard
A food van tucked away in Macclesfield Forest offers customers a ‘surprise’ with its delicious food and burgers. The Forest Snug is based on Standing Stone Road, opposite the stunning Trentabank Reservoir.
Almost hidden at the back of the forest’s centre car park, visitors would be forgiven for missing the food van. It’s a location where people visit to take a scenic walk up Shutlingsloe in the Peak District.
But the Forest Snug is a hidden gem for people visiting the Cheshire forest. The food van is run by Tim Lightbody, from Macclesfield, who works as a chef at AstraZeneca and runs the business on weekends, as well as bank holidays.
Tim runs the Forest Snug with his family, including his three sons and his wife, who makes ‘brilliant’ cakes. With a rich background in hospitality, the Macclesfield man gets a chance to display his creative flair with food at this discrete van.
Having worked as a pastry chef at Gleneagles, which is a five red star hotel chain, and Mottram Hall, as a senior sous chef, Tim has spent years perfecting his craft.
The 53-year-old started the Forest Snug around six years ago and has to re-apply every year to gain his spot at Macclesfield Forest. He feels the van is a ‘perfect platform’ to showcase his creativity.
“Apart from outside a pub, you can’t really get great food without walking and roughing it a bit. That’s the essence of the Forest Snug, obviously I’m in a forest and I’m snug and tucked away, not in everyone’s eyeline,” he said.
“You’ve got all the walks around, the wildlife, it’s a perfect platform for me to showcase what I can do as a chef. We keep it very family-orientated with no outside influence.
“We get all types of visitors here, cyclists, ramblers, walking groups and even the rangers. It’s great to be here and sociable, with a smile on my face to provide great food.”
When Cheshire Live visited the Forest Snug, Tim treated us to a ‘Veggie Burger’ and the specials option of venison. At first glance, the menu seems standard to what is expected to be served at a food van.
But when Tim placed the vegetarian burger on the table, it became apparent that is was far from standard. He told us that he loves to ‘surprise’ customers with his food, and he certainly achieved that.
The bun was brushed with avocado oil, the vegetables were expertly seasoned and it may be the best vegetarian dish I’ve ever tried. And the most impressive part of it all, Tim makes everything he serves from scratch.
He told Cheshire Live: “It’s good honest ingredients and I have good background knowledge of how to put it all together and present it. I aim to give value and I love to surprise people more than anything.
“I want people to ask the questions and why I’ve put certain ingredients together. Even the burgers have set methods on how to make it ideal, by talking to my butcher as well.
“It’s just having the passion and living it 24/7. If I was a writer, I’d write novels every single day but as a chef I have the opportunity to cook every single day.
“I can turn my hand to all types of cookery and every one of them is like revisiting art. You’ve done it hundreds of times and you try to recreate.
“It’s people’s reaction to my food that is my drug. That’s what makes me happy.”
Tim says that he is ‘tarred’ by the image of looking like a regular ‘butty van’. But he enjoys the reaction from visitors after he serves them his delicious food.
“When you speak to people after they’ve eaten, they look surprised as if to say ‘this is not a normal burger van food’. I am tarred with the white van man image, it’s viewed as a butty van on first look,” he said.
“Just owning the van is hard work, and the rest has just come through with my passion for food. I don’t want it to be too busy here, as I want to maintain the quality of food.
“I want to keep everyone happy and maintain a steady flow of me being renowned for doing good food. It’s as simple as that.
“Credit to my wife because if my boys aren’t helping me, they’ll be at football. And she brings the kids all around Cheshire and without her, I wouldn’t be doing this.
“She is brilliant pastry chef and has confidence in what she does. The lads come up, go for a walk and they also help out here. It’s a very family-orientated business.”
In his full-time job at AstraZeneca, Tim says the team there provide five-star quality for staff. But it’s at the Forest Snug where Tim gets an opportunity to showcase his own ideas.
He said he is inspired by regular watching the Hairy Bikers and reading cookery books. Tim also says he is ‘lucky’ to have the spot at Macclesfield Forest.
“I’m always reading cookery books, watching Rick Stein or Hairy Bikers and I attune to what they’re doing and it inspires me.
“The Forest Snug isn’t big enough to do full-time and there isn’t the footfall in the week. But who knows, this van could take my to another site in the future.
“But this (the forest) is a great office window and I’d rather be here than on a lay-by or outside a shopping centre. This place has it all and this is my canvas of portraying what I do, I’m very lucky to be here.”
The Forest Snug is open on weekends between 10am and 4pm, serving delicious homemade cakes and chefs specials. It may look like an ordinary food van, but Tim’s food goes way beyond the standard.