A NEW smokehouse restaurant is set to 'whet the appetites' of diners in Gourock.

Jude Boulton and his wife Hazel say they can't wait to open 'Kai Smokehouse' at the former Bank of Scotland premises in Kempock Street in January next year.

Jude said that over £100,000 has been invested in the new restaurant and he hopes to employ about five to six full-time workers.

Speaking exclusively to the Telegraph, he said: "We envisage Kai Smokehouse becoming an integral part of the local community.

"A place where people will come to not only enjoy fantastic food but also a relaxed, friendly and inspiring atmosphere.

"To anyone that has heard us talk about it over the years it is exciting to see it coming together at last.

"Thanks goes out to all the family, friends and people in the community that have already supported us and helped to make this a reality."

The couple, who are both aged 45, say they have always dreamed of opening a restaurant in the area.

Jude trained as a chef and initially worked in Edinburgh in a renowned Bistro called the Tatler in Leith and a Steakhouse called the Buffalo Grill.

He then moved to the Isle of Arran where he worked in the Auchrannie Country House hotel, being given the responsibility of launching the then, new bistro, Brambles.

At the point of finishing up – Jude was offered chef contracts in Australia and Sweden to train and work for Stakis Crown – however he chose to make a career change at this time.

He later moved to Greenock to pursue his studies where he met Hazel.

Jude went on to study social work at the University of Stirling and now practices as a social worker in Inverclyde while he also qualified as a practice teacher.

Meanwhile, Hazel was born and grew up in Inverclyde and went on to achieve an honours degree in social policy and a post graduate diploma in housing management.

She has worked in the field of social rented housing for about 20 years.

The couple, who have been married for 19 years, say they were inspired to open a smokehouse restaurant following a trip to New Zealand.

Jude said: "We have been to New Zealand a couple of times in the last three years to visit family and to go to a wedding.

"We were blown away by the small independent businesses, restaurants and cafes, it's so connected to the community.

"It inspired us to think about what we could do in Gourock."

Jude says the restaurant will offer the community a fresh dining experience.

He said: "It's a fusion between Texas style barbecue and a Scottish coastal style.

"So there will be smoked salmon, smoked cheese, scallops, fish and seafood and we will also bring in the Texas style barbecue such as barbecue brisket, ribs and pulled pork burgers."

Yesterday, the restaurant received approval for its premises licence at a meeting of the Inverclyde Licensing board.

Chairman Ronnie Ahlfeld, who is an independent councillor in the area, said the restaurant opening up was 'very welcome'.

Jude says they hope to open the restaurant in mid to late January.