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The Restaurant Dream

September 22, 2012

It’s a dream I’ve had for a while. Sitting at the back of my head, simmering away and slowly growing, finding a shape and a direction. At the start it was a dream I wouldn’t share with anyone, it seemed too far fetched, too much work, too risky.

But little by little I started telling people and now everyone seems to know, and you know what? People don’t laugh. In fact they are generally supportive, and then this week, something happened which feels like a gigantic triple jump forward. Someone offered us some funding. Not enough to open straight away but a serious whack which will look good when we start going to the bank with cap in hand.

So now it all feels like it might come true. All the endless conversations – the discussions of wine glasses, menus, tiles, service, chairs – they now have a tangible quality. Back of the envelope calculations of spend-per-head and covers-per-night and runnning costs and the big ‘does-it-all-add-up?’ question are now migrating into spreadsheets. Mental pictures of layouts are becoming back of envelope sketches and a host of unimagined factors like bank charges are slotting into the mental picture. Casual musings on ‘so where would we do it’ are now casual browsings of estate agents websites and google maps.

I’ve tried to tell people what it’ll be like, but it’s hard. You say British food and people think ‘OK’. They think pies, sunday roast, crumble, bangers and mash, chips. I think cheddar cheese, cream and milk; fresh Devon crab and samphire, hake from Newlyn, herring and mackerel sizzled in butter; I think cider and ales; mutton from south Wales, salt marsh lamb. I think Dexter beef and wild mushrooms, pork pies, rabbit, elvers and smoked trout. I’m talking about roast beef and swede and anchovies. I’m talking about grouse and partridge and roe deer and snipe and woodcock and teal and widgeon and pigeon and mallard and all the good things that you might serve them with: game chips and bread sauce and rowan jelly and frazzled bacon and watercress.

I think of the classic dishes that have persevered through the ages. I think of the old dishes which slipped from favour in our late rush for ready meals but which are still there ready to go again. I think of a lighter cuisine to suit our modern tastes, where you can cook slightly different things in familar ways, or familiar things in different ways. And I think you can do all this without cherry picking from France or Italy. You can come up with a good vegetarian option without resorting to pasta or risotto, and if you can’t it’s not British food that’s lacking, it’s you.

Because we have such great *stuff* here. Our seafood is the best in Europe. We have so much game here it’s almost embarrassing for our poor friends in the USA. Our dairy products are rarely equalled. Our borderline climate – cool and wet and a bit windy gives fruit of fantastic flavour and crunch that the continent finds difficult to match – they grow shiny apples which are big and uniform and neat. But when have you had a tasty apple in France? Exactly. We have lovely soft flour which bakes bread with chew and flavour and lovely big holes, if only people would let it do its thing.

A small place, convivial, relaxed and friendly. Delicious food with a menu which changes every day to reflect what good things are growing or being shot or caught. A simple but comfortable place. Our place. The Dream.

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