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CASA’s Maria Broadbent is excited to be welcoming customers back to her restaurant – and its new venue – and says the hospitality industry in Bury St Edmunds has so much to offer




Thanks

People join this industry because of their love of cooking, food and the joy of giving good service. To have this ripped away from us and to feel the threat of job losses and business uncertainty has and continues to be a huge challenge for the hospitality sector. There are groups on Facebook such as Eat and Drink in your Bury St Edmunds set up by Nigel Birrell which have been a lifesaver for many businesses during lockdown. Along with Our Bury St Edmunds, Bury St Edmunds and Beyond, the inimitable We Love Bury St Edmunds and other local pages, they continue to connect businesses and their customers. Thank you all! Please be kind to businesses and their staff as this is unchartered territory and everyone is trying so hard – if you aren’t able to turn up for your booking PLEASE cancel your reservation.

I cannot start to tell you how excited I am about welcoming customers back into the building and garden here at CASA. We have now had our doors open for four weeks and we have seen a steady stream of customers, both existing and new, coming through our doors. A complete spectrum across age groups – looking for everything from a simple pint to a full-blown celebratory meal. In short, I think, people are just ecstatic to be out and about.

The challenge has been how to combine the lockdown services we introduced to keep ourselves busy with returning to restaurant service – at the same time implementing Covid-19 measures! Happy to say, mission accomplished. Writing the rota has been a total nightmare as we are making sandwiches, prepping and delivering meals on wheels, opening a new venue (more info to follow. . . read on!) and seven days a week we are running a restaurant with an increased bar area. Oh – and we are still doing takeaways for collection and delivery.

Caponata with Burrata and Pesto (39443331)
Caponata with Burrata and Pesto (39443331)

We have been incredibly fortunate in so much as our landlord, Nicholas Corke of Thos. Peatling, has only charged us 50 per cent rent and will continue to do so whilst social distancing is in place. The reduction in covers has been offset by the new space behind that was formerly the wine shop. This takes our seating capacity up to around 70, plus the garden seating. It also gives us a beautiful space for functions and events, especially weddings.

Bury St Edmunds has so much to offer and August sees many restaurants opening for business. Don’t forget to check out the restaurants participating in the Government scheme for half price food and non-alcoholic drinks (up to £10 off). Along with many others, we will be onboard for this great idea – which operates Monday-Wednesday throughout August. What do you need to do? Just come in and dine. . . we discount your meal/soft drinks by 50 per cent up to £10 discount per person. Even better, there is no upper limit for how many times you can use this! So from early morning to late evening you can dine out around Bury St Edmunds with 50 per cent off.

I wandered around our beautiful town this week and was delighted to see so many people safely enjoying the shops, eateries and gardens. We are so fortunate to be in this relatively safe, and in particular, kind and respectful part of the country. We have had a number of visitors taking UK breaks – if you get a day or two off, why not take a staycation and pretend you are on holiday?

Cocktails, brunches, fine dining, casual dining and proper pubs are a plenty on your doorstep. Explore and enjoy.

Here at CASA, our most popular post lockdown dishes have been calamari, Middle Eastern spiced slow roast belly pork and garlic king prawns. For vegetarian options the halloumi with roasted Mediterranean vegetables plus the feta and pomegranate salad are perennial favourites.

The Venue

This light and airy space that was formerly Peatlings Wine Shop (they now operate from Great Whelnetham) is now a flexible space that can be hired for a variety of uses. It currently provides additional indoor seating for CASA on busy nights – but is available for hire too. We wanted to create an outdoor/indoor space with the same feel as CASA but with an Italian influenced décor. There is original artwork yet to be installed and more greenery and drapes – but the picture here gives an idea of the finished look. Tapas and meze are available, but for private hire the options are endless. We have, already booked wedding receptions for the 30 people Covid limit with Italian inspired four-course meals. Here is the recipe for one of my favourite dishes from our event menu:

CAPONATA WITH BURRATA AND PESTO

Ingredients for the pesto:

50g pine nuts

80g fresh basil

50g Parmesan

150ml good quality (not bitter) olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (make sure it is not sprouting green)

Method:

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan.

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blitz till smooth. (You can use a bowl and a hand blender or for a good workout you can use a pestle and mortar!)

Ingredients for the caponata:

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic

1 large aubergine

2 courgettes

2 sticks celery

1 tsp dried oregano

150g baby plum or cherry tomatoes

1 x 400g tin tomatoes

1 glass white wine

3tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp capers

14 pitted black olives, roughly chopped into large pieces

Basil

Method:

Cut aubergine into medium chunks, sprinkle with salt and let sweat for at least 10 minutes. Chop remaining vegetables into medium size chunks. Finely chop onion and garlic.

Heat oil in a frying pan, cook aubergine for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Fry onions over a medium heat until soft, then add garlic, celery, courgette, oregano and cook a further 10 minutes. Return aubergine to the pan.

Chop baby plum tomatoes in half and add to the vegetables along with the tinned tomatoes, wine, vinegar and a splash of water. Cover and simmer for approx. 30 minutes.

To finish your caponata, add the rough chopped olives, capers and meatballs to the pan, combining well. Cover pan and continue to simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve the caponata topped with meatballs. roasted pine nuts, basil leaves and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.

To assemble:

4 tbsp pine nuts, dry roasted

Mixed leaves crunchy ones

If you’re feeling fancy – then some parmesan crisps

1 Burrata per person

Maria Broadbent is owner of Mediterranean restaurant CASA in Risbygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

Tel 01284 701313

See www.casabse.co.uk


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