Zack Deakins, chef patron of Bury St Edmunds restaurant 1921, has been riding a wave of creativity during lockdown and is now sharing it as he welcomes back diners
So here we are, back at it. . . the same but different. My word it feels good.
It was a big task to get up and running again. It was almost like starting the restaurant all over again.
We started by giving the restaurant a bit of TLC. I have always loved the space at 1921 for a number of reasons. Whether it is the collection of random old Punch books, encyclopaedias and other eclectic objects, or my mum’s artwork on the walls, or maybe it’s the fact the timber frame reminds me of the cottage I grew up in, one way or another I find it an extremely relaxing place to sit. With this in mind I was not looking to make drastic changes, more just of a freshen up.
We spent a few days completely repainting (thank you team 1921), put down new carpet (thank you Jeremy at Fairway Floors) and for me, the highlight, the beautiful new banquette seating (thank you Aubrey Nice Upholstery).
As part of the refresh we took the decision to remove our lounge bar area. We felt that as it stands it wasn’t exactly suitable for social distancing. I was sad to see it go as it was something that I had always wanted. But with every cloud. . . it left us with a fantastic space in front of the inglenook fireplace ideal for a large table. The fun thing about this table from my point of view is I can see it from the pass in the kitchen. I have never wanted to work in an open plan kitchen and I suspect this is as close as I am likely to get, but I have to admit I quite like it. Being able to look up and see people’s reaction to the food, to see them relaxing and enjoying themselves gives me quite a buzz. After all, that’s what we are here for.
We have removed a couple tables from the restaurant to give everyone more space (no table is closer than 1.5 meters). Our tables have always had a pretty decent amount of space around them – I am not a fan of the table next door conversation interrupting mine – so the atmosphere and energy of the restaurant doesn’t really feel like it has changed despite now easily complying to social distancing regulations.
These changes have made the restaurant feel so fresh, reborn. I am totally besotted with it and am loving sharing it with everyone.
Add to the pot some hand sanitizer stations and an even more rigorous cleaning schedule and we were good to go.
Next step. . . menus. This has been so easy, feel like new dishes are quite simply pouring out of me and new dishes are coming on the menu almost every day at the moment, which is lots of fun. Today we just finished off a dish of Butter Poached Norfolk Lobster and Sweetcorn Chowder, which I am very pleased with. It’s a celebration of summer.
Lockdown appears to have been good for my mind, I feel as though I am thinking clearer and perhaps faster than ever before and am very much enjoying riding the wave of energy and creativity. Turns out time off is good for the mind. . . who knew?
The guests we have had in so far have been fabulous. From some of the usual suspects that it’s been wonderful to catch up with and share stories of the incredible last few months, to new faces that are adding to our tapestry of friends. I am so grateful to everyone that has come so far and brought the life back.
It sounds like everything’s quite different, right? Well, it is until the day-to-day kicks in. This is where I find the nothing-has-changed feeling. The thrill of working through a huge mis en place list. The excitement of new dishes and the buzz of service. The things I have always loved in my life in kitchens. When I am cooking, I am lost in what is on the stove – what needs seasoning, what needs stirring, what needs to go on next. It’s a feeling that I get completely lost in and feels very freeing. In these moments there is nothing else but food. It’s good to have it back, and back with more drive and enthusiasm than ever before.
So here we are, the same but different. . . and dare I say it, maybe better!
Zack Deakins is chef patron of 1921 Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds.
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