10 Questions Interview

10 Questions with Restaurant@44 Head Chef, Jack Alden


The dining scene in Exeter has been full of surprises recently.  It was a surprise to see Urban Burger close, but even in this tough economic climate, a new exciting restaurant is set to open in its place.

The newest kid on the block is Restaurant@44 which is due to open in March.  The food is headed by Jack Alden who was previously at The Terrace; he has created a cracking menu to accompany the flowing champagne and cocktails at, what is set to be, Exeter’s first Champagne Bar and Restaurant in Queen Street.

An intimate restaurant area downstairs will compliment the upstairs cocktail bar serving light bites (the Scotch Egg Bhaji sounds amazing!) and some epic champagnes.  BBQ coal cooked steaks, a sumptous range of sweet treats for coffee lovers and don’t forget a range of cocktails which will certainly make any night out.

All photos courtesy of Restaurant@44

What makes Restaurant @44 special, what would your elevator pitch be?

We want to create an environment where people can come and enjoy some of the best food and drink in the city. When our guests are with us we want them to feel like they are really being looked after.

Customer service is paramount to our business, our aim isn’t to compete with the branded restaurants but to offer high quality and give great value for money

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I hear that you have a very local focus. Which local suppliers will be using for your food?

Some of the local suppliers we will be using range from, pipers farm – MC Kelly in Crediton for meat and vegetables from Richards in Topsham; we will have our own herbs and edible flowers growing at the restaurant and even the odd supply from one of our chefs Viki’s allotment.

So, for the uninitiated, what is a champagne bar? Do you have special champagnes not available elsewhere?

We will have up to 20 champagnes, giving people lots of choice from house champagne to a 2009 Don Perignon and even Laurent Pierre rose for the lady’s (or men).  We will also be serving a light bites menu upstairs to complement, including Oysters, Sliders with Sticky Glazed Short Rib, Mussel Popcorn and Scotch Egg Bhaji.  Lobster will also be available.

It’s tough out there but it is great to see a new independent restaurant opening. What inspired you to open this restaurant?

It is a very tough market and restaurants are closing all the time. We believe that sticking to a plan and not trying to compete with the chains or changing our concept will help us achieve success.
The best restaurants out there that go on to gain Michelin stars and other accolades have done so by having great attention to detail and that is what we are aiming for.

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Tell me more about your ‘Tipsy Tea?’

Afternoon tea is a big thing now and restaurants are putting all sorts of twists on them. We wanted to create something a little bit different and a bit nostalgic.

Although there isn’t anything wrong with a traditional afternoon tea we thought it would be great to shake it up a bit and put something different on there; why not have a great sausage roll and a mini doughnut or chocolate popping candy lollipop instead of a ham sandwich and mini Victoria sponge.

The drinks aspect was to match a gin or even a cocktail board to go alongside. You can come in at 3pm and have a pot of tea or come in at 7pm with a few friends and share some sweet and savoury bites with a gin/cocktail to make it a bit more exciting.

I’m excited to hear that you’ll be cooking on open coals! what is your favourite cut of meat to cook with? Are you a big BBQ fan?

The BBQ idea was to again create something a bit different, so many places will claim to have a “chargrilled steak” done over an electric grill or lava rock. For me, this isn’t “char-grilled”.

We won’t be using the BBQ for your standard pulled pork, burgers etc. I think people can really overdo it on the smoked flavour. Bronx Bar in Teignmouth do it really well and get the balance just right.

My favourite cut to cook and it will feature on the menu is a 26oz rib of beef for two to share, or one if you’re hungry. We will cook that over charcoal and serve it with beef dripping chips.

Cocktails are great, so is champagne, but the beer is important too. Will you be stocking any local brewers?

We will be stocking some local beers and spirits. We will stock Exeter and Salcombe Gin and we are going to be using Powderkeg Brewery and some of their local beers.  It’s a bit of a contradiction to what I mentioned about locally sourced from a food perspective but just because it is local doesn’t necessarily mean its good. We aim to get the best from the right areas.

From what I’ve seen so far, your menu sounds great! What options do you have for vegetarians and vegans?

We will cater for all dietary needs from dairy and gluten free, to vegetarians and vegans. These menus will change from week to week, but we will include things like a Pot Roasted Cauliflower, with pickled walnut salsa verde, pine nuts and mint.  We encourage guests to be able to request something that they really like that we can create that and put our spin on it.

A dessert example will be BBQ Spiced Pineapple (the first job before any meat is BBQ obviously) with maple syrup, toasted seeds and spices with a pineapple and coconut “milkshake” on the side.

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More and more chain restaurants skimp on dessert, they just come out of a packet! How important is a good dessert to a restaurant?

Desserts are important as it is the last thing you eat. We have a really good pastry chef, Viki, who has worked with me before.  She will be making fresh bread every morning to passionfruit meringue tart, millionaires shortbread éclair, homemade ice-cream, sorbets and lots of little sweet treats to go alongside your coffee.

We will also have a “Fudge Sundae” on the menu too for the people with a really sweet tooth!

All of this sounds great! When are you opening?

We plan to open our doors on the 14th March, but it could be a bit sooner. We will be doing three soft launches before that where we will invite local business and suppliers to give us some feedback before we open.

http://www.restaurant44.co.uk/

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