Linked to Sunday Scribblings
Previously in A Chequered Career….. I suppose cars were in my blood, for several generations ago a relation of mine, William Hillman set up a factory in Coventry making motor cars…… Hadley Garages was a hard act to follow, and working at Worthing Motors was something of an anti-climax……. There was only one workmate with whom I felt I had anything in common, and that was Allan; we shared the same cynical view on the way the garage was run….. And so it was I decided to start a restaurant of my own……. one day in 1998 the Stage Door Bistro and Wine Bar started to take shape.
CHAPTER 16 - AND FOR MY NEXT TRICK!
Working at Worthing Motors whilst maintaining a secret existence far away in the shell of an evolving bistro in Eastbourne was not easy, but somehow I got away with it. As well as evolving a menu I had other things to concentrate my mind on such as finding suppliers and creating a tempting wine and beer list. I also had to get myself ‘licensed to sell alcoholic beverages on and off the premises’. That entailed two days at a council
Gradually it began to take shape. A state of the art kitchen appeared; a gleaming stainless-steel bastion which was soon to be my place of work. Pristine loos replaced tired toilets. The walls were painted blue and the wooden floorboards stained deep mahogany and varnished. Atop a long bar a row of sparkling chrome beer fonts stood to attention. In corner of the room a low stage took shape and one afternoon an upright piano took up its position.
While all this was going on we needed to find some staff. We held interviews sitting around on carpenter’s benches, boxes and piles wood! I have to say we were very fortunate and we found the perfect mix straight away, three teen girls who to turn out to absolute gems. One of them, Helen had recently left college where she had studied catering; she was in fact far more qualified than I was, so I reckoned she would come in very handy alongside me in the kitchen. We also found Dave who was to be our resident pianist and serenade our customers at weekends.
As opening day loomed ever closer, we eagerly un-wrapped tables and chairs and lined up six tall stools affront the bar. At the top of the steps which led up to the rear of the bistro, we placed three high level poseur tables with long-legged seats. Out in the street, the front was painted, a deep blind installed and a blackboard fixed to the wall. Flower tubs and baskets appeared and finally and very proudly we placed the name on and above the window. The Stage Door Bistro and Wine bar was ready for business!
We chose a simple almost rustic look for the interior with candles stuck into bottles on the tables and the menu presented on a huge blackboard rather than in individual folders. As for the menu itself I decided early on that mussels, Moule Frites was to be our signature dish which would be offered in various sauces and served with crusty bread, fries and mayonnaise the way they do it so well in Belgium. In the kitchen I had a large charcoal grill on which to cook steaks, kebabs and ribs. We went for simple country dishes such as coq a vin, and crusty pies. We offered continental style salads, pasta dishes and lots of local fish straight from the beach. Being close to the seafront we decided open early on Sundays and offer the folk out taking a constitutional a brunch; home baked croissants,
Mistake number one. I advertised a week before we opened, heavily. What I should have done was to open unannounced and allow just a trickle of customers across the doorstep over the first few days while I found my culinary feet. So as a result we were packed on the first night. I can still see that row of orders lined up before my eyes looking menacingly back at me as if offering up a challenge. But somehow I got through.
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