Oh happy days. After months of lockdown then slowly trying to unpick the rules, last Friday night I welcomed six guests to Gloucester Studio (for the time being this is how many people I’m hosting). It has been a strange time and like many I’ve swung between optimism and despair. Something I did to occupy my mind was look at how I offered menus. Including wine in my meal prices kept things simple but I wanted a little more flexibility. Pyromaniac Prototype meals were one solution. For £35 diners can buy a ticket for their food (and mineral water) and I would run a bar offering a selection of other drinks. If you’d like to book a ticket I have spaces on 9th October, 13th November and just created a Christmas date for 4th December.
I was all about keeping things as simple as possible but my PA Rachel (who will hopefully be writing the occasional blog in the coming months) was adamant that as a Cotswold Restaurant I simply must have a gin bar. I liked the idea and after a few chats on social media it was clear that Gloucester Brewery were the folk I was looking for. Their Fox’s Kiln Distillery gin was not only highly recommended from multiple people but they were absolutely behind everything Gloucester Studio represents. With an order for their Classic Gin, Pink Gin, Blood Orange Gin and Rhubarb and Ginger Gin plus eight of their beautiful gin goblets on their way I headed out to my favourite shop; The Malthouse Collective in Stroud.
I looked at a lot of beautiful items before spotting a plant stand tucked in a corner. The shelves would perfectly hold four of the Fox’s Kiln Distillery goblets but the top was far too small and uninspiring. Still, I am a very experienced vintage shopper so I took the stand down to the till to keep it safe while I looked for something to put on top of it. The perfect solution was a tray from India made from pewter. My super practical new car has plenty of vertical space so it was an easy drive home. A few candles, some flowers, a pumpkin and some bar accessories and it was perfect for the gin bottles.
The rest of the bar was simpler. I called my wine merchant and sommelier, Tom I’Anson and he talked me through an order of red, white and rose wines plus prosecco and vintage and non-vintage champagne. A look on Amazon (and a deep breath) saw me order a dual temperature wine fridge to store it all perfectly.
Beer was an easy choice. Hillside Brewery were shortlisted in a best supplier award I sponsored a few years ago and I absolutely loved their beer. The affection seemed mutual and they created a beer menu to match my food. I’m serving their HCL (lager), Legless Cow (Best Bitter), Summit (Ruby Ale) and Over The Hill (Dark Mild). My favourite is the Ruby Ale but I think a tasting is absolutely necessary for beer fans.
It took a little moving around to fit the beer into the Welsh dresser in my dining room (there are many challenges to running a restaurant from your garden) not least because I needed tonic for gin plus a choice of non-alcoholic drinks. Obviously some get transferred to one of my fridges before bookings but at least they are tidily stowed.
Something I watched during lockdown was Escape to the Chateau and I was hugely inspired by Angel’s floral arrangements. So in addition to decorating the gin bar for bookings I’ll be decorating Gloucester Studio. My mum is a phenomenal florist who has worked on the alter at no less than Westminster Abbey and I really don’t have her patience for it but I was pretty pleased with the little pumpkins I hollowed out to hold a shot glass to act as a vase for some alstroemeria and roses. I then filled the spaces between them, more roses in shot glasses, candles and apples with leaves from a tree in my garden. I then wrapped everyone’s cutlery with a leaf and some ribbon. While it was a COVID measure (previously everyone passed cutlery around the restaurant) to give everyone their cutlery with their water glass, I really like how it looked and plan to always do this from now on.
The final new thing was a Swedish Fire Torch. This log was a gift from the very lovely Michaela Brown who is a regular contributor to both my Facebook Page and Facebook Group and now feels like a friend (one who I keep dropping hints to about inviting me to her kota hut for dinner some time). While one of my diners had to teach me the correct way to light it (oh the SHAME!), I absolutely loved how it burned and these will feature in the restaurant from now on.
I’ve been writing for a while now and haven’t even touched on the food but I think I should sign off and make that another post.
In case you missed it, I am so happy to be back!