Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Juniper

Juniper. Five years ago, that was what I would have called the wine bar / restaurant I believed I would have opened by now. Unfortunately the name is now taken by another establishment, but the idea is still with me. My pipe-dream, maybe. Where does that phrase come from?

I wanted to serve small plates of food accompanied by, if desired, really great wines - sourced from small collectives, unusual grapes, organic if possible, affordable always. I had the idea before I read your idea of the Tomato Bar, April! :-)

I also wanted to combine it with the idea of a wine library, during daytime... or early evening. There would be racks of books, some new for purchasing, some secondhand just for browsing. Sofas and comfortable armchairs in discreet nooks and crannies for those single diners. Stripped pine tables for large groups. Mis-matched chairs. Flagstone / wooden flooring. (I was designing a gastropub before they happened). Depending on how many rooms I had, the walls would be stripped back to the brick and lathe (obviously I am doing this in a C17 building with no planning restrictions or preservation orders!), or white-washed, or painted with silver and gilt. Works by local artists and photographers, for sale. Pottery and sculpture in nooks and crannies. An open fire. Candle-light or strategic spots. A courtyard garden for summer, with wisteria flooding down from the walls; lavender and rosemary in pots; herbs for picking at.

The drinks list would have recommended reading beside some of the entries - tongue in cheek, mostly. "The Great Gatsby" - champagne, of course. And possibly a mint julep. Anything by Jane Austen - a dry sherry with a frivolous kick, with an optional swift knock on the head afterwards, because it would be less painful than reading "Persuasion". Iain Banks - an Islay malt; possibly Caol Isla (are you au fait with Caol Isla, Miss M?). Dickens - a vintage port, or an elderly claret. Chick-Lit - a chilled Viognier, or Riesling, so much classier than Bridget Jones's Chardonnay. And so on.

Food. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts - toasted, in bowls, with salt for adding if required. Hard-boiled quails eggs and fresh radishes, again with salt and herbs for dipping. Massive rocket (arugala) salads with aged balsamic and shaved pecorino on the side. Bowls of wild mushrooms cooked in white wine with herbs. Baked butternut squash (champagne risotto optional, and on the side). Huge platters of simply grilled courgettes (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), peppers, radicchio, sweet onions, garlic (parma ham, bresaeola, salami on the side). Fish simply grilled over sliced potatoes and drizzled with olive oil. Freshly steamed broccoli and french beans (almonds on the side) with lemon and olive oil to drizzle at the table, and sea salt and fresh ground pepper to scatter over. Purple sprouting broccoli - nude! Grilled asparagus with fresh black figs, black grapes and goat's cheese. Rye bread bruschetta. Tomatoes roasted with basil and garlic for hours and hours and served with black olives and hummus. New potatoes baked in the oven with a tiny bit of olive oil and rosemary. Well sourced and simply cooked meat. Fair trade coffee, with dark, dark chocolates on the side. Everything traceable to source.

Add your favourite dish and it will be there! Dishes would come in "nibbling", "grazing", "feasting" portions. Carbs of choice - good bread, good pasta with EVOO, rice - would come separately. Bowls of organic mixed leaves as standard with balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice, for dressing. I guess I'd offer flax and EVOO too. :-)

*sigh*

I could so do this if I had any kind of financial backing at all. But I don't. I've researched loans and I'd need to put in at least 50% of my own money to get anywhere starting, and I have no money at all. I am also mired in ennui.

Still, it's still a dream even if I don't achieve it by my 35th, which is what I said I would do.

And doesn't it sound damn fine?

13 comments:

Jacqueline said...

Sara, I would have been there EVERYDAY!!! It is exactly the kind of place I've always dreamed of patronizing. What really got me was the wine/library. I am a book-a-holic (new,used,current,out of print,whatever editions), I love them all! My dream is to have your wine/library in my home someday :)

Deborah said...

Damm Fine!!

Sounds just lovely.

April said...

I love this! I can be a waitress. It's my dream to be a waitress at a nice high end wine bar.

I'm picking out my outfits now.

a

Emily said...

It sounds amazing, I would go there all the time. Seriously, it's perfect.

miss m said...

Sounds gorgeous. I like Caol Ila, Gordon and MacPhail do their cask strength and it verily rocketh, but for sentimental reasons I will always pick a Highland malt ;) How much financial backing does one need to do this sort of thing?

Sara said...

The last time I investigated, scarily large numbers (around £200,000) where mentioned by the Small Business Advisor (admittedly he wasn't sympathetic to the plan, being a teetotal meat-n-two-veg man). But I really should do a proper business plan and have another go. Problem is finding the market where I currently live, or anywhere. It's saturated in Bath really; Exeter has always been a possibility but they are getting there with new markets and food halls... Maybe back up to York again, I don't know.

Of course, to make the dream perfect it would be in Calistoga.

Bars and restaurants are risky investments because so many fail in the first year...

miss m said...

I can see where the £200k comes in, my father owned a restaurant and his start up business plan included contingency if no one even came through the door for the first six months! One thing to keep in mind is that (in Florida at least) 50% of new food service ventures close within the first 12 months. And he relied heavily on his daughter, aka the scullery maid, to keep costs down ;) Have you considered partnerships, or other ways of raising capital?

York would be pretty expensive but offer a lot of the sort of quality property and walk-by trade you'd be looking for. I personally would consider East Anglia and within shooting distance of Cambridge and RAF bases (Ely, Bury St E)... cheaper, but well-funded, well-educated available clientele desperate for something different!

Sara said...

East Anglia is certainly in need of good places to eat, but I wonder if the appetites would be there for that sort of food (and the money to pay for it!). I've never lived in that area, so I have no idea...

Up to about 6 months ago, I had planned on it being a joint venture between P and I - he would continue contracting in IT, because he can earn more, and I would concentrate on the wine bar/ restaurant business side... but then he decided he didn't want that, and that it was too much financial risk for his financial position (fair enough). That coincided with my chat with the SBA, and I just got very despondant and assumed I would have to give it up. The idea is still with me though, so I need to get the wedding out of the way (with the associated costs!!) and then get back on track with a proper business plan.

I don't know whether it's the D supplements, but I am feeling remarkably strong and positive about it. I mean, it *is* a good concept.

miss m said...

Have you considered going wider in terms of partnership, to longtime friends, current or former colleagues, family members? I think it's a fantastic idea, personally, but has the potential to put a lot of pressure on a marriage if you go in together.

As far as East Anglia goes, it is very on the up these days (I totally mean that with a straight face - I'd live there if my leave to remain wasn't dependent on my job) and even places like Diss and Attleborough are starting to look like proper modern little market towns. It offers a lot of nice, intact C17 buildings, good farm sources etc. and the countryside community (euphemistic term for people who own ponies and do point-to-points... granted, typically non-veg, but def pro-organic and cash-availed) is huge. Of course if you don't mind seasonal trade there is always the north Norfolk coast, Southwold, places like that.

Sara said...

Those are good thoughts... to be pursued when the pipe dream becomes a viable business plan. I do wish I wasn't so innumerate and financially inept when it comes to these things.

And I must explore East Anglia more, clearly. It's the one area of the country I'd say I didn't know very well, really. I think there is an awardwinning veggie B&B in Diss, if I remember correctly... Time to get P to take me on a long weekend break! :-)

miss m said...

Ooh, well, if you're a boring sod like me who enjoys antique-hunting, try to schedule a break to coincide with one of the Diss auctions. And if you're *really* boring like me, there's always the car boot sale at Banham Zoo.

Sara said...

I'm becoming very familiar with auction houses and antique stores and charity stores at the moment; I want to serve most of the wedding food, or at least the cake(s), on mismatched vintage china (well, old china, the sort of plates with gilt edges and flowers, 30's, 40's sort of thing). That is becoming quite (another!) obsession!

miss m said...

Good heavens, I have loads of that sort of rubbish. Maybe should have a business of hiring it out!