Before lockdown, The Boat Inn was well and truly on its way to turning the corner on what has been quite a tough 3 years of trading. We’d gone from gammon egg & chips to tasting menus and handbag stools. Like many other business operators in this sector, I found it very hard to be told to close my business. Running at full pelt for 3 years to suddenly clean down like the end of December and go home. I was very worried about what would be happening.
I think it took me a week to calm down and understand where the restaurant and the staff stood. I wanted to keep busy so got stuck in to creating a wall at the bottom of the garden, as it was all over grown and a little ugly. From a small wall, to almost a new restaurant. Pretty much every day I’ve been at the restaurant. When it was sunny we worked outside and when it was raining we converted the toilet, conservatory and ripped out unwanted areas.
Myself and my dad have totally renovated the land where the restaurant sits. Not to mention my mum and sister organising new designs for the toilets and restaurant interiors. Car park boarders, chicken coupe, poly tunnel, heightened security, block work from Ireland, diggers and dumpers – the list goes on of what’s been happening.
A plan that was to slowly change the restaurant over another three years on my days off has now been changed and more over the space of 3 months. We are gearing up for opening of our takeaway service in August and I’ll be cooking in our guest’s homes. Then back in the restaurant kitchen in September.
September was a time frame that myself and the family discussed as soon as we knew when there would be a good chance of people. I’ve worked hard to make sure that the restaurant will be ready, financially not just structurally, for us to give the service that is expected by us at The Boat (obviously with the new restrictions and adjusted work flow).
I have felt a little concerned by some guests, not necessarily our guests, not happy that we/some restaurants have not opened by the 4th of July. I have had one company in London that have said they will no longer come to the restaurant and support me due to me not opening on the 4th. Which is just mad! As a team at The Boat we want to make sure that a slow return will mean that we can stay open. There are still many unknowns moving forward not just in the industry but the whole country.
I’ve been very lucky to have been able to keep busy and have The Boat to keep me occupied. The rest of the kitchen team have also been coming over to help with the works giving them routine too.
The plan for the restaurant is to be self sufficient for eggs and also use an aquaponics system to grow herbs for the restaurant and normal planting for fruits and vegetables – something that has always been a plan for us.
By Liam Dillon, chef and owner of the Boat Inn