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How Restaurant Chez Burton Wowed Baldock

Open for just over a month, Chez Burton is taking Baldock by storm. Co-founder Neill Burton explains to Mark Kebble why small plates have had a huge impact

We have all probably drunk more than we should during the various lockdowns, but for husband-and-wife team, Neill and Jacqui Burton, one too many proved to be inspiration for a life-changing event. “The journey started on 15 February,” picks up the former. “We were on a beach drinking way too many pina coladas and thought, ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ We have always been excited about the idea of having our own bar/restaurant that we could re-create all of the things that are good from the places we have visited. There was never a starting point to this idea, I guess it only became a reality when we saw the premises up for sale and thought, ‘why not?’”

The premises in question was on the high street in Baldock, and despite not having a background in the industry – “Unless you count the fact that we are proper foodies and love great cocktails and wine,” Neill points out – the duo knew the kind of restaurant they wanted to bring to the area. “That fine dining, small plates experience,” he says. “Where every dish is ‘wow’, but in an environment that is informal, relaxed and fun. A place where everything presented to you is Instagrammable, but you feel comfortable to laugh out loud, have one too many wines and generally let yourself go – something you very rarely get in formal fine dining restaurants.”

Chez Burton
Chez Burton in Baldock is all about small plates

It sounds like that friend who has a wonderful house and can cook too, who hosts unforgettable dinner parties – which is perhaps why the name of the restaurant, Chez Burton, isn’t too surprising. They picked up the keys to the site only in April and set to work straight away on devising a menu that would indeed be unforgettable. “The principle of small plates is quite new, and we found that we had to describe it to people before they fully understood,” Neill says. “’It’s a bit like tapas in that you order multiple plates of food for sharing, but it’s not Mediterranean food’ was what we found ourselves saying. We like to try everything. Food to us is not fuel, it’s an experience. The small plates idea allows people to experiment with lots of different things in the same sitting. We want to give people the freedom to try things that they wouldn’t necessarily be brave enough to order in a traditional ‘starter, main, dessert’ style restaurant. And with that principle understood, the menu came thick and fast.”

Adrian Parker was brought in as head chef to come up with the dishes to dazzle. “He has been a friend of ours ever since we found him a local tapas restaurant,” Neill says. “He has a crazy imagination and his attention to detail is off the scale. His remit was simple: create dishes that delight the eye as well as the tastebuds. We tried dozens of options before settling on the opening menu. Certain things were easy to pick: the crab croquettes are a masterpiece, the miso cod cheeks with Sake beurre blanc a no-brainer, so too were the duck fat chips. We dropped certain dishes because although the taste was exquisite, they wouldn’t light up your Instagram, so we are still developing new additions.”

Drinks, too, are key to the Chez Burton offering. “Remember, pina coladas were the reason behind us jumping into this in the first place,” Neill laughs. “Food and drink to us are inseparable and we wanted to be known as a place that you can drop in for amazing cocktails and wine as much as great dishes. We are big cocktail fans and had a clear remit in this department: classic cocktails, but with a Chez Burton twist. This is one area that Baldock really helped us in. Richard, our bar manager, came to us from running local cocktail bars, and the amazing mixology consultant, Harp Mann, a Baldock local, walked in one day to offer his services. Between them, they have created a cocktail menu that is unique in using an exclusive list of Cuban rums, Siberian vodkas, and all manner of special potions and essences. Everything associated with Chez Burton must have a story.”

Chez Burton
Drinks are key too at Chez Burton

It hasn’t taken them too long to get the word out. At the time of this interview, Chez Burton had been open for nine days and they “have been overwhelmed by the response from the local community”, with foodies flocking to the restaurant in their droves. “We appreciate that we are a new business in Baldock and the initial interest is one of curiosity,” Neill considers, “but we are now seeing the same faces coming back in, so we take that as they have enjoyed what they experienced and that is so gratifying.”

It’s not often you hear about a business that zips through from initial concept to final result – and having to contend with a pandemic in the background no less – but Chez Burton has clearly touched a nerve. “We are enjoying every moment,” Neill says. “We learn lessons every day and make small improvements to ensure our guests’ experience is nothing less than perfect. We have no time to relax yet, but we do have half an eye on the future. We have a few projects that form ‘phase 2 and phase 3’ for Chez Burton Baldock, but we will keep them secret until the time is right.” Best pour some more pina coladas.

CHEZ BURTON

48 The High Street, Baldock, SG7 6BJ

01462 896 180

chezburton.com

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