Restaurant Review: Restaurant 65, Hemel Hempstead
Clare Bourke enjoys lunch with Grant Young at Restaurant 65 in Hemel Hempstead
WHEN chef Grant Young bought a restaurant in 2005 he could only dream that he would make a success of his first business venture. Now, just two-and-a-half years later the dream has become reality and Restaurant 65, in the heart of Hemel Hempstead, has a wealth of regular clients.
So what made the successful chef decide to take the plunge into business? 'The option came up, simple as that,' says Grant. 'I have worked with some really good people in the past and at some well regarded and established restaurants but the time was right to change. When I bought the restaurant I knew I wasn't going to be the busiest - I didn't want to be the busiest, I wanted to be the best and I am achieving that, or at least working towards it.'
With just 30 covers and a policy of never turning tables, Restaurant 65 works well as a friendly and intimate restaurant and it is easy to see why so many people come back for more. In fact as we talk, we are interrupted by customers calling up to book tables and it is clear Grant has a bulging reservations book.
Grant cooked me a light lunch by preparing a delicious starter of a baked flat mushroom with red onion marmalade, glazed goat's cheese, basil pesto and a balsamic glaze. It was beautifully presented and the mushroom was full of flavour and perfectly complemented by the goat's cheese and red onion marmalade.
Looking at the rest of the menu, it is clear there is something for everyone with another very popular starter being the smoked salmon, crayfish and avocado parcel with crisp mixed leaves, citrus dressing and rocket oil. For main courses it is clear Grant likes to use different influences but retain a British feel. 'I offer good, simple food that people understand, cooked well and presented well. We live in a multi-culturtal society so obviously my dishes have certain influences. The smoked chicken salad with sweet chilli and soy dressing has a Thai influence, while the sea bass has a Mediterranean feel with roasted vegetables and couscous.'
There are also the more traditional dishes with braised shank of lamb with garlic saut�ed new potatoes and spiced braised red cabbage with a thyme red wine jus.
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While Grant is head chef, does the cooking, washing up and even serving, he left the d�cor to wife Gina who completely restyled the former bistro. The style is contemporary but with character. The walls are white with simple pictures and mirrors, the dark wood tables are left bare and complement the elegant leather chairs while the beams add that all important character.
In seems in fact that Gina is as busy as Grant. 'Gina does front of house while I am in control of the kitchen. That's the way it works,' says Grant. But as well as front of house, Gina also does the books for the restaurant as well as teaching and running a beauty therapy business.
Before his business venture Grant, who was born and bred in Hemel Hempstead, worked in some of the best restaurants including the Ivy and the Goring Hotel in Victoria, London. 'The Ivy do excellent food at good prices and that's what we aim to do here as well. I have a personal standard of that calibre because I was trained at that level.'
So how does he choose the menu? 'I choose food that people understand. I can cook complex food but no one would buy it. If people don't understand the menu they are not going to buy it. I get a lot of customer feedback by simply talking to them.'
So what does the future hold? Grant, it seems, has not quite decided but he is sure of one thing - that he will be paying his wife back for her support. 'You never know what the future holds. I have a route in mind to raise my profile in the industry, raise my credibility and increase my employability for when we want to move on from here. I am not going to move to another restaurant of my own. This is a lifestyle business. Gina has given up a lot for us to be able to do this and it's then going to be her turn to do what she wants and my turn to support her in what she wants.'
But that day is not in the immediate future as Grant is happy with Restaurant 65. 'I am still building up a reputation and until I am happy with what I have gained I am not going to give it up.
'The success of a restaurant depends on having good food and good service together which is what we have got. You can tell that from our reservations book.'
Restaurant 6565 High StreetHemel Hempstead, HP1 3AF01442 239 010