Celebrating a Year in the Life of The Fenny Kitchen
The first year in any business is usually an exciting but nerve-racking experience likened to a rollercoaster ride with highs and lows and many challenges along the way; mixed in with happy moments. As the Fenny Kitchen reaches our first-year anniversary in business; we wanted to reflect on our journey and where it has taken us from the initial planning and concept for the restaurant to where we are now as a business.
Originally a farmhouse dating back to 1627; Tony Keller had owned 59 Aylesbury Street since 1996 and over the years the 3 lower floor units had been home to a number of different businesses including a florist, café, estate agents and a diving shop along with 3 apartments above. The building was due to be refurbished in 2017 with major work needed to its structure and exterior which meant emptying the ground floor and therefore, unfortunately having to ask the tenants to vacate. With it originally being a farmhouse, some remnants of the original oven were still evident where the kitchen had been and the two drawing rooms were now reunited and when he viewed it in this state, Tony felt it would make a fantastic restaurant.
Cooking was a great love of Tony’s in his spare time and he loved to cook food that was uncomplicated but pleasing to the senses; so therefore, food that many people would refer to as farmhouse cooking. He also felt that Fenny Stratford, where he already owned an Architectural Practice, could handle a good restaurant other than an Indian, Chinese or Fish and Chip shop and he loved the idea of a ‘hub’ where people could meet to drink coffee or wine, read or chat. Tony also felt that with more shops closing every day; it was even more important to bring people back to the High Street, helping with regenerating the town and creating somewhere for the community to meet.
With all these ideas in his head and with the support of his partner, Emmanuelle, Tony decided to follow his dream and put his experience as an architectural technologist and his love of cooking to good use and started the enormous task of turning the 17th Century building from 3 ground floor units into an Anglo Mediterranean restaurant. The biggest challenge from the outset was finding someone to manage the project on a day to day basis and then convincing them into taking on such a big project; with Tony’s architectural practice drawing up the floor designs.
Tony says “One of the happiest moments (but also the scariest) was when we opened a year ago and seeing all the years of planning come to tuition. Over the last year we have experimented with different dishes from around the Mediterranean, added to our stone-baked pizzas and our mouth-watering desserts to try and create a menu that works for our customer base”.
“The key things I have learnt over the last year in running a restaurant is how different the hospitality sector is from any other sector I have encountered. I wonder if those who have worked in this industry all their working lives realise just how contrasting attitudes can be and this is echoed by other restaurant owners who I have got to know. However, when you get a good team together like the one that my General Manager, Sigita has assembled then it is a thing of wonder”.
Experimenting is something that is key to a new business and during the first year the restaurant has trialled many dishes to see which ones have been popular and which less so, to come up with our latest menu that has something for everyone including our younger customers. We feel we are as near to perfect as we can get with the menu but always welcome any feedback from our customers. Events wise we have run a number of different events over the last year to see what our customers like and our Thursday Music nights are now a regular staple of the week, getting a following from outside of Fenny Stratford.
So, what does the future hold for The Fenny Kitchen? It is obviously still very early days as it takes time to build a strong sustainable business with regular loyal customers; but we are very happy at the stage we have got to. We need to continue to learn, build and strengthen our team and make sure we are keeping our initial customer base happy and providing what they need whilst continuing to grow.
The aim is also for our function room to be a busy hub of bookings from networking meetings, parent and toddler meet-ups (as we have plenty of room for buggies), family parties and smaller wedding receptions. We also want to build on our takeaway offering; as you can order any of our pizzas or other dishes from the main menu as a takeaway option (currently collection only).
None of the last year would have been possible without the support of Tony’s partner, Emmanuelle, family and friends, our numerous suppliers and of course our fantastic hard-working team headed up by General Manager, Sigita. We most importantly want to say thank you to every customer that has come in to eat with us whether it's for breakfast, lunch, dinner or simply coffee and cake. As our customer base grows, we hope to become a real hub of the community where anyone can come to meet with friends, conduct a business meeting, hold a family party or just somewhere to come and find someone to have a chat with.
We hope to see many of you over this week to join us in celebrating our first anniversary and we look forward to the next year and what it will bring.