We speak to business partners Ryan Smith and Stephen Caunter about the No.1 Brasserie and Bar, which first opened its doors during a worldwide pandemic…
The calamitous effects of COVID-19 have been plain for all to see, but the spirits of Ryan Smith and Stephen Caunter haven’t been dampened whatsoever. The doors to No.1 Brasserie & Bar originally opened in September but Lockdown 2.0 put things to a temporary halt.
It would be an understatement indeed if we were to say this pandemic hasn’t been tough for us all. The hospitality industry however has been on the receiving end of a stop-start economy which has not only damaged jobs and income, but also affected sociability.
Ryan and Stephen both share a passion for hospitality and will be hoping to open up again in time for Christmas. We discuss the magic behind the madness and also get a few insights of what’s to come in the future.
HOW CHALLENGING WAS IT TO OPEN A HOSPITALITY VENUE DURING A PANDEMIC?
The initial restrictions such as social distancing were a challenge when you take into account the size of the brasserie. We had to remove tables and ensure the spacing was correct, which left us with just six tables and limited covers.
The next challenge hit us when the government announced the 10pm curfew. Not only did it dramatically effect our business, but a substantial part of the high street as well.
WAS THERE A POINT WHERE YOU THOUGHT IT MIGHT NOT HAPPEN?
In the early days when we first viewed the property (long before lockdown) we were highly ambitious. We were especially excited by the dominant position the building held on the high street.
When the lockdown began, there was no site of it being lifted and we were debating the possible outcomes of what could happen at the end of lockdown. For example, would people risk coming out? Or would it even be feasible in the midst of a pandemic?
Once lockdown ended, we both looked past these concerns and could only see a bustling high street. We saw first hand that COVID wasn’t keeping the public from their day to day lives. At the end of the dark tunnel, there was a ray of hope and we took the plunge!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO OPEN NO. 1 BRASSERIE AND BAR?
There were a number of inspirations that propelled us to open No.1. Most of all, it was a personal ambition. I [Ryan] lost my dad to cancer at the beginning of the year and I wanted to do everything I could to make him and my family proud.
I’d say it was a great distraction. I do feel that my dad has been guiding us every step of the way through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stephen and I both share a love of hospitality. We feel a sense of fulfilment when a customer has a great experience on our premises, knowing that we are responsible for the joy it brings them. It gives us both further encouragement to succeed.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A SPACE FOR FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO MEET AND SOCIALISE DURING THESE DIFFICULT TIMES?
We strongly believe that a safe environment for families and friends to enjoy is crucial to society. Especially when you consider the crisis in the world today, which is affecting us all in so many different ways.
Here at No.1 we are proud to offer unique events where people can relax and enjoy in a safe, comfortable atmosphere which is socially distanced.
WHAT KIND OF THING CAN WE EXPECT WHEN YOU’RE ALLOWED TO REOPEN AGAIN?
Not to give too much away but we have a number of exciting menus and offerings on the cards. These include a Christmas and new Year’s menu and afternoon teas.
In the New Year we are excited to be bringing more events to the table including our monthly continental evenings featuring a different country. These include a 4 course meal, with each course accompanied by wine from the selected country.
World of Wine is also in the pipeline. These evenings will include five wines from one grape variety, each from different countries around the world. You will be able to experience the different flavours and aromas, and learn how one variety of grape can be different in each country.
Both of these events also have the added benefit of a private talk given by Chad Christian. Chad is a Level 4 Sommelier and works with Templar Wines.
WOULD YOU SAY THIS VENUE WILL BE QUITE UNIQUE IN COMPARISON TO OTHERS AROUND CHRISTCHURCH?
At No.1 we serve deli-style meals in a no rush environment where you can sit back and relax with a drink in hand and watch the world go by; quite literally due to the fantastic position and huge, gorgeous windows.
Our quick lunches also provide the perfect solution to short lunch breaks and we offer takeaway food and hot drinks.
We are proud to offer award-winning Toppings Pies which include pork pies, quiches, hot pies and much more (all of their products can be found in Harrods, London). We also present a wonderful selection of local cheeses and an array of continental meats.
WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN MIND FOR YOUR THEMED EVENINGS?
We are currently in the planning stages of vintage nights. People will be able to dress up and let loose with classic music whilst indulging in food and drink from the themed time period. As the COVID-19 restrictions lift we hope to introduce more elements to these evenings. We will have to wait and see!
GIVEN THAT YOU HAVE A DEDICATED WINE MENU, IS THERE A PARTICULAR WINE THAT YOU RECOMMEND FOR WHEN YOU REOPEN?
Considering everyone’s tastes are completely different, it’s very difficult to say, so we’ll have to recommend two incredible wines:
- Cloud Factory Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand – perfumed with nettle flower and green pepper with a palate of limes. Restrained minerality and a hint of tropical fruit. This wine is sappy fresh, clean and immensely easy drinking.
- Goye Malbec Roble, Mendoza, Argentina – a deep wine of some complexity with subtle integration of oak and silky finish.
We will soon be offering a wine of the week, which will give the opportunity for our regular customers to try something new every week! All wine is provided by Templar Wines.
IN TERMS OF FOOD, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO SEE ON YOUR MENUS?
Our menu offers a quick easy lunch or a light evening nibble over a bottle of wine. You will find traditional pork pies, Quiche Lorraine or upgrade to a speciality quiche or pork pie with a bit of added flavour (all accompanied by selection of salads and sourdough bread).
You can also try our extremely popular No. 1 Ploughman’s platter, which consists of:
- Traditional pork pie
- Selection of local cheeses
- Serrano ham
- Pickled onions
- Apple and grapes
- Sourdough bread
For something to share, we also have cheese or charcuterie plates, which is always a great way to enjoy an evening. Now we’re in the winter months, we are offering hot pies with mashed potato or traditional soup of the day with crusty bread.
There really is plenty to choose from!
WILL THERE BE DISCOUNTS FOR LOCALS IN AND AROUND CHRISTCHURCH?
We are pleased to offer locals a 10% discount off their final bill, all they will need to do is apply for a discount card showing their BH postcode.
We do have our Clocking Off Club which takes place from Wednesday to Friday between 4pm and 7pm. In addition we also offer a special 2 for 1 cocktail menu (which has been extremely popular). We also offer 15% off all other drinks if cocktails aren’t your thing.
ABOUT THE OWNERS OF NO. 1 BRASSERIE AND BAR
Ryan Smith has been brought up in the hospitality industry all his life and is excited to be training to be a master sommelier and taking his Level 3 sommelier exam in early January. He is thrilled to be bringing his experience and knowledge to the locals in Christchurch.
Stephen Caunter is looking forward to welcoming customers to the premises, both old and new. Having been one of the original owners who built the Lord Bute establishment in 1989. Stephen also campaigned for the restoration of the Highcliffe Castle back in the 1990s.
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