Tell me all about Eleven Ponteland. What made you decide to start the restaurant?
It was something we have all wanted to do for a long time and have always been working towards. The three of us were all due to be part of a new place opening in the city but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, it didn’t go ahead. That left the three of us searching for a job, and we put our heads together and decided there must be something we could do. We were very fortunate to stumble across the premises that we now have, and we grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
We want Eleven to be a really informal, relaxed and fun place to come and eat. Everything we do is all about showcasing good, seasonal ingredients. We buy the best ingredients we can get our hands on and let them do the talking. Our food will be simple, often with only two or three elements on the plate.
Can you tell me a little bit about the three of you? How did it all start?
We have all come from different backgrounds. Danny has spent 10 years working for Terry Laybourne in the North East. Ryan has worked in some of the best restaurants all around the world and Stephen has managed a host of different restaurants across the country.
Despite a vast array of experience, when we found ourselves looking for work the chances of getting a job in our industry during the pandemic were slim to none, so we knew we had to think outside the box. Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves – it all happened so quickly – but from such a desperate situation we somehow managed to come out of it with a restaurant.
What will be on the menu?
Expect really simple things but big flavours. Lunch will be very informal, charcuterie, cheese and small plates. Dinner will be a five-course set menu showcasing what we believe is the best representation of the food that is around at that time. Menus will change weekly. Our wine list will have a good range, from the classics to the crazy, with natural wine having a heavy influence.
What are you most looking forward to when you open this May?
I think just being able to put food on plates again! Lockdown has been tough in so many ways but we have always tried to look on the positive side. At the end of the day, if it wasn’t for the pandemic, we probably wouldn’t have this restaurant. We definitely can’t wait for the day when we have a full restaurant, the atmosphere is buzzing and we are in the swing of a full service.
We’ve heard about your innovative takeaway service whilst you’ve been waiting to open. Tell us a little bit about what we can pick up on our walk?
If you are passing by, you can pop in and grab a coffee and we always have some baked products you can grab to go with your coffee too. From 12pm we offer two sandwiches, a fried chicken one and a mortadella and fried egg one, which people have gone crazy for.
On a Sunday, we do doughnuts. We changed the filling up each week but most often we do ones like rhubarb and custard, and banoffee. These are just things we’re doing for the time being, something very different to what the restaurant will be, but still with the same ethos. It’s a little bit of fun and something that we think is accessible for people to grab when they are passing by on a walk.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We spend a lot of our time and effort making sure we can source the best ingredients and that the supplier’s ethos matches that of the restaurant. We are so lucky to have so many amazing suppliers and as a result, we get to work with amazing products day in, day out. Our charcuterie, for example, is from Italy and we think it’s some of the best there is!
Foraging is a big part of the restaurant so a lot of our produce can come from that too, for example we have some wild garlic on the menu at the moment that was picked in the park just next door to the restaurant.
As busy business owners, how do you spend your free time?
A lot of time foraging for the restaurant. We are so lucky to be situated where we are in that Northumberland has so many different places that are perfect for foraging. It has everything – coast, marshland, meadows, hedgerows, woodlands – and as a result there’s so much out there that can be used.
Other than that, we are very big on spending time with our families when we have the chance, it’s something that in the hospitality industry isn’t always easy, but it’s something we really want everyone at Eleven to be able to do as there is nothing more important.
What would you say your favourite thing is about food in the North East?
The North East has always been a little bit behind the rest of the country in its food scene and it takes time for trends to come up here from London. But, recently there has been a surge in amazing new businesses popping up, even under the blanket of a pandemic, and it almost feels like a totally revitalised food scene.
What’s the best thing about running Eleven Ponteland?
It’s so nice to be able to build up a relationship with regulars and hear them give positive feedback on food you have produced. As well as this, just the freedom of being able to express yourself through your ideas is something we’re all really enjoying.
The restaurant is opening on 19th May.