This is your first venture, what drove you both to become restaurateurs?
It’s not a decision we took lightly and we have learnt a lot in our first three months. We appreciated right from the start that we were entering a very tough business and we were determined to get it right. As a local student I had worked in bars and restaurants to earn some cash and this continued after I graduated. Dad has always been involved in good food and wine and he has a lot of experience running businesses so it seemed like a good opportunity to work together. I think we make a good team.
Why did you establish Oak in Greasby?
We both live in Greasby! Kat and I had been searching for the right location for over two years and we had Greasby in our sights from the beginning. Being right in the heart of the Wirral we felt that a fresh and exciting venue would attract people from across Wirral and further afield, and it looks like we were right! We were also conscious of the need to source great fresh produce and the Wirral is certainly a good place to start. We already had friends in the industry and they have been very supportive of Oak. We source all our fish from Wards Fish and our meat from local sources such as A.I.Roberts in West Kirby and local farms. This was an essential part of our business plan.
Does local sourcing of food matter that much?
It does if you want a truly fresh food restaurant! Customers are very informed about the health benefits and the environmental impact of eating fresh food with low “food miles”. One of our first actions was to strip out most of our freezers (we still like ice cream so we needed to keep only one!) and we are proud to say that we are now almost totally a ‘cook from fresh’ kitchen. It is more expensive to produce food this way but the idea of serving our customers pre-prepared dishes is completely unacceptable. You may have to wait a little longer for your food but you can relax knowing that it is being cooked from fresh by our kitchen brigade and it will be well worth the wait!
The kitchen brigade must be quite talented?
We were very lucky to attract a great Chef like Kris Foulger-Roberts to head up our new brigade. Kris believes in what we are trying to achieve and is excited to be handling such great produce. He works with his Sous Chefs to bring out the very best in the produce in a simple and uncomplicated way. We are a Bistro after all! It’s a great place to work with Chefs being challenged to create dishes that reflect the seasons and work across a range of skills that would not be seen in most restaurants today. We are also investing in the future of the industry and have two local youngsters as trainees.
You can’t source your wines locally?
True, but we do the next best thing. We work with a limited number of suppliers to access small independent wines from producers who really care about their wines. Our friends at Whitmore and White stock a lot of our selection, if anyone takes a real fancy to one of our hand-picked wines. Our wine supplier works for Liberty Wines but he lives in West Kirby, so it really is investing back into our community.
The cocktail culture has really taken off. What are you doing at Oak to respond to the demand?
The growth in Gin and Vodka based drinks has a fantastic following and we see it only expanding further. We are very fortunate at Oak as we have a special relationship with Chase Distillers. Kat’s partner, Ben Hills, is the product champion for Chase and that means he lives in Greasby as well. Ben is one of the best mixologists in the country and has designed a cocktail range specifically for us. We are particularly proud of our range of Chase spirits as they are all made in England from fresh British produce and are recognised as a premium brand. You only have to try the rhubarb or the new lemon vodka to see how good they are on their own, but mix them and you are transported to another world. We have cocktails available every day and can offer advice on pairings with our food.
How about everyone’s secret desire, desserts?
Well that is Kat’s strong point. Before we started Oak I ran a small specialist cake business and so it is not a surprise that I have insisted upon freshly baked cakes and scones from our kitchens. All of our cakes, fancies and scones are available daily and we are just about to launch our afternoon teas on Mothering Sunday. For the more serious pudding eater we have a homemade dessert menu that often features specials from my brother Chris who, along with his partner Natalie, runs Eponine Patisserie & Chocolaterie (they are also available online or from Whitmore and White). One of our most exciting developments is to use Eponine hot chocolate as our house brand. Chris and Natalie won double world class Gold Medals for their hot chocolate making it officially the best hot chocolate in the world. If you pop in to Oak it is well worth trying the hot chocolate with a piece of Chris’s chocolate cake on the side, heaven!
And a good coffee to finish of the perfect meal?
Unfortunately we do not grow coffee on the Wirral, but we have the next best thing! We already knew Steve and Karen from Flaming Bean Roastery based in Neston so it was a simple decision to make. They have the same values as ourselves and are very particular about the type and source of the coffee beans they source from across the world. Visiting their little coffee roasting house you can see (and smell) the freshness of their coffees and if you pop in to Oak you can taste them served to perfection by our trained baristas.
So, a local fresh food restaurant serving the community?
Yes we are very excited to see where our first year takes us. We are in the process of refurbishing the first floor and patios for the warmer weather and we are continually looking for ways to improve.
Wirral Life readers should make themselves known, for the warmest of welcomes. Don’t miss our exclusive Wirral Life offers and competitions in the coming months. To find out more about Oak Restaurant, visit: www.oakbistro.co.uk