‘The perfect opportunity has arrived not at the best time’

The  Staff Canteen

Tom Clarke and his business partner Nancy Witte will be taking over The Windmill Pub in Chatham Green near Chelmsford

Tom Clarke, known for his time at L’Ortolan, will be partnering with Nancy Witte to take over The Windmill a historic pub in Chatham Green near Chelmsford.

The duo worked together before at Forage Kitchen in Bury St Edmonds, with Tom in the Kitchen, and Nancy as restaurant manager.

The Windmill

Tom and Nancy will be taking over the countryside pub in the next few weeks with plans to open either at the end of this month or early on in October.

Regarding how quick the turnaround is Nancy said: “We've had time preparing things and thinking about things and getting everything together. The pub's been empty for a year now and it looks in a good condition."

“As far as we know, we just go in, have a deep clean and set it all up, basically.”

The pub is a historic building originally being a windmill for milling grain with, what is now the pub building being originally a bakery.

“Chatham Green is just like a little road with a couple of houses and the pub is just at the beginning just as you come into it. There's the actual pub building and then a separate building that used to be the old windmill,” Nancy explained.

Tom added: “It's basically in the countryside. There's hills surrounding, and there's a lot of walkways for walkers, which, I think, can go from where we are all the way to Epping forest. It's quite a popular walkway for hikers.”

What to expect?

When it comes to the food, Tom explained that it’ll be similar to what he produced while at L’Ortolan, “modern, fine-dining as such. Just with more of a local foraged twist.”

However, given the current climate, the duo explained that they would be starting off small with Tom saying “It's gonna be quite a small menu because it's going to be me mainly myself and Nancy, to begin with and then slowly expand as we go.”

As it stands, the plan is to have a three, three, three a la carte alongside a 6-course tasting menu and a Sunday lunch option.

Looking to the future, they plan to offer rooms as the pub has the space for two or three rooms for people to stay in. 

Regarding other aspects of the restaurant, the duo also aren’t currently setting their goals trying to aim for Michelin stars or other accolades just yet.

“I'm from the area, so, it's always been a goal of mine to run something so local and with, obviously, my background and my experience I want to bring what's missing to the area,” explained Tom. 

He added: "It's always been an ambition of mine to get a Michelin star, but I've achieved it with my previous employers. It would be a goal to achieve but predominantly it would be to just do really good food, to do what we really love to do and then hopefully the rest follows.”

The Current Climate

Despite it being a difficult time for the industry following soaring energy bills and staffing shortages Tom and Nancy remain optimistic that things will improve.

Explaining their thoughts behind the decision, Tom said: “The property we've been particularly looking at for several years and the opportunity came across and we had the funding and so on.”

He added: “The perfect opportunity has arrived not at the best time. With the energy issue and then also the staffing issue, that's why we're starting small and then grow a team over time.”

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th September 2022

‘The perfect opportunity has arrived not at the best time’