At the beginning of May the pair launched Hayward’s Restaurant next door the 17th century pub - The Forest Gate Inn - which has been owned and run by Amanda’s family for more than 50 years.
“It was always in the pipeline, growing up in the pub next door,” Amanda told BigHospitality. “Since my husband and I got together we always said that we wanted to do a restaurant.”
Although the idea to open a business within a derelict building on the edge of Epping Forest had been conceived a number of years ago the pair took their respective chef careers to the other side of the world while the process to gain planning permission took its course back in the UK.
Bermuda-born Jahdre moved to the US when he was a teenager where he studied before coming to London to work as a chef for Aton Edelmann at The Savoy. He also had stints at Rules Restaurant, The Ritz and The Oxo Tower Restaurant before meeting Amanda who was also working as a chef in the UK capital.
The pair moved to Melbourne for five and a half years where Amanda switched roles from working in the kitchen to working front of house in order to prepare the couple for running their own place.
When planning permission to convert the former skittle alley and stable was finally granted they moved back to the UK to oversee building work and the launch of their first business after years of working for other people.
“I really like it,” Amanda revealed. “It is a lot nicer to work for yourself.
“Everywhere that we worked we picked up things that we would like to do for our own restaurant. You take the good and the bad and work out what you want your restaurant to be like.”
The pair have learnt good people management skills and the importance of local and totally seasonal produce – both things they are keen are done properly at Hayward’s Restaurant.
“When we were travelling I said to Jahdre ‘even if you don’t like it, just learn about what you don’t like and we will make sure we won’t do that’,” Amanda said.
The restaurant is open from Wednesday to Sunday and features a 38-cover main dining room and a 15-cover private dining room in the former stable.
Jahdre’s cooking showcases local, seasonal produce – starters include salt-baked kohlrabi, while mains include lamb, halibut and braised, short rib beef.
Two courses from the a la carte menu can be ordered for £26.50.
Although the fine-dining food offer is very different to the nearby pub the Hayward’s have noticed regular pub goers trying out the new venue. The pair are also able to attract destination diners who can take advantage of the B&B on site which is also run by the family.
So what has been the biggest lesson in moving from working in a restaurant to running one?
“We were quite organised for the restaurant itself but because it is a new building there were teething problems like the stereo system and the lighting,” Amanda explained.
“Getting those things perfect was quite hard for us. You have to be prepared for the unprepared.”