Richard Bainbridge on his new restaurant, Benedicts

The Staff Canteen

Just over a month ago, Benedicts opened in Norwich, and unsurprisingly the bistro has already had visits from both the Michelin Guide and the AA Restaurant Guide, achieving two rosettes.

Richard Bainbridge was head chef at the Michelin-star restaurant, Morston Hall, for seven years before leaving in February to pursue his dream of opening his own restaurant.

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“I am so privileged and honoured that they came to see what we were doing," explained Richard. "The visit from Michelin Guide gave us a lot of hope to push on for the future. If we were that good in a week and a half, where are we going to be in 6 months or a year’s time?”

>>> Read: Richard Bainbridge leaves Morston Hall 

Although Richard left Morston Hall behind, he brought some elements with him on his new adventure. Ashley Williamson, sous chef to Richard, and Maddy Johnson, the manager of Benedicts, worked alongside Richard at Morston Hall.

“The staff don’t grumble about doing 18 hours a day, five days a week, and for me to have those people on board when we are just starting up… I couldn’t pay for that.”

“I have worked in kitchens where you are just a number, and I want to see Ashley and Maddy flourish into the people I really think they can be, and if in any way I can help and make that happen then that is brilliant, because someone invested in me, somebody gave me a chance once, to get to where I am now and I think to give that back would be amazing.”

Carrying on his ethos from Morston Hall, Richard is using the best of local sourced ingredients wherever possible at Benedicts.

“We’ve changed the menu a few times already. We opened with asparagus, but that season was over so a new dish went in its place. Using local products means I know the farmer who has grown or reared it, and I think that gives us something different and really shows who we are.”

It might seem like everything is running unusually smoothly for a start-up restaurant, which has been 80% fully booked since the opening date, but Richard says that’s not reflecting what’s going on behind the scenes.

“Me, my wife and my baby are living on an airbed upstairs. When you have a shower, the water drips through to the restaurant, which then trips out the lights and continues to trip out for the rest of a Saturday night service which isn’t great!”benedicts 2

“Then there’s working to a budget. We are working with suppliers who don’t trust us yet so they want payment after every delivery. At Morsten Hall I lived in a bubble where I didn’t have a budget, I could be as passionate and creative as I wanted to, and now I’m at the other end of the scale where every penny counts.”

Richard will be featuring on this year’s Great British Menu, which he hopes will gain more exposure for Benedicts. Eventually, he would like the business to grow, but not before investing in his staff.

 “If I could stand in my restaurant knowing that Ashley was in another restaurant I helped him set up, and we were doing it together, that would be the most amazing thing and gift I could give.” 

>>> Related: How much can it cost chefs to take part in Great British Menu?

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd July 2015

Richard Bainbridge on his new restaurant, Benedicts