A Morning at Belle House

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I spent a recent morning in the kitchens of Belle House and
it was one of my favorite experiences on the Big Trip to-date.  We ate at Belle House last week on the
recommendation of our host in the Cotswolds and had a lovely meal.
It was quiet on a Wednesday night and we met the chef and
owner, Steve Waites, and ended up chatting for quite a
while.  Chef Waites was clearly passionate
about food, so I asked if
he’d be willing to have me visit the kitchen and talk food.  He
welcomed me with enthusiasm!

Belle House is a fine dining restaurant in the small town of
Pershore in the picturesque English countryside.  Chef Waites opened Belle House 10 years ago and has been growing the business
in creative ways ever since.  In addition
to the 70 seat restaurant, Belle House has a thriving catering business and a
beautiful deli on the premises.

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The deli
is overflowing with fresh breads and pastries, homemade jams and granola,
imported specialty goods, prepared food, and frozen Belle House meals to cook at
home.  They also do their best to
accommodate all personalized customer requests.
While I was there, a woman called because she was cooking salmon that evening
and wondered if they could make her a sauce to go with it.  No problem – Chef Waites whipped up a sauce during
the lunch service and had it ready for her to pick up in the
deli that afternoon.

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The story of the salmon sauce seems to sum up the spirit at
Belle House – they are uncompromising on quality and service, and in business
because they truly love food and want to share it with others.  Chef Waites’ passion for cooking is infectious and
he has hired others who share his excitement.
We spent three hours together talking non-stop about food and easily
could have continued all afternoon.

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One of my favorite things we discussed was food
sourcing.  Chef Waites has been in the
restaurant business for going-on 20 years, and has made a deep network of connections
in the food industry.  When you’ve worked
with various suppliers for that long, you know you can trust their goods
and they have a clear understanding of what you are looking for.  He sources all meat and fish from the UK, and
uses local and seasonal fruits and vegetables whenever possible.  He received his daily phone call from the fish monger while I was there, so I got to eavesdrop on them discussing what was the best that
day and placing the order for dinner.

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Running a small restaurant with a changing menu allows Chef Waites to be flexible based on what is available and in season.  The menu at Belle House changes once per
month, in addition to having daily specials every evening.  The changing menu highlights the best ingredients, keeps the
chefs engaged, and pulls customers back to sample the new dishes.  One of my favorites this month is grilled monkfish with lemon gnocchi and fresh peas.  I got a terrific personal gnocchi lesson while I was in the kitchen during the morning prep!

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Belle House has a wonderful tradition of serving a family-style bowl of freshly steamed and buttered vegetables at each table with the main dishes.  I love this for so many reasons, but most of all because it offer another opportunity to eat vegetables.  Too often, restaurants make vegetables an afterthought or ask customers to pay extra and order them as a side dish.  Here are before and after shots of the vegetables steaming and then heading out to a table ready to eat.

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Chef Waites is a stickler for details, in the best possible way. His kitchen and restaurant reflect his time and attention.  He has built a staff who share his genuine love of food and commitment to fine dining. While I was there he led the staff in a cheese tasting to sample and discuss the new menu of cheeses being rolled out that afternoon.  At most restaurants this would be limited to the waitstaff who need to eloquently explain the cheese offerings to guests.  At Belle House every member of the staff participated – ranging from cooks to dishwashers (and me!).  This felt indicative of the equal value Chef Waites places on all members of his team.

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I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the food, atmosphere, and staff at Belle House.  If you’re in the Cotswold’s, a visit to Belle House is a
must.  If not, take a moment to like them
on Facebook
and enjoy their meals vicariously through the photos!

 

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