The company is located in the "hometown of China's chair industry", a comfortable office environment, a positive and courageous team.
BRAVE or crazy? That’s what some wondered two years ago, when Roy Brett opened Ondine during one of the bleakest economic downturns in recent memory. But while the economy continues to nosedive, Brett goes from strength to strength. Not only are his takings up 25 per cent on last year, but he’s not long back from the Taste of West Cork Festival, where he triumphed in the Celtic Cook-Off competition, wowing them with his roasted shellfish platter, and he’s just heard Ondine has been ranked 59th in a list of the top 100 restaurants in Britain by the National Restaurant Awards.
We caught up the other morning just before the lunchtime rush. The stainless steel cases flanking Ondine’s Crustacean Bar are waiting on the arrival of “the shells”, and the front-of-house team are aligning cutlery and reviewing reservations.
What a change from the last time we did this, when the mural presiding over the banquette was still damp.
“I know!” says Brett. “When we opened we were so busy that the art wasn’t on the walls and the bar stools hadn’t arrived. But we never really focused on any negatives. I remember waiting for the first customers to come in, and wondering if anybody would come in. We’re very lucky. I got supported well by friends, family and other restaurateurs. It was an incredible experience and quite humbling. But it worked then and it’s still working now.”
It’s worked so well that Ondine has a coterie of loyal regulars who return weekly to grab lunch at the bar or to linger over a meal at one of the tables offering views of George IV Bridge and Victoria Street. Nor is Brett bragging about his fellow chefs. When a magazine recently asked Michelin-starred chef Andrew Fairlie to name his fantasy birthday meal, he answered: “A table groaning with fresh shellfish cooked by Roy Brett at Ondine.”