Christmas conundrum for restaurant team given the day off

James MacLeod-Birch (centre) with Laura Waller and Gary Laughton at Steak\1884 in Humber Street, Hull.

A team which has built up a proud tradition of enabling families to escape the kitchen on countless Christmas Days will be faced with a festive puzzle when the big day falls this year. 

James MacLeod-Birch, Gary Laughton and Laura Waller served up superb Christmas Day lunches for hundreds of delighted diners over six consecutive years at 1884 Dock Street Kitchen.

But having only recently opened their new venture, Steak\1884 in Humber Street they will open on Christmas Eve from midday until 7pm and take the next day off – a decision which has left them with the big question about what to do for their own Christmas.

James, the Director of Steak\1884, revealed he has worked every Christmas Day for the last 18 years.

He said: “I’ll be up early through force of habit and the chances are I’ll be sitting there at 7.30am drumming my fingers on the table with thoughts wondering to serving Christmas Dinner for about 140 people!

“I’ll miss the reverie with the staff on Christmas morning, too. There’s such a lovely atmosphere when we are all setting up – Christmas music, lots of dancing around the tables and singing along! I imagine I will spend the morning seeing family followed by a relaxed lunch with some close friends.”

Gary, Deputy General Manager at the new restaurant, said: “It’s a weird feeling. For years I actually thought everybody had their Christmas dinner at home, but I found out how wrong I was when I went into the restaurant industry, and I’ve worked every Christmas Day since then.”

Laura, Head Chef at Steak\1884, said: “Whilst it will feel strange not to be in at the crack of dawn preparing a five-course meal for a full restaurant, I am really looking forward to having the first chance in years to spend time with my family and have a proper home-cooked Christmas lunch.”

Although only open for a few weeks, the restaurant has quickly become established as the only place to go for rare-breed steaks, sharing cuts and other specials all produced using traditional farming methods.

Business is brisk and building, with diners descending on Steak\1884 to eat with their eyes as they walk past the meat locker, take their tables in Manhattan steakhouse-style surroundings and tuck into some prime cuts – but they won’t find a taste of turkey.

James said: “1884 Dock Street Kitchen was very different and, because the cuisine was so varied, we were always able to come up with a Christmas menu which matched our standards and the high expectations of our customers.

“Steak was always our biggest seller and we have put a huge amount of effort into making sure we improve on that here. The kitchen here is completely new and has been designed and equipped for cooking the best steaks and the finest accompaniments. 

“We will be making one or two changes to the restaurant in the New Year and maybe when we get well into 2019 we’ll look at whether we can open on Christmas Day next year. But however bereft we might feel we’ll remember that there are many people who always work on Christmas Day, some of them in particularly difficult and essential jobs. 

“We will be working flat out right through December as word gets out that we’re open, so Christmas Day will provide an opportunity for a well-earned rest for all of us, although I’m sure we’ll all be doing a little cooking with family and friends.”

Website: Steak\1884

[Phil Ascough – Ascough Associates]

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