Former staff return to give Lemon Tree new lease of life as vegan friendly restaurant
A new restaurant with a strong emphasis on vegan and vegetarian food is to open in the former Lemon Tree.
The Water Lane premises are familiar territory for chef James Atkins and his girlfriend and front of house manager partner Daisy Conn.
Both worked with head chef Luke Fishpool at the Lemon Tree and when he decided to close the popular eatery after two decades just before Christmas last year, he recommended his former staff contact the new landlord, East Herts Council.
The authority snapped up the Grade II listed building as part of its vision for Old River Lane. Another hopeful had pipped Daisy and James to first place in the list of would-be restaurateurs being considered by the district, but when their rival dropped out, the couple were handed the keys.
They are leaving their first home, a flat in Braintree, to "live above the shop" and this week they were beginning the mammoth task of redecorating a building which has been untouched for 12 months.
Daisy, 27, and 32-year-old James are both former pupils of Leventhorpe School in Sawbridgeworth and met while working at the town's Goose Fat and Garlic restaurant.
After it closed, both joined the Lemon Tree. Daisy said: "We are going to be changing the name. We do not want people to be confused. The Lemon Tree had such a good reputation, we do not want people to think it is being reopened."
They will reveal the new brand before they open in January when the refurbishment of the 44-cover restaurant is complete, but despite the change of decor and more meat and dairy-free options on the menu, they hope former customers will still feel at home.
Daisy said: "It's such a lovely building and was such a lovely restaurant - we really, really loved working here."
Classically-trained James has formerly worked at Alec's Restaurant in Brentwood, The Rising Sun in High Wych and for McMullen's Brewery. Most recently he worked at the Green Man in Lindsell and already has two recruits to join him in his new kitchen.
Daisy will be hiring an assistant manager and serving staff as she takes control of the front of house.
She said: "We would have really liked to be open before Christmas but it's just not feasible."
Bishop's Stortford is such and up and coming town, we want to keep the best of what the Lemon Tree was and then put our own stamp on it."