East Avenue, the fully licensed restaurant and bar, which is run by the catering and hospitality learners at Eastleigh College, has reopened after having to close its doors for six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now that the new academic year is underway, staff and learners have worked hard to create a covid-19 secure environment before inviting diners to once again enjoy the high quality 3-course lunches and evening dinners, or 5-course taster menus.
Curriculum Manager at Eastleigh College, Sue Lyons, explained: “It has been a challenging time for our learners, who have worked admirably from home completing their theory work and honing their skills at home. Now returning and new learners have had a couple of weeks back at college, we’re delighted to be reopening the East Avenue’s doors.”
Level 3 hospitality learner, Brandon Misslebrook, is in his third year at the college and spends two days a week gaining front of house experience in East Avenue, where numerous measures have been taken to ensure diners, learners and staff are kept safe.
Brandon explained: “While the situation has been a bit of a shock, the whole experience has actually been a useful education. We were involved in a dedicated planning day before putting a plan in place to adapt to all the new rules and regulations. East Avenue restaurant isn’t just a simulation, it is a business in its own right, so we’ve experimented and tweaked our new way of working ready for reopening.
Regular diners have already started booking well into the autumn term, taking advantage of the relatively low prices while supporting the young budding chefs and front of house students.
The new lunch menu includes a choice of starters including an autumnal butternut squash tart with feta, dehydrated squash skin and chicory salad; main courses including pan-roasted seabass, chorizo jam, white bean and sage cassoulet. And to complete the experience, desserts include a bitter chocolate mousse, mango ice cream and coconut tuile.
Janice Martin, who regularly dines at East Avenue with her husband, said: “It’s really great to see the restaurant open again, and the students embracing service with the new procedures that have been put in place.
“I love coming here. The food is so fresh and is presented really nicely, plates are piping hot and it’s great value for money. We enjoy talking to the students and watching them learn as they progress through the year.”
Level 3 catering learner, Joe Ewing, who was at the college last year, said: “We were disappointed that work experience placements had to be cancelled when everywhere went into lockdown before the summer, so it is really good to be back in the professional kitchens planning and preparing. We’re ready for this!”
Another trainee chef, Gemma Stephens, added: “Apart from wearing face coverings, things aren’t too different in the kitchen. We’re working in ‘bubbles’ but last year we worked in small teams on rotation anyway. It does get hot, and sometimes hearing each other through the masks can be difficult, but it’s definitely good to be back.”
Sue concluded: “Our learners have shown incredible resilience and displayed admirable professionalism to complete their studies throughout the lockdown. They have now returned with enthusiasm, and have played a key role in helping to prepare the kitchens and East Avenue restaurant for our re-opening, and we’re taking bookings right up until Christmas.”