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Closing our doors - life at home for Perkins Bar & Bistro part 5

Since opening the restaurant in 1982, we’ve certainly had our ups and downs, but never have we had to close our doors.

So for this blog, we decided to see how Wendy Perkins was getting on and to see if she would reveal some memories from the years gone by.

Having opened the doors nearly 40 years ago, you must have some stories to tell!

What are your 3 most memorable moments over the years of running Perkins?

The first one that comes to mind is the opening night which was in the midst of the recession in 1982, we were incredibly nervous and unsure who if anyone would turn up, but amazingly we were absolutely packed, really taken back and relieved.

Also, in the opening years, Central studios was based in Nottingham. From time to time we were lucky enough to have television and film stars coming into the restaurant - the most memorable for me were Honour Blackman and Anthony Newley.

Working behind the bar that evening, I managed to chat with them, which was so exciting. They were real stars at the time, and at the end of the evening, I remember they sat on table 5 and I had another chance to chat. Once all of the other customers were gone, Anthony Newley sang a little song for us - I will never forget it.

Other stars that I can remember right now were John Nettles, Will Carling, Rod Hull, David Gower, Neil Morrissey, and more recently we’ve had Greg Wallace and Prince Albert of Monaco.

But one of my favourite moments was the first time we got in the Michelin guide. I remember Tony was in London for the day and we just couldn’t wait to tell him when he got back, so drove to meet home off the train.

You used to live above the restaurant – working in such a demanding industry, how on earth did you juggle bringing up 2 sons whilst running Perkins every day?

Looking back now, I really don’t know how we did! I think we were too busy working to worry about it. I remember we used to have a baby monitor attached to the kitchen pass and the boys used to order Coca colas! When you’ve got your own business, you just have to carry on.

I was shocked and surprised when the boys said they wanted to run the restaurant when we retired, but I’m so incredibly proud of what they have achieved. And my only hope right now is that they can continue what they have started when these terrible times are over.

Tony sadly passed away 5 years ago in November, what was it like working with your husband?

CERTAINLY NOT RECOMMENDED!! The achievement of creating a successful restaurant from a derelict building is definitely the proudest memory I have.

But Tony had a real temper and you could always hear his shouting in the restaurant, especially on the tables nearest the kitchen. Customers still stop me and joke about it now. If anyone used to order a ‘well-done’ steak he just lost the plot.

I remember once, a customer ordered a guinea fowl dish but when eating it, insisted it was chicken. Tony took real offence to this so quickly ran to the fridge, and paraded a tray of fresh guinea fowl around the entire restaurant to prove his point. The customer was suitably embarrassed and we were all gob-smacked! I’m not sure the restaurant could get away with that these days!

This lockdown has been tough for everyone, how have you coped with it day to day and what are you missing most?

I am coping more or less with the day to day but for me, the biggest worry is for the business and the future. To keep myself busy I have been clearing out the house, taking walks, and watching YouTube videos of musical theatre and concerts.

Plus, to keep my mind busy I use my book of puzzles that one of the boys bought me. I’ve really enjoyed watching normal people - a beautiful love story of two young people, brilliant acting. And I also love Michael Portillo’s railway travel programmes.

But really I’m a people person, so I’m missing the interaction with people. I’m having to make do with phone calls so I’m dreading the telephone bill! I also miss going out to eat and visiting the theatre, but most of all I have missed giving and receiving cuddles.

Especially from my two grandchildren, in fact, I’m getting a bit emotional right now just talking about it. I just can’t wait to get back to normal, and my fingers are crossed that things will start to change for the better soon.


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