It’s impossible to get hold of Laura Wiedemann on the phone to discuss Pompette in Summertown opening their new ‘At Home’ takeaway menu on Thursday because the orders are coming in so thick and fast she is permanently engaged.
When I finally get to speak to Laura she is elated, not only because the new venture already looks set to be a raging success, but because she and her chef patron husband Pascal can finally get back to work, in some capacity at least.
“At this rate we will be run off our feet,” she grins, “but that’s how we like it. Pascal is never happier than when he’s cooking up a storm in the kitchen and we can’t wait to get back to work because we love what we do.”
‘Everybody is being affected in some way by Covid-19 so if we can play a small part in making people feel better and helping that community spirit by bringing a bit of joy, then we will be delighted.”Laura adds.
“We have wanted to do this right from the beginning but we didn’t want to jeopardise out staff and customers and had to find a way to provide this service safely. We also wanted to do something for the community here, so we had a big rethink and began talking to our suppliers and organised the menu around that.”
If the scheme works Laura can unfurlough some of her staff, but until then it will just be her and Pascal manning the new service, although delivery is only available to the vulnerable or old.
And they have already been inundated with bookings. “The phone just hasn’t stopped ringing and we’ve had so many emails. It’s lovely to be part of such a fantastically supportive neighbourhood and we are so glad we set up here in Summertown.”
Laura and Pascal opened Pompette over a year ago now, Pascal having run restaurants in London for 14 years, beginning his career with Henry Harris at Racine, then opening Terroirs with Ed Wilson where he became Executive Chef, before finally opening Six Portland Road.
When he met Laura the pair decided to open up on their own, taking over the former Portabello restaurant on South Parade.
They got the keys in October 2018 and Laura immediately set about transforming it. Her background is in fashion and aesthetics and loved decorating Summertown’s newest restaurant. They opened in January 2019.
So why Oxford? “We looked around Bristol and Bath, but Pascal knew Oxford well because he trained at Brookes Hospitality School under Don Sloane, and used to eat at The Lemon Tree and on Cowley Road whenever possible.
“For me It’s always been about classic french food- because it’s classic for a reason!”
“So when we found out that restaurateur Jon Else wanted to concentrate on his other eateries Mamma Mia and The Perch we jumped at the chance because this is such a great location.
“And we’d had our son by then so it was the right time to move out of London. Everything just came together at the right time,” Laura says.
Classically trained in French cookery, with a French father, Pascal specialises in creating seasonal classic European dishes, and his Alsacian influenced food had customers and critics racing to visit.
“For me it’s always been about classic French food, because is it classic for a reason! We use the best ingredients possible using local producers. Food doesn’t need to be deconstructed and played about with, simplicity is key here.”
Luckily, the pair work really well together, Laura as front of house and organiser extraordinaire and Pascal in the kitchens. So what’s the secret? “We don’t interfere with each other’s work. My forte is running the business not the kitchen. So the first year was all about fine tuning and getting it right,” Laura says.
“Business was good,” Pascal agrees. “We were exhausted, but that was to be expected, but otherwise everything was heading in the right direction and we had a really great team of like-minded people.
“I was cooking food the customers enjoyed and it was working. It was an amazing start and a memorable year. We are so proud of what we had created here,” Pascal adds, “and we want to stay.”
But then coronavirus hit and everything changed, Pompette closing as soon as the lockdown was announced.
But now Laura and Pascal have found a solution. The result is Pompette At Home’s new menu which begins on Thursday, and is 85% cooked and ready to collect, so just needs reheating and preparing at home.
‘We wanted to make it as easy as possible for our customers to eat meals that we are proud of, that reflect Pompette’s style and flair without any fuss and bother, so that people can enjoy the food and the experience at home,” Laura says.
“We didn’t want to freak anyone out by being too ambitious or making it too fussy,” she adds.
“So the baguettes come from Gatineau up the road and are part-baked best served with a pat of lovely French butter. The steak (rump, rib-eye or sirloin which just needs cooking quickly) comes with a red wine sauce, dauphinoise potatoes and green beans. And don’t worry, we provide all the instructions.”
Collection for the Thursday-Saturday service is available from 4-6pm on those days with a Feed The Family ethos and 50% off their wine lists.
Pompette at Home will be available Thursdays – Saturdays (to start with!). Just place your order and pay the week before you pick up your meal. Order on on 01865 311166 from 12-3pm Monday to Saturday. You will be allocated a pick-up time slot at Pompette between 4-6.30pm on the day requested.