New restaurant for Masterchef champion Mat Follas

Dorset Echo: NEW VENTURE: Restaurateur Mat Follas outside the Wild Garlic in Beaminster Square NEW VENTURE: Restaurateur Mat Follas outside the Wild Garlic in Beaminster Square

MASTERCHEF champion Mat Follas is set to open a new restaurant in Dorchester.

His new venture, which opens on March 7, will be in a small hotel, believed to be The Casterbridge in High East Street.

He will only be open at weekends and accommodating 25 covers.

It is small enough that the famous foraging cook will be doing all the cooking himself, he says.

It hasn’t been plain sailing for the 2009 Masterchef winner, who opened the Wild Garlic restaurant in his home town of Beaminster that year.

Despite two AA rosettes, recommendations in The Good Food Guide, The Michelin Guide and Trencherman’s Guide, and rave reviews by food critics from national newspapers, he was forced to move after the Beaminster tunnel road closure caused a catastrophic drop in trade.

He said: “When the tunnel went we lost 30 to 40 per cent of business overnight. I genuinely think without the tunnel we would still be trading in Beaminster.”

He relocated to the Talbot in Iwerne Minster in April 2013 – but the New Zealand-born chef closed the restaurant there after eight months.

He also opened the Chesil Beach Café on Portland in July 2011 following a £1.1million refurbishment of the Chesil Beach Centre, but left there too when the restaurant passed to new owners eight months later.

Now Mr Follas says he’s excited to be back doing what he loves best – foraging and cooking, Opening in an already-established small hotel will save on overheads and management headaches, he said.

“I hate the business side, which is why I haven’t looked to do a full-blown restaurant again and I am not sure if I ever will.

“I certainly found with the larger place I spent my days managing and not cooking and that is not why I did it.

“If rollercoaster isn’t too much of a cliché, that’s what it has been.

“At times it has been fantastic, winning things like the two rosettes and some of the awards but it has been tough.”

Mr Follas said he would not be in competition with his friend and mentor Russell Brown at the Michelin-starred Sienna restaurant in High West Street.

“We do different things,” he said.

“With the time that I have got I will have the time to physically go out and do some of the foraging myself and use some of those really interesting ingredients that people expect from me.

“Because of its size it will only be me cooking it will be pretty much only be me doing the work as well, I can’t afford to hire anybody else!”

He is also thinking of writing his own cookbook and running more courses.

Comments (10)

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10:18am Wed 19 Feb 14

marabout says...

Having had the superb experience of eating at the Wild Garlic I can't wait for Mat to open in Dorcheseter.

Good luck Kiwiw fella - I'm sure that the quality of the food will make this venture a complete success.
Having had the superb experience of eating at the Wild Garlic I can't wait for Mat to open in Dorcheseter. Good luck Kiwiw fella - I'm sure that the quality of the food will make this venture a complete success. marabout

10:18am Wed 19 Feb 14

marabout says...

Having had the superb experience of eating at the Wild Garlic I can't wait for Mat to open in Dorcheseter.

Good luck Kiwi fella - I'm sure that the quality of the food will make this venture a complete success.
Having had the superb experience of eating at the Wild Garlic I can't wait for Mat to open in Dorcheseter. Good luck Kiwi fella - I'm sure that the quality of the food will make this venture a complete success. marabout

11:00am Wed 19 Feb 14

arlbergbahn says...

Well, fourth time lucky maybe. Perhaps he ought to have taken one of her who founded Wellworths or Wellchester's courses in how to start up a successful business. :-/
Well, fourth time lucky maybe. Perhaps he ought to have taken one of her who founded Wellworths or Wellchester's courses in how to start up a successful business. :-/ arlbergbahn

12:36pm Wed 19 Feb 14

CoogarUK.com says...

Oh dear. Got to admire his fighting spirit though, I guess.
Oh dear. Got to admire his fighting spirit though, I guess. CoogarUK.com

2:18pm Wed 19 Feb 14

connie68 says...

Lets hoping its better then the meal I had at The Wild Garlic then! Best thing is he's sourcing locally produced food as well as Foraging food, all the best with the new venture, 10% off for being local??
Lets hoping its better then the meal I had at The Wild Garlic then! Best thing is he's sourcing locally produced food as well as Foraging food, all the best with the new venture, 10% off for being local?? connie68

6:26pm Wed 19 Feb 14

Tinker2 says...

Good luck with the new venture Mat, just hope you haven't bitten off more than you can chew again?
Good luck with the new venture Mat, just hope you haven't bitten off more than you can chew again? Tinker2

9:45pm Wed 19 Feb 14

Crimbo says...

The overpriced food coupled with the appalling service we experienced at the Talbot suggested a rapid death of the venture. Hopefully you've learned that providing a great meal is about more than food - otherwise you're just going to fail again...
The overpriced food coupled with the appalling service we experienced at the Talbot suggested a rapid death of the venture. Hopefully you've learned that providing a great meal is about more than food - otherwise you're just going to fail again... Crimbo

11:27am Thu 20 Feb 14

Newground says...

Mat, I really, really want you to succeed. I will come and support your venture as I have your others. But I BEG you:

1./ Do not outsource your cooking. Only you can do what you do.
2./ Stay local and stay original. £9.50 for 5 large garlic prawns is not 'Dorset' and it is not original.
3./ Get some value, somewhere, into your menu. Crab linguine? Pork chop? Not everything on the main course should be £16.95.
4./ NEVER go on record saying "I hate the business side," unless you can say, "I have a partner who is brilliant at managing all of that." Because, Mat, customers ARE the business side. You don't have to love the business side but you have to manage it.
5./ Above all... get off Twitter FOREVER because you cannot stop yourself filling it with remarks that do not show you or your business in the best light. It also stops you doing what you must do -- FOCUS.!

Good luck, mate.
Mat, I really, really want you to succeed. I will come and support your venture as I have your others. But I BEG you: 1./ Do not outsource your cooking. Only you can do what you do. 2./ Stay local and stay original. £9.50 for 5 large garlic prawns is not 'Dorset' and it is not original. 3./ Get some value, somewhere, into your menu. Crab linguine? Pork chop? Not everything on the main course should be £16.95. 4./ NEVER go on record saying "I hate the business side," unless you can say, "I have a partner who is brilliant at managing all of that." Because, Mat, customers ARE the business side. You don't have to love the business side but you have to manage it. 5./ Above all... get off Twitter FOREVER because you cannot stop yourself filling it with remarks that do not show you or your business in the best light. It also stops you doing what you must do -- FOCUS.! Good luck, mate. Newground

4:25pm Thu 20 Feb 14

MaidofDorset says...

The Talbot was a strange choice doomed to fail unless it catered for the reasonably priced pub lunches for all the pensioners out for a walk or on a trip to the garden centre.

This is Dorchester, and we have loads of new places to eat . More choice has brought more people who prefer a leisurely evening eating with friends rather than clubbing or doing a pub crawl.

Get the menu right and give good value.
The Talbot was a strange choice doomed to fail unless it catered for the reasonably priced pub lunches for all the pensioners out for a walk or on a trip to the garden centre. This is Dorchester, and we have loads of new places to eat . More choice has brought more people who prefer a leisurely evening eating with friends rather than clubbing or doing a pub crawl. Get the menu right and give good value. MaidofDorset

9:54pm Thu 20 Feb 14

foodie40 says...

Good to know that Mat has not left the area. We had a great meal at the Wild Garlic for my father-in-laws 80th birthday and Mat was excellent by showing personal care in bringing out my father-in-laws pudding. It's that touch that people need to see Mat, you need to be there as Newsground says 'FOCUS' on being you and producing great food. I run my own business so I know about the paperwork side - if you can't do it get help so you can concentrate on what you're good at - cooking! Good Luck
Good to know that Mat has not left the area. We had a great meal at the Wild Garlic for my father-in-laws 80th birthday and Mat was excellent by showing personal care in bringing out my father-in-laws pudding. It's that touch that people need to see Mat, you need to be there as Newsground says 'FOCUS' on being you and producing great food. I run my own business so I know about the paperwork side - if you can't do it get help so you can concentrate on what you're good at - cooking! Good Luck foodie40

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