• Work Hard
  • 15th Jun 2024
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  • 6 minutes

Siân Buchan on Restaurant Pine: You arrive as guests but leave as friends

“With the building that we are in, we are really trying to stay humble to our roots and we would rather make a turnip the star of the dish, rather than langoustine or caviar.”

Siân Buchan

When chef Cal Byerley told his wife Siân Buchan about his plans to buy an old cow bar in the remote Northumbrian countryside, he told her that they’d convert it into a “laid-back cafe and wine bar.”

However, at the same time, he was attempting to lure Ian Waller and Vanessa Stolz from London to join this venture and told them he planned to have “one of the best restaurants in the country.” 

The latter became a reality as three years after opening, the quaint nine-table restaurant has been one of the hottest tables in the country with bookings like gold dust.

“I always knew deep down that Cal wanted to do something in fine dining and that’s my background so I would have loved to do something in fine dining as well,” said Siân. “However, we had just gone into a lockdown with Covid-19 and you didn’t know what the long-term plan was because we didn’t know the long-term plan for the country and the hospitality industry.”

The pair had found a beautiful location in the Northumbrian countryside and believed it had the “perfect layout for fine dining.” Despite this, Siân was still hesitant as she said that she is very much “a realist” and concerned with numbers and facts, whereas Cal is a “dreamer.”

“We’ve been very lucky in the fact that Cal’s dream really did come true and he has a wife and a business partner who’s very understanding and knows what he’s really like!” said Siân.

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The North East restaurant is celebrating its third anniversary this year and in such a short space of time, it has built a reputation as one of the top restaurants in the UK. Pine was first awarded the prestigious Michelin Star and Green Michelin Star in Feb 2022, only nine months after it opened its doors, and has continued to retain this status.

“It was always our goal to get a Star but at the time we would never admit it. When it happened it was so surreal,” said Siân. “Since then, Cal and I have got married and I still say that the day we won the Michelin Star was the best day of our life.”

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“It’s the biggest reward we could ever imagine and just the fact we’ve managed to maintain it for the last couple of years just shows how wonderful of a team we have and the effort and passion that goes into it is something that I’ll be forever grateful for.”

Traditionally, when you conjure images of Michelin Star restaurants, you may think of incredible food but also a formal and somewhat stuffy environment that can make some people feel out of place.

Restaurant Pine wants to dispel those preconceptions that people may have about fine dining and introduce the diners to real “Geordie hospitality.”

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“We are the total opposite of a formal fine-dining restaurant. When you come into Pine, you’ve immediately got that sense of relaxation. The staff are dressed in trainers or Doc Martens and there’s a real rural and rustic atmosphere but with that Geordie hospitality where you’re practically best friends when you leave us,” said Siân.

She added: “We are almost borderline too friendly. You arrive as guests but leave as friends is the vibe we try to go for. We tailor the experience to every guest differently depending on what they like and the way they are.”

The customer and their experience will always be the most important thing to Restaurant Pine. A close second would be sustainability, which is central to how the team wants to run its business.

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When Cal and Siân were drawing up their business plans for the restaurant, Michelin had just introduced their Green Star – which recognises restaurants leading in the industry for their commitment to sustainable practices.

The restaurant sources ingredients from their farm – or the surrounding local areas. Siân asserts that their Michelin Star status hasn’t given them illusions of grandeur and instead, they want to remain humble to their roots.

“When you come to Pine, you will not find anything imported on our menus. For example, when you order a drink at the bar, we don’t use any lemon or limes or anything that can’t be grown in England,” She said. “We utilise herbs and different pickles that can replace that acidity. It gives us a little bit more freedom to be creative and utilise what’s around us.”

She added: “With the building that we are in, we are really trying to stay humble to our roots and we would rather make a turnip the star of the dish, rather than langoustine or caviar.”

The restaurant is a converted old cow barn in the Northumbrian countryside, a 20-minute drive from Newcastle city centre. The remote location near Hadrian’s Wall adds to the customer experience as it feels like the diners are going on some sort of food pilgrimage.

“It’s in a really bizarre place and you wouldn’t expect to find a restaurant where we are,” said Siân. “It’s a bit of escapism. You’ll get guests who may come from London and they get the train to Newcastle, which is a small city full of atmosphere, and then you take a 20-minute cab ride and you’re in the countryside.”

After the success and acclaim that Pine has achieved, it is easy to forget that it only opened its doors three years ago.

The restaurant is very much in its infancy and the team have big plans to grow and reach new heights.

“We need more growing opportunities and more space. I see us hopefully having a bigger venue in the next few years,” said Siân. “We can only grow the business by growing the venue, growing the team and offering more options to the customer journey.”


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Laura Kingston
Founder and Editor

Laura is the Founder and Editor of High Life North. She had the idea to set up an exclusively digital women’s magazine after feeling there was a gap in the market in the North East. With over 10 years of experience in marketing and PR, Laura had a very clear…


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