'The reaction has been fantastic': Former Buddies founder opens new breakfast, lunch and dinner diner in Northampton

Take a look inside the new talk of the town, diner 81, with covid-safe booths, the original trainset and a new takeaway hatch

By Carly Roberts
Monday, 14th December 2020, 6:03 pm
Each table inside the restaurant has its own tall, private booth. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.
Each table inside the restaurant has its own tall, private booth. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

The original Buddies Cafe boss has described the reaction to his new restaurant opening this week as "fantastic".

Andrew Duthie has renovated the former Buddies diner in Collingtree into his new hamburger joint, '81', which is named after the year the first Buddies Cafe opened in Dychurch Lane.

The restaurant - with old favourites from the Hamburger Heaven menu - officially opens to the public, as of Monday (December 14), after a soft launch period, and will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The new restaurant, 81, has opened to the public for the first time this week with dine in and dine out options. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Andrew said: "The reaction has been fantastic - the amount of people who have said 'we can't wait to get back' has been phenomenal. We've had huge hits on social media already.

"The new restaurant has got the feel of the old Buddies but obviously with covid we can't be exactly like we were."

To make the dining experience covid-secure for its 80 covers, Andrew has surrounded every table by a tall booth decorated with its own New York memorabilia but tables games have been scrapped for the time being.

He added: "We have the famous train going round for the kids, we can't have the Trivial Pursuit cards but we have the usual TVs showing New York and the music playing is all from 1981.

The restaurant is still hugely influenced by the USA. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

"I've got some really good chefs back, which is great and they are straight back into it. Two customers came in and wanted their pictures taken as they used to love our breakfasts, so it's just like it used to be."

Two years ago Andrew Duthie and his business partner Terry York retired from the restaurant trade before Buddies was sold onto Simpson Catering who shut the existing five Buddies USA restaurants in March.

In the 1970s, Andrew worked at British Timken alongside Buddies co-founders Graham and Brian. Terry, who also worked at the factory, joined Buddies 20 years later.

Buddies all started when Andrew's friend was inspired by Hard Rock Cafe in London when it opened in 1971. Andrew fell in love with the food and subsequently thought he could launch his own American-style empire in Northampton.

The famous trainset still rockets round the restaurant track above-head. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

He took dozens of trips to New York to study the diners and the ideas he took from the best burger joints, including the Trivial Pursuit cards, he brought back and used at Dychurch Lane.

He was even the master cameraman behind the 'shaky' New York footage of the yellow cabs, which would play on screen overhead in the diners. He reminisced capturing the Batmobile incidentally driving by while he was doing it.

The first Buddies Cafe, a former chapel, was well ahead of its time in 1981. It was one of the first restaurants in the country to serve topped chips 'wet fries' and the huge menus fascinated its customers.

Buddies was soon booming, and its popularity allowed bosses to quickly grow the business from Dychurch Lane to nine Buddies diners as well as Joe's Diner, Grand Central, Buddies takeaway in Fish Street, The Blue Plate and LA Cafe in Castilion Street, with 200 staff at its peak.

Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.

Diner, 81, will open between Monday and Thursday, from 9am to 9pm, on Friday, from 9am to 10pm, on Saturday from 8am to 10pm and on Sunday from 8am to 9pm.

Both bookings and walk-ins are accepted. Pictures by Kirsty Edmonds.