It’s been a big spring for Heather Kennaway Lynch. The partner behind some of Boston’s most beloved restaurants — Bar Mezzana, Black Lamb, Shore Leave, and No Relation — has been busy reopening the restaurants after a winter-long hibernation.
Bar Mezzana, the restaurant that showcases partner and chef (and Heather’s husband) Colin Lynch’s masterful coastal Italian cooking, just reopened on April 1, as did Black Lamb, the group’s South End American brasserie. Tiki bar Shore Leave and No Relation, the sushi counter tucked within Shore Leave, are set to reopen on May 1.
Resy: How does it feel to be back and to reopen Bar Mezzana?
Lynch: It feels amazing. Our staff is like a family and getting everyone back together to do what we love really makes me feel alive again. Our neighbors and guests are all coming back and reuniting with their family and friends and reconnecting with us … [There’s] so much good energy. There is a buoyancy to people, and things feel lighter and more positive than they have over the past year.
What ultimately made you and the team decide to hibernate for the winter?
Everyone had to make very difficult and personal decisions during the pandemic. Closing was the best choice for our safety or our staff and for the survival of the businesses. Luckily, we have wonderful and supportive landlords who trusted us to make the difficult decision.
What are the biggest takeaways or lessons that you learned in the past year, perhaps because of the pandemic?
Personally, I learned that time with friends and family is so important. I am fortunate to work in an industry that allows me to be a part of so many special moments in people’s lives and we feel honored that people trust us to be a part of these moments. I really missed those moments, but simultaneously I realized how important they are in my own life. My husband and I had dinner at home together more this past year than we have in our almost nine years of marriage! I want to continue to find the time in my own life for special moments and help our staff find it, too … but I also can’t wait to celebrate with our guests.
Did the pandemic change how you and Colin want to continue to operate your restaurants, or how you approach food?
On a broad level, it allowed us to focus on ourselves and our identity. It forced us to distill who we are down to the very core. We worked very closely with our teams to revisit each concept and reevaluate what is important to us…we love what we do and who we do it with!
We also learned who our true partners are — our vendors were incredibly supportive and worked with us to weather the unprecedented storm of closing twice in one year. D’Artagnan, Sunnys, Specialty Foods, and Kinnealy have all been above and beyond.
For diners returning to Bar Mezzana this spring, will they find anything different in their experience?
Patio seating! Our patio is huge! Our landlords, National Development, granted us so much extra space that we have more than doubled the outdoor seating.
Likewise, will returning diners have different experiences at Shore Leave, No Relation, or Black Lamb from what they experienced pre-pandemic?
Again, the biggest difference is the patio. Black Lamb is able to utilize Union Park. Shore Leave is out in the courtyard at 345 Harrison. Shore Leave is doing a really fun, fast-food-style burger and hot dogs menu! Think Chicago dogs, the dungeon burger, our own signature veggie burger, okonomiyaki, and tater tots. It’s going to be so cool.
Are there any major changes to the menu? Or new menu additions you want to point out?
I love our crudo at Bar M, and although we cooked at ton at home [over the last year], we did not have crudo. We weren’t going to get in a whole fish for just the two of us. I missed those fresh and vibrant flavors.
The $1 oysters every day at Black Lamb are also great. There aren’t many lunch spots open right now and it’s awesome to have our neighborhood folks gather at Black Lamb and slurp down some of those briny treats in the spring sunshine.
Shore Leave opens May 1, so I’m looking forward to that. No Relation will make a comeback, too, starting with private events and takeout.
If there’s anything you’d want to say directly to diners, what would it be?
Thank you for all the love and support! We feel it and it’s real. Please be patient and kind. Some of the regulations and restrictions feel inhospitable, but they are mandated by the state to keep folks safe. We are not permitted to have parties larger than six guests, we are only permitted to have guests dine with us for 90 minutes, guests must wear masks, and we must keep guests seated and socially distanced. These are all state mandates and we have to enforce them. It keeps our staff safe and keeps our guests safe, but it’s not how we usually do things and it doesn’t feel good to have to do some of these things — but it’s just a step in the right direction.