The partners behind The Peacock's Pantry are dentist, watercolor artist and chef Elizabeth Lee and software sales rep John Purcell. Isaac Harrell photo
Step into The Peacock's Pantry, and you're immersed in a world of deep blues, cool greens and shimmering feathers. The birds for which the restaurant is named seem to be everywhere: on candleholders, climbing the brick walls, gracing tree branches.
"I guess it's the art side of me," says co-owner Elizabeth Lee. "It's a very elegant bird, colorful and very distinctive." A watercolor artist, Lee has had a display space at Crossroads Art Center since 2003. Her paintings can be seen throughout the restaurant.
Lee, a 1990 graduate of VCU's School of Dentistry, also runs a dental practice near Libbie Place Shopping Center from Monday to Wednesday. She opened The Peacock's Pantry (1731 W. Main St., 732-3333) in December with business partner John Purcell, who also happens to be her sweetheart. The restaurant is open for dinner Thursday to Saturday and for brunch on Sunday.
"This is something we wanted to do together," Lee says. They began talking about the idea a year ago. Purcell adds, "We both had the same passion, and it came out in conversations and it kind of evolved."
A Roanoke native, Lee has always enjoyed cooking. Her father toyed with opening a restaurant, and, she says, "We both read cookbooks like they were novels." In addition to her own experience in the kitchen, dining out frequently has shaped Lee's vision for what a restaurant should be. "I don't think you have to be a culinary graduate to produce great food," she says. "I'm a diner and I know what I want to bring to the table for my diners."
Purcell, a Richmond native who works in software sales, handles inventory, beverages and operations for The Peacock's Pantry. He also manages the front of the house. Technology, including alerts on his smartphone, helps Purcell to keep track of restaurant business when he's on the road.
Lee developed the menu, which she describes as gourmet American bistro fare with worldly influences, and all the recipes are hers. She is assisted by two cooks, but she's the one who makes the salad dressings, dips, sauces and marinades for the meats.
So far, popular dinner entrées include beef tenderloin tips with Gorgonzola cream sauce, grilled leg of lamb kebab with mint aïoli, and chicken Parmesan. For brunch, Lee's red-velvet waffles have been a hit. And her cheese-slaw appetizer, made of shredded white cheeses and assorted spices, is a signature dish. She has no plans to quit dentistry, though she and Purcell are thinking about expanding the restaurant's hours to add Saturday brunch or Sunday dinner. "I love food," Lee says. "It's all about entertaining and bringing smiles to people's faces."