They come from two very different culinary traditions - but when they met, they hit it off immediately.

Classically-trained French chef Régis Crépy and Lamen Reddy - a pan-Asian restaurant entrepreneur from Fiji who grew up in the US - run neighbouring restaurant businesses at Cambridge's Grafton shopping centre.

Régis and son Alex launched "fast-casual" food enterprise Amélie - making flammekueche - a kind of a French flatbread or "skinny pizza" - at the Cambridge centre in 2018.

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The following year, Lamen launched a branch of his brand, Chi - a fast-growing "bao" restaurant chain which specialises in pan-Asian food.

Prior to his Cambridge venture, Régis was a leading light in the Suffolk restaurant trade running various high-profile fine dining outlets for 32 years before selling up.

He headed up The Great House in Lavenham, Mariners in Ipswich and Maison Bleue in Bury St Edmunds and over the decades notched up a number awards and accolades including three Michelin red forks and three AA rosettes.

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Inevitably Régis and Lamen came into contact with each other. It turned out they were near-neighbours - Regis is from Lavenham and Lamen lives just outside Bury St Edmunds.

Both are "very Suffolk-orientated", said Régis.

"We just got on extremely well," he explained. "Lamen and I thought: 'Why don't we do something?'"

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They saw an opportunity to pool their talents and culinary know-how to launch a restaurant together in Bury St Edmunds - but it took another five years to get the right place and the right menu.

In February 2024, they launched the Blue Fig in Abbeygate Street in a "quirky" little Grade 2 listed building. It's a small-ish 28-cover space but they plan to expand upstairs.

Head chef is Wayne Gray - a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch in South Africa - who brings his own experience and ideas to the table.

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There are two other partners in the business - Alex Crépy, Régis's son and business partner - and David Booth, Lamen's business partner.

"I suppose deep down in my heart I have always wanted to have just a small restaurant doing excellent food and good wine," said Lamen.

"Meeting Régis and hitting it off and discussing it - we have been researching it for several years - it's kind of led us to this."

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He added: "It's exactly what I have been looking for and trying to do."

They have clearly enjoyed the process of creating and trialling new dishes to achieve the right mix.

"We are not new to the business scene and putting the two together is just perfect," said Régis.

They all bring their own concepts and ideas to the menu. These they try and experiment with before adopting "to be absolutely certain it's what we want", he said.

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Their first hurdle was the premises - but they finally secured the site they wanted - a former Neal's Yard Remedies shop which lies just a short walk from the cathedral and close to other restaurants.

They decided on a relaxed and eclectic modern European Mediterranean "small plate" approach - similar to Spanish tapas but including dishes from across the continent and with spices and influences from all over the world.

These would be carefully prepared and offer the kind of options diners couldn't easily make at home - but simplicity would be key.

"It's simple food very well executed," explained Régis.

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Both are hugely enthused by their joint venture. "I can't wait to get here and when I get here I don't want to leave - to the annoyance of my team," admitted Lamen.

They wanted to make the restaurant accessible, he added. "It's a place for a nice plate of food with a nice glass of wine or cocktail in a small, cosy atmosphere." 

Just a week or two in and launching in one of the coldest and trickiest months, the restaurant is already proving popular.

The launch menu is a delight - with a range of vegetable, meat and fish dishes. Already there are some big hits - including the golden hashbrowns, beef short rib and moelleux au chocolat - a baked creation accompanied by vanilla ice cream.

"The bookings seem to be extremely good so we are obviously optimistic," said Régis. "At the end of the day we need to keep the standard and the quality on a regular basis. We are already working on a new menu."

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Their aim is to provide a high quality but casual dining experience, he explained.

"Quality will never go out of fashion. That's us - quality, quality, quality," said Régis.

Both chefs remain very busy - after many years in the hospitality trade.

Lamen - co-owner of the Chi restaurants chain - came to the UK from Los Angeles where his parents were in the restaurant trade. He started out washing dishes in a Marriott kitchen at the age of 15 and flew through the corporate ranks.

"I kind of picked up my craft from my parents really," he explained. He worked in catering for large corporate firms before branching out about five years ago with Chi, which now has 11 outlets, including in Norwich and at the Bluewater shopping centre at Dartford.

As well as his Grafton shopping centre venture Régis and Alex also run Chez Amélie, a pop-up café at the Cambridge Cookery School. This offers their signature flammekueche and homemade quiche, salads, tarts, patisserie, and speciality desserts.

They have also launched a wholesale distribution centre - Amélie Distribution – which supplies the flammekeuche bases to pub groups and leisure companies such as Marstons, Brakes, Pitcher & Piano.

Despite a long and distinguished career, retirement is definitely not on the cards for Régis - although he has no regrets about his past decisions.

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"Retirement is never a word I have used. I have not retired at all - I certainly took a different direction," he said.

Both men feel they have gained a lot from each other through their collaboration.

"I don't know how much I could teach Régis - but I have certainly learnt a lot," said Lamen.

But Régis feels he has also benefited greatly from working with Lamen. 

"I have learnt a lot because Lamen brings a lot of experience from a different culture. In catering you never stop learning.

"It sounds very corny but there's always, always something to learn. It's constantly a training ground - that's why retirement is never on the cards.

"It's pure passion and excitement opening a restaurant. It's exciting, it's fascinating, it's risky but at the same time you put your passion into it."