There’s definitely something about chefs. It’s quite hard to put your finger on what exactly it is, but there’s an indefinable quality about these larger-than-life personalities who produce food to die for, that makes them fascinating interviewees.
Looking back, here’s a piece I wrote for Western Morning News to mark my first Father’s Day as a dad.
I immediately understood that the joy of The River Exe Cafe is the dining experience itself. It’s immersive – although hopefully you’re not immersed – put simply, you don’t ‘go’ to The River Exe Cafe, you’do’ it.
I’m well aware that coffee is no real substitute for genuine sleep. But when a decent stretch of sleep isn’t on offer, due to my baby son teething / having a cold / being hungry / doing a secret experiment on how long sleep-deprived parents can last before losing the plot, coffee is a great plan B.
“After a brief journey of well-rehearsed small talk, we came to a halt. Stepping from the coach onto an ocean of gleaming gravel, I surveyed what was to be our overnight dwelling: The Beach House. Such a pleasing, quintessentially English façade: the type of place where Miss Marple would have lived, if she’d won the lottery.
It had been a short journey, but it seemed we’d traveled back in time to an age of opulence. It pleased me greatly. The paintwork on the quirky windows and doors was as fresh as the sea air. A well-oiled, front door swung open and our gregarious host swept onto the driveway.
“You’re here, you’re here. So glad you could make it.”
As I took in The Beach House, beautifully finished in the Arts and Crafts style, I had to conclude that so was I.”
I find Steph Bridge holding court. She’s in her element talking to customers and friends, it’s easy to see how the former quickly join the ranks of the latter. As she talks, Steph constantly does three things at once -answering phones, monitoring emails and organising appointments. Within minutes I can see that Steph, who spends half her time propelled by a kite, is the closest thing to a real life superhero I’ve met.
Here’s a piece I wrote for Western Morning News, published on April 1st (that’s important). In it I explain how the fates have conspired to make me a middle-aged Billy Elliot…
“I’ll not be happy!” said one old lady, so everyone on the bus could hear, “if he ruins that place, Courtlands House. Lovely it is!”
Her companion nodded in agreement.
“In fact, if he does, I’ll never watch his films ever again! He should stick to acting, blooming Michael Caine!”
I overheard this conversation, between a pair of endearingly-confused locals, just over a year ago. Today I find myself in the lush surroundings of Lympstone Manor (formerly Courtlands House), East Devon’s newest luxury hotel, talking to the man behind it all.
Moose Allain is a big, avuncular fellow. His naturally serious face regularly erupts into gales of laughter that are as contagious as they are welcome. I’m immediately at home in his (clearly family-orientated) house – it’s that kind of place.
Here’s a piece I wrote for Western Morning News, all about the trials and tribulations of doing it yourself…