Three years ago tonight we served our first 4 kilo's of Moules Frites inside La Petite Bouchée in beautiful Sydenham Wells Park, SE London. It was a baptism of fire. There was a fuel leak, the generator was far too noisy in a residential area and oh, the heavens opened and we had horizontal rain. No generator, meant no electricity which meant no lights. We improvised, we used the car headlights, I used an 8L pot to make the fries in and our trusty gas stoves did the rest. Then there was the gazebo which was meant to shelter us from the rain. The less said about that the better.
The customers were totally oblivious to al of this and had a wonderful evening. I returned home dried out, switched the heating on the dry out the gazebo and other equipment and sat with a glass of champagne in my hand smiling from ear to ear. We'd done it.
Fast forward three years and we're multi-award winning brasserie, we've weathered some difficult times and come out the other side and we've totally uprooted ourselves from everything we know and started again. In Devon, in a tiny village where the majority of people here have supported and welcome us.
Village life ain't always that easy, but you only have to look around you and breathe the clean air and taste the amazing ingredients from Devon's amazing larder to realise that we made the right decision. In the couple of months since we opened, we've built up an amazing number of regular customers, mainly local and a few miles out, who visit sometimes twice a month and two guests who are now on their fifth visit. Their support of us is so very much appreciated and we're making some lovely friends in the process and learning about life in our beautiful county.
We'd like to take this opportunity to thanks our amazing customers in SE London who for two years made going to work an absolute joy and for helping us to secure Time Out London Best Restaurant Award and to our fabulous customers here in Devon who are incredibly passionate about their food and have helped us secure a coveted Taste of the West- Gold Award for Best Restaurant.
I'd personally like to thank as ever Neil for being the best friend I could of had at work with me for those two years, for his creativity, his tenacity and his wonderfully big heart and for holding my hand through one of the worst experiences of my entire life. We had the very best of times too and he still visits to ensure my feet are very much planted on the ground !
A huge thank you to our fabulous suppliers, to Veg in A Box, who always go the extra mile and can source anything for us and who work so very very hard in their own business. To Burrow Farm for supplying us with the most amazing red ruby beef. It literally melts in the mouth and if you've had a Côte de Boeuf here at La Petite Bouchée, then you'll know exactly what I am talking about.
To Devon Quality Fish for their wonderful fish and seafood and their amazing customer service, To The Cheese Larder for supplying us with the most sublime cheese, always with a with a wonderful sense of humour. To Black Tor who supply beer that is packed with flavour and wonderful to drink and cook with and to Ashridge Cider who simply make the best cider in Devon together with a wonderful range of organic soft drinks and juices.
photograph by Nick Hook Photography
To all the crew at McQueenie Mulholland for looking after us so wonderfully, particularly to Eleanor who has to put up with me the most ! and Sue who is always there for us too.
To Linzi and Nigel our inimitable front of house team, who are simply amazing. Their wit and fabulous team work ensure every guest experience is second to none and unique. I learn from them all the time and their vast experience has got me out of a hole on more than one occasion ! Having run Jamaica Inn, The hotel and pub on Lundy and their Chocolate shop in Ilfracombe for years, I count myself very lucky for the day they knocked on our door in late March this year, they only came out for some wood !
Its been an amazing three years, this year particularly has been very full on, but we're open and thriving and looking forward to meeting lots more people in this beautiful county.
Here are some of our best bits.