Tony Leck

30 May 2003 by
Tony Leck

I'm from the mainland, but I moved here 15 years ago. I love its beauty and its laid-back lifestyle, plus it's a great place to bring up kids. Because Guernsey is only 27 miles around its coast, it means I can get up at about seven every morning, and together with my wife, Joanne, we get the kids ready for school. Then I only have to drive for five, stress-free minutes to work, getting there somewhere between 8am and 9am, depending on the day.

We are quite a small operation, run by just me and Joanne. In the kitchen I'm helped by my sous chef David Stringfellow, who has been with me for three years. Joanne and David's wife look after front of house, so we are definitely trying to create a family-friendly atmosphere.

We started in January 2000, when we operated at the Oatlands Craft Centre, but then the opportunity came up two years later to operate out of our present location. It's a farmhouse, built in 1520, which is now a gold and silversmiths producing quality craftsmanship. This is good for us because we have all their visitors passing through. The building is set in eight acres of landscaped gardens, complete with water features, so it really is a joy coming to work.

It's usually down to me to open up the premises. The first job is to prepare the bread - rustic loaves to complement the rustic nature of the building. We don't go in for tablecloths and crystal glasses here - if the customers are worried that the tables are wobbling I just tell them to look at the angle of the floor.

About this time the suppliers are arriving with their produce, six days a week. Obviously we get lots of good fresh fish, being on an island, and I'm lucky to have built up some good relationships with the fishermen near by. Sea bass, scallops and crabs are particularly good, and the lobsters soon will be when the weather warms up a bit.

The meat mostly comes from the UK, though if we are really lucky there is occasionally some local pork or lamb, and maybe some calves.

From then on it's all hands on deck doing the mise en place for lunch. We make everything in the kitchen, plus in the morning we offer tea, coffee and pastries - so there's that to keep ticking over, too. Lunch service begins at noon and goes on until 3.30pm seven days a week. It's quite long, but then we are open in the evening only on Fridays and Saturdays.

We have 50 seats and space for 60 alfresco come the summer. As well as lunch and afternoon tea, we may get people just enjoying a glass of wine. By about 5pm that has died away and we do some mise en place for the next day, then start packing the kitchen down.

If it's Friday or Saturday, however, it's time to re-lay the dining room and prepare for dinner service. Those can be our busiest times, and I will get home at about 1am.

During the week the evenings are all about catching up with the kids, having dinner together. I might do some paperwork later on.

I like to think of our food as proper comfort food. I have a lot of cookery books, but I read them to bounce ideas around rather than take recipes. The food's style is understated and simple, so for The Experience competition we did new-season asparagus with hollandaise and a poached free-range egg as one of the starters, another, a west coast crab with garden herbs, describing it as "no nonsense - just as it should be". Mains included a "surf ‘n' two turfs" - two cuts of beef, a medallion and a small brisket, and some seared scallops, plus some calamari rings instead of onion rings.

I like to add a quirky touch as well, just to attract attention. Instead of canapés we served "can o'peas" - and made up little helpings of peas à la française to give to all the diners.

By Dan Bignold
Just a minute…
What's the best part of your job? Job satisfaction - a combination of being self-employed and working with my wife. I like to see the customers' faces and recognise them coming back.

What's the worst part of your job? Not having Sundays off - but then I wouldn't be able to take eight weeks off during the winter and go to Thailand with my family. It's wonderful, we go to the quiet side of Samui - not the Blackpool side - and the kids love it.

What's your poison? Veuve Cliquot - do I get some free bottles now?


The Pavilion
Le Gron, St Saviours,
Guernsey GY7 9RN

Tel: 01481 264165

Open: lunch Monday to Sunday, noon-3.30pm; dinner Friday and Saturday, 7pm onwards; morning and afternoon teas.
Seats: 50 inside, plus a further 60 outside, weather permitting.

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