Rick Stein tells Marlborough.News about his plans for a High Street guest house
As Marlborough's Rick Stein restaurant opens in the High Street this weekend (October 8), it has been revealed that Rick Stein is applying for planning permission to open a guest house in the building next door - No. 42.
The Stein family would manage both businesses: "The family are keen to establish the Stein brand in Marlborough and wish to support the restaurant by establishing a complementary guest house."
The building, which was occupied by Smiths Gore Estate Agent until that firm was bought by Savills, has been empty for six months. The planning application is to turn it into a four-room guest house with 'a reception, ancillary bar and lobby on the ground floor'.
There will be no alterations to the building's exterior. And the application makes the point that for many years the two buildings were joined together by a doorway - which they want to re-open. During the conversion work on the restaurant, the Rick Stein organisation have been using No. 42 for their staff training sessions.
Marlborough.News asked Rick Stein why they had chosen Marlborough for the new restaurant: "Because it's a beautiful town and - honestly with us it's just a question of finding some place we really, really like - and we just think we'd love to have a restaurant there."
"I've always loved Winchester - and Marlborough has that same old English atmospherics that we like very much. Also you can't help noticing it's quite a prosperous part of the country with a rather well know school!"
"You always ask yourself the question would the people in this town like our restaurant there - Marlborough answers the question. You go to some places and they're not bothered - I think there's an enthusiasm for food in and around Marlborough."
We asked Rick Stein whether the restaurants position and the High Street parking was a prime draw: "Yes. Every time I visited I've always been able to park which is quite unusual in a thriving town. That High Street is so beautiful - there are so many other good shops and the bookshop is fabulous."
"You've got a town with a good bookshop you know you're going to be able to run a good restaurant there as well. The sort of people whom like books, like eating good food."
Why does the family want to open a guest house? "What we were also keen to do is to get some accommodation to go with the restaurant. We've learnt in Padstow they go really well together."
Do just four rooms help the restaurant? "Yes, they do. It's not enough to make a radical difference, but if you've got four rooms, you know you've potentially got eight people coming to the restaurant - which is great." They know they will be drawing customers from a very wide area around Marlborough.
Has Marlborough been good for recruiting staff? "Brilliant. I went and talked to them all last week and I was so overwhelmed with how much enthusiasm there was and how nice they were."
"The head chef comes from the area [Kevin Chandler from Market Lavington]. It was great meeting so many nice and enthusiastic young people."
"One of the jokes I had with them is that, with the kitchen downstairs, they've got to take all the food up two flights of stairs and I was think god that would be hard, but then I remembered that I'm 69 and they're aged more like 25!"
He thinks they might start wearing Fitbits activity trackers to show how much exercise they are taking.
There are now eight Rick Stein restaurants beyond those in Padstow. Marlborough has just pipped London to the post: Rick Stein had long said he did not want to open a London restaurant.
However, he could not resist opening one at The Depot, a well known riverside brasserie in Barnes. Its owners are retiring and the Rick Stein organisation will start work there in January to convert it into another Rick Stein restaurant.
The planning applications to Wiltshire Council for the guest house in Marlborough's High Street - full planning (including change of use) and listed building consent - will be discussed by Marlborough Town Council's planning committee at their scheduled meeting on Monday evening (October 10) at the Town Hall.
The applications will be ruled on later by Wiltshire Council.
On Saturday, October 15, Rick Stein will be signing copies of his new book of recipes at the White Horse Bookshop from 3.30pm - Long Weekends was published on October 6.