Again to the longer term? Devon diner hopes to revive spirit of Little Chef | Devon

Alex Reilley

A packet of unhappy sandwiches and a tepid cup of tea: for years, roadside eating within the UK has supplied little for motorists to write down dwelling about.

Seasoned travellers could yearn for the heyday of the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties in Britain, when few lengthy automotive journeys got here and not using a scheduled refuel at a department of Little Chef – the now defunct chain famed for its stacks of pancakes.

It’s this sense of nostalgia that Alex Reilley, co-founder and chair of the restaurant and bar group Loungers, is hoping to faucet into with the launch of his newest model: roadside eating places known as Brightside.

From avocado-coloured bathroom suites and cubicles upholstered with orange-and-brown striped material, to a comfort-food-inspired menu, the restaurant harks again to the glory days of automotive journey.

The corporate opened the doorways to its first venue on Friday morning on the A38 at Kennford, close to Exeter in Devon, in a constructing that was as soon as a Little Chef. Providing diners desk service and freshly cooked meals, the restaurant is the primary of an preliminary 4 branches, in Reilley’s try and “revolutionise” roadside eating.

The plan is to develop at websites on A roads, lots of which, such because the A38 ‘Devon expressway’, carry massive volumes of visitors, particularly in peak vacation season.

Alex Reilley
Alex Reilley: ‘My first actual publicity to hospitality was Little Chef.’ {Photograph}: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

“My first actual publicity to hospitality was Little Chef,” 49-year-old Reilley says, recalling month-to-month childhood journeys from his Leicester dwelling to go to his great-grandmother in Suffolk. “You all the time factored in a cease. It was one thing you felt was a break. If my dad was driving, it might be his first goal: get to Little Chef for breakfast.”

Such was his fondness for the chain that Reilley even contemplated shopping for the ultimate places once they have been offered in the course of the final decade.

Regardless of a last-minute try and revitalise Little Chef by restaurateur and movie star chef Heston Blumenthal – recognized for his meals sorcery and recipes together with snail porridge – the chain and “Fats Charlie” emblem of a plump chef disappeared from the roadside for good in 2018.

As a substitute, Reilley now has nationwide ambitions for his Brightside chain, spurred by a perception that roadside pitstops have been “fairly an uninspiring area” in Britain for many years. (Mockingly, Reilley has by no means learnt to drive.)

In a rustic suffering from motorway jams and roadworks, driving has, Reilley says, grow to be all about “spending the least period of time stopping on a journey.

“We’re hopeful we’re going to place a little bit of pleasure again into journey.”

To tempt clients, breakfast can be served till noon, with a bacon roll costing £5.95, a cappuccino £3.30, or £15.95 for “the massive breakfast”. Later within the day there are burgers, pizzas and ice-cream sundaes, and the corporate goals to serve drinks and meals inside 40 minutes.

Warren and Christine Ellis.
Warren and Christine Ellis. {Photograph}: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

Warren and Christine Ellis have been among the many first clients to reach shortly after the 8am opening, stopping for breakfast en-route to Taunton, throughout per week’s vacation within the West Nation. “It’s a superb transfer [to open here],” says Warren. “Going to different locations on this planet, companies are fairly dated over right here.”

The primary morning was not solely with out teething issues, nevertheless, with one group felt the restaurant ought to have delayed opening. “They need to have waited until the work was completed,” says Ceri Freeman, blaming their breakfast being chilly on an open again door. “I feel in per week or so it’ll be booming in right here.”

(From left to right): Ely Freeman, Gary Townsley, and Ceri Freeman.
Left to proper: Ely Freeman, Gary Townsley and Ceri Freeman. {Photograph}: Jim Wileman/The Guardian

Gary Townsley, an Exeter taxi driver, mentioned the decor was “very nice and the workers have been nice”. Whereas he would really like to have the ability to cease at related roadside places throughout lengthy journeys, he discovered the £12.50 cooked breakfast “a bit too costly and possibly simply as expensive as a service station”.

Reilley’s ambition is to have as many as 100 retailers on A roads across the nation, though that’s nonetheless removed from the 439 Little Cooks on the peak, earlier than altering tastes and complaints of staid menus and excessive costs triggered its decline.

The brand new chain is a departure for the Bristol-headquartered firm, which operates 182 of its all-day cafe and restaurant Lounges and 35 of its Cosy Membership venues throughout the UK, and has plans to open 30 extra this yr.


Brightside: ‘the entire hog’



Brightside breakfast possibility evaluation

Once they known as it “the entire hog”, they weren’t joking.

One of many many breakfast choices at Brightside, served till noon, could be sufficient to fulfill most hungry drivers.

The comfortable brioche bun arrives stacked with what looks like a full cooked breakfast: rashers of smoked streaky bacon, sausage, a fried egg, onions, tomatoes and American cheese.

The egg is cooked to perfection, the yolk bursting on contact with my fork, and together with the juicy slow-cooked tomatoes, enhances the salty bacon.

Gentle caramelised onions are just a little too candy for my liking, and the intense yellow American cheese is suspiciously plastic.

However the spotlight of the breakfast is the juicy and well-seasoned “Correct Porker” sausage, with delicate hints of sage (made by a Bristol firm known as Jolly Hog, run by three brothers).

Solely the bravest traveller may attempt to get their chops round this bun, until ready to proceed their journey with meals stains.

Delivered on a heat plate inside 20 minutes of ordering, served till noon for £8.95, and washed down with a pot of tea, it’s a refreshing, and engaging, change out of your common service station pitstop.

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The brand new restaurant at Kennford, together with two others – at Honiton additionally in Devon and Saltash in Cornwall – was purchased from the corporate that ran the Route chain of American diners, and its workers have moved over too.

“It’s again to the longer term,” says restaurant guide Peter Backman. “Within the olden days you have been taken care of at a training inn. Then got here the Little Chef and after that disappeared, you ended up with Burger King and occasional, and drive off once more.”

He fancies Brightside’s possibilities if it targets the household market: “Loungers are exceedingly good operators, with consideration to element, getting the value proper and taking care of clients. All of it will depend on how it’s carried out, and the place they’re positioned.”