Lyme chef tastes success at fire-hit restaurant

Top Gears win a bunch of awards for their rebuilt restaurant

A COUPLE who honed their culinary skills at a top East Devon hotel have won national acclaim after rebuilding their own restaurant from the ashes of a devastating fire.

Following the reopening of The Artichoke, in Amersham, Laurie Gear, from Lyme Regis, and his wife Jacqueline, of Upottery, have received several major awards.

They have been named best new entry in The Good Food Guide 2011, rising star in the Michelin Guide 2011 and listed in The Sunday Times Britain’s Top 100 Restaurants, in association with Harden’s.

They are also rated 37th in the top 50 UK restaurants in the Good Food Guide 2012.

Laurie began his career as chef de partie at Coombe House, Gittisham, where he met his future wife Jacqueline, who was working front of house.

For two years, they worked there to cement their culinary skills and knowledge, which gave them the courage to leave for greater opportunities

Most Read

It led them to finally settling in Amersham, where they opened and have been running The Artichoke Restaurant for the past nine years.

Laurie’s refined modern European cooking quickly garnered critical acclaim in those first years and he was awarded UK Best Dish 2007, Restaurant Magazine

But disaster struck in June 2008 when a fire in an adjoining building caused devastating damage to the restaurant - a Grade II, 16th Century timber framed building.

During the enforced sabbatical caused by the fire, Laurie spent time during the summer of 2009 cooking at Noma, in Copenhagen, where the ethos is about foraging and getting the flavour of the local land into the dishes.

His time there afforded him a unique insight into how one of the world’s best chefs and his team worked in the kitchen. Laurie could see that Rene Redzepi’s approach was as much about innovation as technique - something which he has brought back with him to his newly reopened restaurant.

“I loved it, I was totally inspired,” he told The Herald.

After an extensive twelve month rebuild, and a subsequent extension, Laurie has a completely new open kitchen and the restaurant has more space with a private dining room featuring its own wine cellar.

Interior design by Fiona Johnston Parke from the award winning Emily Todd Hunter combines the original features of the 16th century building with inspiration from Laurie’s time in Scandinavia to create a seamless, stylish and comfortable extension of the original building.

The Artichoke also has a very special personal recommendation by top chef Raymond Blanc who credits the restaurant as “one of my best discoveries in the last five years”.

Laurie, a former Woodroffe School student, the son of the late Bill Gear and his wife Margaret, added: “We are absolutely delighted to be included in the Top 50 UK Restaurants Good Food Guide 2012. This accolade proves that our efforts have not gone unnoticed since the expansion and the whole team deserves full credit for their dedication. We are all very excited for the future of The Artichoke Restaurant and is always a huge boost to receive recognition like this.