First anniversary marks professional – and personal – milestone

First anniversary marks professional – and personal – milestone

It is with both pride and relief that husband and wife team Richard and Claudia Bramble celebrate the first anniversary of their new business – at the culmination of a year that has brought closure for many others.

The entrepreneurial Leamington couple had to quickly adapt after launching their new private chef and catering service just weeks before the first Covid lockdown.

Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

It’s a particularly personal milestone for fine dining chef Richard, who, after 18 years, vowed to leave restaurant kitchens behind to establish Bramble Dining so he could spend more time with his family. It’s also the result of a childhood promise he made to himself following a sad chapter that he now looks back on as life-defining.

“When I was eight years old I was put into foster care with my nine-year-old brother. My mum had suddenly left the family home,” explains Richard, 35.

“We were supposed to go into foster care for two weeks to give my dad a bit of a break and get work sorted out so he could be at home more because he worked long hours in the busy restaurant industry. But we ended up staying there for nine years.

“I have a lot to thank my foster parents for. They welcomed me and my brother into the family and taught us a lot of values.

“It’s pushed me to want to succeed in life. In that environment I’ve seen a lot of children who have really struggled and ended up going down the wrong route. But I have always had that drive to work and have a family and prove to myself that things can be done the right way.”

The self-taught chef’s love affair with food began aged just 16 when he took on a part-time job as a kitchen porter. He went on to learn new skills while working with chefs at independent Leamington restaurants where he also perfected his favourite English modern and classical French styles.

Bramble Dining, fine dining, catering, COVID-19, lockdown
Bramble Dining works with local holiday accommodation businesses, including, as pictured here, Winchcombe Farm in Upper Tysoe. Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

But, more recently, with the prospect ahead of increasingly long hours and missed time with his sons, now aged four and two, Richard knew it was time to make a change – unaware of the pandemic in waiting.

He said: “I know the strains that working in a professional kitchen can put on a family and the time you end up spending away from them. I really wanted to do something where I could be a success and also have time at home.

“COVID came as a big shock to us just as were getting up and running. We knew we weren’t going to be able to offer private dining. We also had to effectively freeze all the business plans we had, including a search for premises.”

In between lockdowns, the couple collaborated with four holiday accommodation businesses to offer private chef services to guests, including at Winchcombe Farm Holidays in Upper Tysoe.

“Guests can enjoy a great restaurant experience by staying where they are and no one has to drive. It’s been incredibly popular,” he said.

Bramble Dining, fine dining, catering, COVID-19, lockdown
Photo by David Fawbert Photography.

Since the Prime Minister’s recent roadmap announcement for easing restrictions, the couple are now looking forward to finally being able to showcase their full range of services to customers, including a full private chef and waiter service. There are three menu options catering for meat and fish lovers, vegans and vegetarians as well as younger diners.

“We’re really passionate about everything we do and believe in the food and service we offer. Hours and hours of work goes into the end products. We understand our clientele and their needs. If a customer comes to us with a request for something obscure we try and make sure we can deliver it.

“We have experience of working in the restaurant trade and know how to successfully bring that across, in both kitchen and front of house.”

He added: “Anyone can follow a recipe but what separates chefs from cooks at home is realising what happens in the cooking processes and the chemistry involved. Not every chef has that eye.

“I’ve got dishes I’ve been cooking for six years that I still tweak all the time. Every dish is a work in progress. So much passion and time and effort goes into every one of them.”

Longer term, there is a shared vision for the Bramble Dining brand becoming established nationwide. At the same the couple’s pursuit for perfection means they are keen not to rush their journey.

Claudia, 34, said: “The last year has been a worry and there have been a lot of sleepless nights but we’ve taken it step by step. Knowing there is now light at the end of the tunnel and we can start serving people again from next month, is fantastic.”

And, for the proud chef especially, it’s a challenge to be relished.

He said: “I haven’t come from a privileged background with investment behind me. I’ve had to work extremely hard for everything I’ve achieved and my main drive is my own children. I look at them and am proud that things are better for them and they have more of a head start than I did.

“I look at the circles I mix in now and the clientele and it’s a big personal step, particularly because a lot of people don’t realise how much I’ve had to go through to get here.”

Visit Bramble Dining at:

Favourite dishes?

Richard’s favourite: Beef fillet medallions pan-fried and served with rocket, grated parmesan and truffle oil.

Customers’ favourite: Pan-fried scallops with butternut squash puree and crispy pancetta, popped broad beans and chilli and chorizo oil.

Bramble Dining is offering outdoor private chef dining experience from April 12th and indoor private chef dining experience from May 17th, assuming the lockdown roadmap is confirmed.

Restaurateur vows new business will survive and thrive despite second pandemic lockdown

Restaurateur vows new business will survive and thrive despite second pandemic lockdown

THE OWNER of a new Warwickshire restaurant which suffered huge delays to its opening, has vowed it’s here to stay despite hanging up the closed sign for the start of a second national lockdown this week.

We Love Pizza finally launched in September despite taking over the lease of the Leamington unit in February – and although, due to the pandemic, the restaurant is closed again to diners from today, entrepreneur Jose Ribeiro says he’ll fight hard to protect his business in the weeks ahead.

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality
Jose Ribeiro at his restaurant in Regent Street, Leamington

But it’s a battle he claims the industry should not be having to face again.

Jose, 50, said: “When this latest lockdown was announced on Saturday my first thought was ‘here we go again.’ Eight months down the line and we still have the same sorry state of affairs. How can we still be going through the same stages and using the same measures? Nothing has changed and this is something that I struggle to accept.

“We have followed all the scientific evidence but where are the lessons learned? There has not been enough evolution or changes put into place to allow us to effectively tackle this situation. The Government is just resorting to closing the industry again. The businesses that suffer the most from the first lockdown are going to be the ones who suffer the most again.”

He added: “I feel it is frustrating to say the least that we’re not further down the line with the process. We can’t control how the virus spreads but what we could have done is to put procedures in place that would have allowed us to this time take less prohibitive actions, being more targeted and more focused, rather than just shutting down the whole sector again.

“I can’t accept the argument that hospitality businesses are COVID super spreaders because the stats show different. Public Health figures state just 2% of the cases have come from the hospitality sector.

“A lot of businesses have gone to a great deal of effort to minimise their risk, while there are some businesses out there who are disregarding the measures because the owners are irresponsible – only these should be the ones we’re targeting for closure. There are lots of businesses operating very safely and are very conscious of the welfare of their customers and staff but we’re all being penalised.”

Jose is certainly no stranger to the hospitality and entertainment industries, having worked as a consultant for the last 26 years, his projects atking him around the world, including New Zealand, Australia and the USA. But it while working as general manager at Leamington’s Bedford Street live music venue for the last three years, that he aspired to open his first restaurant.

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality

He said: “My partner Geanina and I always wanted to open our own concept, something that we could establish as a brand and could scale. We believe that pizza is a simple product but when it’s done with care and love and the right ingredients and with the right processes in place, it can be delicious, but healthy as well.

“Geanina and I are big pizza fans and so the name of the restaurant was an obvious choice, We Love Pizza.”

The ambitious entrepreneur prides himself on delivering ‘affordable quality’ to his customers by using only the best and most nutritious flour combinations and implementing exact temperature control and longer fermentation periods for the sourdough. Fresh ingredients, sourced directly from Italy as well as locally, are prepared by a team of five chefs from four corners of the globe.

But as Jose contemplates the uncertainty of the weeks ahead, he pledges to work even harder to get his product to people’s tables with a new army of delivery drivers, click and collect system and two brand new offers for lockdown – Rule of Six Package (six pizzas delivered for £36) and Pizza and Prosecco (starter, two pizzas, Nutella and Strawberry Pizza dessert and bottle of Prosecco delivered for £35).

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality
Jose Ribeiro, Geanina Lacraru and team

We Love Pizza, Leamington, Jose Ribeiro, lockdown, hospitality

And neither has the ongoing pandemic diminished his long-term vision for the We Love Pizza brand, with ambitious plans to open five more restaurants in the Midlands over the next three years.

Jose said: “We want to grow organically and eventually also hope to take our concept and brand to other towns such as Rugby, Stratford, Coventry, Solihull and Oxford.”

In the meantime, it’s business – almost – as usual for team, who are keen to establish a valuable role for their restaurant in the local community.


He said: “I want to create a social enterprise so there will be a charitable element to what we do as well. We want to use our food to impact positively on society and people’s lives so are looking to work with charities which can benefit from our surplus food at the end of each day.

“As well as hospitality operators we are human beings and my partner and I want to become positive members of the local community. We have that obligation to help people out that need us, especially right now.”


New business helps lift pandemic cloud

New business helps lift pandemic cloud

TWO Leamington friends are hoping their new enterprise will help boost local business efforts to re-emerge from the challenges of lockdown.

Carl Barlow, from Cubbington, established Fog surface sanitisation company this month after adapting his private jet and helicopter valeting business which was suddenly grounded by COVID-19.

Fog, COVID-19, lockdown, Carl Barlow, Barry Sant, Rise&Shine
L-R Carl Barlow and Barry Sant

Headed up by ex-RAF engineer Barry Sant, the pair, forecast Fog will help lift a cloud in the aftermath of the pandemic, also pledging to employ other financial ‘victims’ of lockdown in the process.

Carl, who launched Rise&Shine for the aviation sector 20 years ago, said: “Due to the virus, aviation has been very badly hit so my business needed to look to other fields to generate more income. As we were already providing a fogging sanitisation service to aircraft – and as we were starting to receive requests to fog jet centres and non-aviation vehicles, we realised there is a need for this outside the aviation industry as well.”

He added: “We are truly focused on employing within the local area, to people who lost their jobs due to the virus.

“And everything from vehicle graphics to clothing merchandise to print has been locally sourced to assist as many businesses as possible.”

The Fog machines are designed to thoroughly sanitise all surfaces in any space, by dispensing non-toxic and eco-friendly disinfectant in a super fine mist of protective particles.

And customers are warned not to be alarmed by the appearance of the ‘foggers.’

“We turn up looking like Ghostbusters! We only wear the full personal protective equipment because we’re working with it all the time and are following the product manufacturers’ recommendations. The product is completely safe due its non-toxic and eco-friendly properties,” said Barry Sant, who was recently reunited with his childhood friend after seeing an appeal on social media.”

The ex-RAF and civil aviation engineer is able to call upon his 24 years working in the aircraft maintenance when heading up the new operation.

Barry Sant, Carl Barlow, Fog, COVID-19, lockdown

Depending on which cleaning agent is used, it can provide protection against pathogens and viruses for up to eight, 10 or 30 days after each procedure.

He said: “A motor creates a high- pressure air output to produce a very fine fog to enable the efficient application of various disinfectant solutions to a variety of hard and soft surfaces that are active within five minutes.

“It can be used anywhere that you have customers, staff or the general public – pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, public transport, vehicles, gyms, shops etc. and is already used in hospitals and other healthcare settings as one of the products is certified as a class 2A medical device. All products are food safe and one is even Halal certified, in accordance with Islamic law.”

He added: “People have their own care and maintenance and cleaning regimes to complement the initial disinfection, such as further sanitisation of the common touch points like door handles and light switches.

“There’s no reason why people can’t do the fogging themselves, with the correct equipment and PPE and disinfectant, but most people want to leave it to someone who has got knowledge and experience in carrying out the procedure and not have to worry about the initial outlay of buying all the expensive equipment.

“Also, every time there’s a procedure carried out they receive the official certification which businesses need to produce.”

Barry Sant, Carl Barlow, Fog, COVID-19, lockdown

As demand in Fog’s services grows, the entrepreneurs predict a new shift towards the long term importance of surface hygiene post COVID.

Barry said: “I’d like to see the business grow and eventually become national because the issue with the COVID virus isn’t going away in the short or medium term. We’re all in for a long ride with this.

“The elephant in the room is obviously COVID-19 but when you go to shops on the bus, for instance, you’re also being exposed to many other micro-organisms/viruses etc. – they’re just not in the news all the time. You’ve got the potential to pick them up at any point at any time from anywhere so a regime that can initially have been put in place due to the coronavirus, could have a longevity because of the nature of what it actually does.

He added: “This is all very much a steep learning curve and educational process, not only for the businesses carrying out this nature of the work, but also for business owners and members of the public. We can help them find a way through.”

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My post-lockdown first night dining experience

My post-lockdown first night dining experience

FIFTEEN weeks after being plunged into lockdown, one of the biggest freedoms we’ve been denied was this weekend re-gifted to us – and I wasted no time in taking advantage.

Whilst good food and drink have not been in short supply over recent months (my waistline will sadly vouch for that!), it’s the social setting and convivial atmosphere of the pub and restaurant experience that I’ve missed most.

The Globe, Tasca Dali, COVID-19, lockdown, restaurants, pubs, dining

So, upon receiving an email invitation to book a table at one of my favourite local hostelries, there was no hesitation.

It was only on the lead up to our visit on Saturday night however, I started to question my (usually very sound) judgement. Social media – and headlines – were piling on the pressure to ‘stay at home.’ We were constantly reminded of ‘second spikes’ and ‘local lockdowns’ were very much in the news.

Was I being irresponsible in taking the family to step out into this brave – and as yet untested – new world? Should I, like most in my social circles, steer clear for a while longer to observe how things ‘pan out?’

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to cancel on more than one occasion last week. The overthinking mum and the logical fact-driven journalist were at odds.

But the favourably low local COVID statistics added much-needed perspective.

And as a PR professional who works with many small local businesses, I also felt compelled to lend them my support.

I had witnessed first-hand their struggles for survival throughout lockdown and had long told myself that the moment I could do my bit to help get their tills ringing again, I would.

And after all, I reasoned, my family were due some celebrations in lieu of three birthdays, a significant wedding anniversary, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and other assorted milestones. So, suitably reconciled, off we headed to The Globe in Warwick.

The restaurant, in Theatre Street, was very much in the spotlight for its ‘first night’ audience.

On researching their COVID-Security measures, I was satisfied this chic gastropub, part of the Oakman Inns stable, had customers’ safety at heart. These included restricted numbers, discrete screens between some tables, disposable menus, cutlery brought to the table, signs to keep traffic flowing one way, an abundance of hand sanitiser and the option of at-table ordering via an app.

Would this infringe on the restaurant dining experience I’d so sorely missed? Would first impressions of the ‘new normal’ have us rushing back for a repeat performance or re-joining the more cautious supporters of stay at home? After all, a meal for four at your average south Warwickshire gastropub comes at a not-insignificant price. Would it still be a price we were willing to pay?

The Globe, Tasca Dali, COVID-19, lockdown, restaurants, pubs, dining
Discrete screens have been added to booth seating

I am delighted – and relieved – to report that, for us at least, the answer is yes. The overall dining experience was not that dissimilar to that of pre-lockdown. Considering this was reopening night, the team at The Globe handled their new regime with reassuring confidence and calm. Their genuine delight at being back on the front line of hospitality was clear to see. The servers we spoke to have missed the buzz of their restaurants as much as we have.

I was surprised to find a lack of face masks however. Whilst only optional for serving staff, it struck me that this may have offered an increased level of reassurance among more nervous diners, especially when they leaned over to collect plates and glasses from the table.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our long-anticipated family meal out and am pleased I didn’t talk myself into succumbing to that last-minute cancellation. In fact, buoyed on by this, we are heading out again next weekend, this time to Tasca Dali in High Street.

I am particularly pleased to support Tasca which has been much missed in the town. But it was a close call for this award-winning – but famously compact – Spanish restaurant which narrowly avoided hanging up the closed sign for good thanks to a recent change in the 2m distancing rule.

The restaurant can now accommodate double the number of diners than planned – although full capacity will still see a third fewer customers catered for on their busiest nights. There are still struggles ahead.

Whichever pub, restaurant or café you’re most looking forward to again frequenting, for that peace of mind it’s worth first checking up on their safety measures.

The Globe, Tasca Dali, COVID-19, lockdown, restaurants, pubs, dining
Signs and sanitiser are going to become familiar sights.

Make sure they are accredited as COVID-Secure and plan ahead such as downloading their apps. And don’t be shy to contact them with questions in advance of your booking. Businesses will be sympathetic to your nervousness to return through their doors and will work with you to offer as much reassurance as possible.

Many also offer outdoor dining which – on the finer days – can be a great compromise for those not ready to yet take the leap across their thresholds.

We are so lucky in south Warwickshire, to be surrounded by a fine choice of eateries and drinking holes and I, for one, am looking forward to reacquainting myself with most of them over the coming weeks and months.

Whilst I am clearly no scientist – and there is no such thing as zero risk – I am reassured that, if you choose wisely and follow the measures and advice in place, it is possible to once again enjoy our favourite restaurants and pubs safely, whilst also doing our bit to reignite the local economy.

Now I’ll definitely drink to that!

The Globe:

Tasca Dali:

Sweet sixteen enjoys first taste of business success

Sweet sixteen enjoys first taste of business success

A LEAMINGTON teenager whose school days were cut short by the pandemic, has turned entrepreneur in a bid to beat lockdown.

Like many others, sixteen-year-old Isobel Massey is waiting on the results of GCSEs she wasn’t able to take after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.

The student, who is planning to return to North Leamington School to study A-levels in September, has been far from idle, setting up her own business – and is already enjoying the sweet taste of success.

Isobel Massey, Sweetiz

Isobel established and runs all aspects of her Sweetiz – a door to door confectionery delivery service – including social media, branding and marketing plus – with some help from her dad on the deliveries side!

She said: “When I found out that I wouldn’t be doing my exams, at first I was so disappointed as I had revised heavily and improved so much from where I was at the start of the year, but this has given me a new focus.

“I suddenly found myself with so much time on my hands and was spending far too much money on sweets and junk food and decided to start a service selling sweets at a reasonable price straight to your door.”

On June 17th Sweetiz was born. It currently offers two products – a 750g box for £7.50 and a smaller 250g cone for £3, each containing a fun variety of sweetie treats.

“Currently in the box you get a variety of sweets but as I have only just started there isn’t currently a choice, but I have had quite a few enquiries asking about different options which in the future I will be looking into, and possibly making multiple choices of boxes or giving customers the option of what goes in their box,” she added.

“I have so far sold more than 25 boxes and cones as it is only early days but I am looking forward to in the future receiving more orders.”

And her ambitions to grow this fledgling enterprise extend beyond the boundaries of friends and neighbours.

“Ultimately I want to have a wide choice of products available for people to buy and for my very small business to become successful, enabling me to possibly deliver all over the UK,” she said.

It’s good groundwork for the next stage of her academic career as she prepares to study A-levels in Business and Media as well as Psychology.

Mum Karen said: “I couldn’t be any more proud of Isobel. As with all teenagers that were going to be doing their GCSEs this year, she was left feeling despondent and has been looking for something that would stand her in good stead to return for her A-levels in September.

“She has always been motivated to push herself forward and, as her parents, we are looking forward to seeing where this will take her.”

Visit: facebook/Instagram @sweetizforyou