Eastbourne’s Wish Tower restaurant finally opens tomorrow (Friday).
The Herald took a sneak peek inside, tried some of the dishes, and interviewed the bosses behind the new seafront eatery.
Co founder Rob Beacham said it’s been a long process, having taken four years since Bistrot Pierre first eyed up the site until now.
He said, “Opening big restaurants like this is like a birth. It’s quite evocative and gives your business a sense of purpose.
“Our business is based on big, iconic buildings and the aim is to create the nicest restaurant wherever they are.
“Booking levels are unprecedented. There’s no other restaurant like this around here.”
He said they had an opportunity to open up a branch in the town centre, but decided against it, “If you are near the sea you want to see the sea.”
And you do indeed see the sea at Bistrot Pierre. It near enough slaps you in the face from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows.
Rob said, “We try and find the best manager in town and try and give them free rein to run their part of the business.
“You have the grandest Grand in the country. It’s almost as beautiful a view as looking towards Beachy Head.”
Bistrot Pierre CEO Nick White used to be the boss of Bella Italia. He said, “Every time I have been here people have asked ‘will I get a cup of tea and a cake?’ Yes, you definitely will.”
The new restaurant also comes with a cafe/bar area which has its own, more laid back menu including open sandwiches and cakes. Dogs are welcome in this section, too.
We are told there are plans to open up a hatch to serve teas and coffee and perhaps even baguettes for people walking by.
Nick said, “It’s the first time we have done a cafe bit and restaurant because it was crying out for that. We will very much try and cater for what the local area needs.
“Great sites like this take a long time. It’s really important we go at the right pace, we are here for a long time, not two months, so we are conscious that first impressions are hard won and easily lost.”
Rick Stein initially planned to move in at the Wish Tower site, but pulled out – blaming Brexit.
Does the Brexit uncertainty bother Bistrot Pierre? “There has been so many twists and turns,” said Nick, “But we have been getting on with what we do.”
But he said, “It has become increasingly hard to find staff since the EU referendum. We have found there’s been a reduction in skilled staff, it’s tough for a lot of places.”
Moving on, he explained the appeal of Eastbourne. “It always feels like there’s quite a bit going on. We have got a good relationship with the council, they are quite progressive, wanting to make things happen in Eastbourne.
“In my view that’s what councils should be doing. Some seaside towns are struggling but Eastbourne does feel like a thriving place.”
They said they would like to personally thank Paul Quanstrum, David Tutt of Eastbourne council, and Annie Weeks, head of tourism, for helping the restaurant get to this stage.
Nick said, “There’s not many people opening restaurants at the moment. I’m very proud to say we are and it’s great to be here.”
Bistrot Pierre serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and there are also plans to host afternoon tea. There is also a specially-designed fish menu with locally-caught fish supplied from Newhaven and Brighton.
It has employed 70 members of staff, mostly local, and Ben West is the head chef.