Portelet Bay Cafe, how it all began…..
So its January 2nd and we worked our last day of the season yesterday in the cafe…. it was a busy one and a great end to a crazy 6 months.
Lots of people ask us if we have always been pizza chefs and how we ended up running Portelet Bay Cafe so here is a little background to how we got here! ….
My husband and I are both from Jersey but spent many years working and living in the UK. First London and then Somerset where we bought an old run down farm and chipped away at it. Piers’ background is in architectural ironwork and forge work and we set up a business from our farm in Somerset operating from one of the old barns on site. The projects we took on were very diverse, ranging from interiors for private clients, gates and railings and later on kitting out commercial kitchens and bars in London.
After years of discussion we decided to move back to Jersey with our 3 children to live by the sea and closer to our families. The summer we were moving we were approached by a friend of ours who runs an area of Glastonbury Festival asking us whether we would design and build a restaurant and he suggested we should bring our pizza oven from home. ( We had an oven in our garden and used to muck about with the children making very rustic pizza!)
The thought of taking on such a big project just before relocating to Jersey plus running a restaurant seemed madness but we have always been excited by new ventures and so decided to go for it. We erected a steel frame building, clad it in willow and wood to make it look weathered, towed in 4 pizza ovens and ended up making and serving 6000 pizzas over the 5 day festival. Up until this point we had never sold a pizza in our lives! We learnt very fast! I can honestly say I had never worked so hard in my life, but the experience left us both with a great sense of achievement.
We ran the restaurant at Glastonbury for 3 consecutive years and it grew to include 2 bars and a team of 35 staff to support our venture. Each year the building had to be built and then taken down to allow the land to return to farmland. It was quite a venture and led us into the world of wood fired pizza along side our steelwork business.
The first summer we returned to Jersey Piers built a moveable pizza wagon and we travelled around the Island working at various events and private parties. The pizza was very well received and led us into discussion about where we could take it next. It was the end of summer 2014 when we were on a boat in Portelet Bay looking at a dilapidated building. We had been told about the cafe by a family friend but were presently involved in pitching for another site that didn’t work out.
The cafe was virtually a ruin. There was no electricity, no water, barely a roof, and the cafe was still full of all the old furniture from when it had last operated 15 years before. This is where Piers’ skill and amazing vision came in and he was confident that the main building was sound and that we could take it on. Before we knew it we had bought the cafe and had entered into yet another project!
Every roof tile, every piece of wood, every piece of building material was carried down the steps by hand to the cafe. It has been quite a labour of love! We now have a fantastic motorised wheelbarrow which helps us get stock up and down, and is a good friend!
There have been many times when we wondered if we were mad and whether the cafe would work, the steps being the most obvious as we didn’t know if people would bother to come down. However, we believe that it is the steps which make the cafe so special. The adventure, the walk, the stunning location. Without those steps the bay might be a very different place. We therefore have grown to love those steps! Plus just think of the benefit walking back up after your pizza!
We now have a couple of months to reflect. We are looking forward to having some weekend time at home with our 3 children Sandy, Ada and Eliza who have been amazing over the past 6 months and so very patient whilst we have had so much to learn.