'I don't usually plug business - but this week I will...'

Sam Lomas chef East Devon

Chef Sam Lomas - Credit: BBC

I hope readers will know that I am not usually in the business of plugging the businesses of people I know; I leave that to the Conservatives.

However, last weekend provided me with every reason to do so, because my dinner was served to me at Glebe House in Southleigh (between Colyton and Honiton) by Sam Lomas, finalist this week in the BBC’s Great British Menu.

Together with fellow top-chef (and proprietor) Hugo Guest, he had prepared a fantastic dinner for many lucky diners including our family of six celebrating being all together for the first time since Christmas 2019.

My wife is friends with Hugo’s mum (interest duly declared) and we have watched in amazed admiration as what was a homely B&B has been transformed in the last two years into a nationally-ranked small hotel and first-rate restaurant by the next generation in Hugo and his wife Olive.

Before this turns into a restaurant review, I’m going to plug another local business, this time to which I have no connection. Before the meal, and very unusually for me as a pathetically weak drinker who usually has a diet cola, I had a bottle of something called a New England IPA. Apparently bearded micro brewers in trendy East London make this kind of thing, and my children were duly impressed.

Rightly so. When the label talked of fruity, grapefruit notes I must admit that this old geezer was inwardly chuckling, but crikey, that was spot on. Best brew I’d ever had. Reading further into the label I realised that the brewery, Gilt and Flint, was a relatively new operation in Musbury, two miles east of us and a couple of miles south of Axminster.

It was a wonderful evening, part of a weekend of joy in the sunshine, spoiled only by my having to covertly slip off every half hour to deal with a crisis in Exmouth which I will write about in next week’s column after it has been resolved.

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My kids didn’t seem to mind me dealing with council stuff in the midst of a reunion because, frankly, they’ve had to put up with it for the last 15 years, one way or the other. It’s why we under-resourced councillors at all levels could do without ill-informed attacks on the accursed social media, but hey-ho.

However, we counted our blessings. I imagine many of you will have had these reunion weekends when you eventually say your goodbyes and the two years of separation has simply vanished, like you’d all seen each other last week. Not sure why – maybe the decades of dedication to each other is simply always there underpinning the whole concept of family? With all the suffering of families in Ukraine on our minds, the poignancy of our good fortune felt profound.

All of which leads to another plug. Please do go to a website our administration at the council is very proud of: EastDevonly.co.uk.

When we took over the running of the council in May 2020, I was convinced that East Devon as a district council was far too passive in promoting the amazing tourism offer. There were of course great local efforts run by town councils such as Sidmouth, much appreciated by us, and by some hard-working website based organisations, but the identity of East Devon as a whole seemed to need a much more nationally appealing and even better defined identity.

This is important, as much of our economy is based on tourism and hospitality. It’s great of course to have day-trippers from within the area coming on down, but we have a national offer we can and must be proud of, ranging from places like Glebe House to some of the best ice cream parlours in the UK.

Huge best wishes to all of these enterprises – your district council will do all we can to promote you.