Our series of photographic portraits by Neill Menneer shows Bath people at work
I’m lucky enough to be now running one of the cutest pubs in Britain, on the hill at Lansdown, Bath, but my journey here was not straightforward. Quite a meander in fact. I was born in Lincolnshire (my father worked in the RAF) but grew up in East Yorkshire near Beverley.
I went to secondary school in Leek, Staffordshire. I didn’t like it at all and left after three years, when I was 16. I wasn’t a local lad so the other pupils didn’t know what to make of me. When I left school I enrolled in the Youth Opportunity Scheme and did what would now be called an apprenticeship with an engineering business.
After various day release courses in Newcastle studying construction and estate management I got a job in Wales for the Ministry of Defence in the estate department. The world of construction, surveying or property appeared to be my life direction, especially after I added to my NOC and HNCs with a degree in estate management at Bristol University. I developed my career from there working for the DSS in Birmingham and then slid into private practice and consultancy.
I worked as a surveyor for a number of corporate clients including Tesco, Pizzaland and KFC. So far, so predictable, but things were about to change. My wife sadly and unexpectedly died and things started to get pretty rocky with my business partners having, shall we say, ‘different priorities’. I was saved by a good friend who supported me through those difficult times offering me a job as property director of a large retail chain. Sometimes we need an angel in our life.
Much as I appreciated his help, that business went bust in 2011 so I was forced to re-evaluate my life and its direction especially as I was now a single parent with two boys (Max and Marcus) to consider. I know it sounds like the Lumberjack song from Monty Python but I had always had a desire to live in New Zealand and be a chef. I couldn’t get a work Visa but I could go there as a student. So my cunning plan was to enrol in the Cordon Bleu school in Wellington, which ticked both boxes.
I completed the Cordon Bleu course but a heart attack on my 50th birthday delayed the graduation. I then worked for two top restaurants, Hippopotamus and Logan Brown, where the management structure was flat, flexible and friendly. The third restaurant in Wellington, Lorettas was fun but by then I had a big urge to work for myself and return to the UK. This brought me eventually to The Richmond Arms.
Lorettas in New Zealand inspired me to focus on the social side of sharing food so here in Richmond Place we offer many small dishes, tapas style, and sharing plates. We have a short menu with classic English or European dishes. Venison casserole (with chocolate) is one of my signature dishes but we also serve pastas, currys and other heart-warming recipes like schweinshaxe (roast ham hock). Ben Franks has said we have the best wine list in Bath with a large range at very good prices. I wouldn’t argue with him.
We’re steadily building the business with music and quiz nights and although we’re definitely off the beaten track it’s worth the small effort when you’ve found us.