It may seem an unconventional journey – from being a GP, to owning a medical software company, and then taking the helm of a restaurant.
But Andrew Cohen and his wife Yvonne have a taste for entrepreneurial adventure – and excellent food.
Having sold WARP Technologies they sought the ideal next project, and finally settled on the café and restaurant Amelie and Friends in North Street, Chichester, in May 2012.
Their goal is very clear. To be the best local independent in town – and without wishing to dismiss or diminish the competition, they seem bang on target.
The head chef is Joel Massey – a former sous chef at Michelin-starred West Stoke House. He knows that quality, preparation and presentation are everything – whether it’s serving up fishcakes with poached eggs, or confit duck with rhubarb, bok choi, and roasted new potatoes.In many ways it’s an eclectic, even artistically varied, menu – ranging from the everyday to the mini masterpiece. But Amelie has been wise not to confine itself to a niche or a quiche.
In the bustling shopping haven that is North Street, five minutes from the Festival Theatre, it understands that you must be as accomplished at serving shoppers with a good passing light lunch as preparing a banquet for a family occasion; that you need to deliver with as much efficiency and panache a pre-theatre dinner as a relaxing luncheon for ladies about town.
The Georgian home for this enterprise is inspired. With its sharp, white walls – displaying some striking works of art, not least by architect Neil Holland – and boarded floors, it sweeps through to conservatory and then bijoux courtyard garden.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, for a former GP there is a sense of the spotless cleanliness everywhere and Yvonne confided that it was the pristine kitchen which finally determined that this was the right venture for them.
Good restaurants, of course, possess that sense of theatre. Yvonne is a self-confessed and academically trained mistress of the craft. The welcome is warm, comforting and effortlessly engaging – but as she talks through the wine list there is a sparkle of the theatre there too.
The service from the whole team is excellent; and wholly professionally experienced.
When we visited as a family to coincide with our daughter’s 18th birthday, Josh, Mark and Cat looked after us. And did so incredibly well.
The prices are remarkably good. Starters range from £5-£8; Mains are from £7-£8 peaking at £19.50 for rib eye steak; while Desserts run from £3.50 to a maximum £7 for the fine cheeses.
An excellent bottle of the 2011 Rioja Tinto is £21, but prices start at a comfortable £16.50.
For the quality and location, one hesitates to brand the menu as cheap but the owners understand the critical price points for a local regular audience, especially out of season.
But put to one side, price, service, and setting. Amelie is all about good food. Indeed, food that is so good the pan-fried bream with aubergine caviar, crushed new potatoes, courgette frit and a caper dressing (£14.50); or the Molleux au Chocolat (£6.50); are at Michelin star standard.
The chips that we ordered to accompany the homemade lamb burger were as soft as snow within a light crisp casing.
Only the Eton Mess disappointed slightly. One strawberry spread a little too far – but there had been a rush on the strawberries in the kitchen that night - although the home-made meringue, with brown sugar, compensated.
But this is a great retreat and treat. Become a friend of Amelie today.