Meet the man behind Hailsham's foodie hotspots

Melvyn Funnell-Strange has worked in the catering industry for more than 28 years from Michelin starred restaurants to Hilton hotels.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 11:05 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 11:06 am
Melvyn (right)
Picture: Jon Rigby
Melvyn (right) Picture: Jon Rigby

And he has now transferred those skills to successfully running three businesses in Hailsham.

“I had been working in Tunbridge Wells for about three years, commuting from Eastbourne when we had a child,” he explains.

“I just felt that life was too short one minute my daughter was two months then she was two years old, so I decided to look for opportunities in Eastbourne.”

B12 Picture: Jon Rigby

But when a vacant property came up on St Mary’s Walk, Hailsham, Melvyn comments he ‘couldn’t not take it’.

Bucklers was opened in May 2017, by day it is a cafe and by night it is a tapas and gin bar.

“We wanted to offer people something a bit different,” he explains.

“We decided on a shabby, industrial look that no one else was really doing in Hailsham.

Restaurant B12 Picture: Jon Rigby

“But then we found that people were coming in at lunch asking for take way sandwiches and it was taking too long to get them out, so when The Deli came up we looked into getting the lease.

“When we opened we did a similar interior style so that people linked it up with Bucklers, and it is only four doors up.”

The Deli opened its doors in 2018, it started purely as a deli counter with award-winning fresh bread and local produce and now provides takeaway sandwiches, salads, soups and hot drinks.

“I wasn’t looking for anything else but I always thought if the Chapter 12 bar came up in the High Street then I would take it as it did great food and cocktails,” reveals Melvyn.

B12 Picture: Jon Rigby

“But it didn’t look likely so I looked at other possible sites and then I heard that it was becoming available so I jumped at the chance.”

B12 Bar and Restaurant opened in September 2019.

Melvyn’s previous roles were front of house, where he got a great understanding of how to run a successful business.

When it comes to the food it is important that it is local and seasonal, but at the forefront of what they do is customer service.

“If people want something we try our hardest to get it,” explains Melvyn.

“We had a man come in with his 93 year old mother and she wanted coffee with cream and we didn’t have cream but even though we were busy our staff member ran to the shop to get it for her.

“We want people to have a great experience.”

The menus are devised by the head chefs and then Melvyn goes it through it with to look at costings.

“The chefs will make the dish up and me and the team sample it and we host evenings with the public to see what they think,” he says.

“Each place has its own manager so I see myself as operations manager for the three businesses.”

In relation to expanding his empire further Melvyn says ‘never say never’.

“My wife has said no but you never know it depends on what opportunities come up,” he smiles

“As we have just opened B12 bar and kitchen I want to look at highlighting what we can do there. It is a 50 cover restaurant but we have a function room that can have 70 people seated. I want to showcase that.

“I want to focus on what we have and making them all great.”

To book visit:

www.b12winebar.co.uk or call 01323 351898.

For Bucklers, visit www.bucklerscafe.co.uk or call 01323 449100