Maryann's food memories: What next?
To mark the end of the Four Seasons era we decided to take a dream trip to another country on our wish list, South Africa, we took three weeks off to travel from Pretoria via Johannesburg and Durban down to Cape Town and the wine regions of Stellenbosch
We planned this trip meticulously with the help of some South African friends and saw a lot of amazing countryside and the incredible diverseness of the county. Highlights naturally included Kruger park where the sight of just coming across elephants, zebras, giraffes and the odd leopard was unforgettable. A few days later, on a long drive down to Drakensburg we picked up a young couple on their way home from work during one long drive, saving them their usual 4 hour walk home to their village - they turned out to be a brother and sister chef and waitress so there was a sense of solidarity there. The trip really brought home to us the fragility of the different communities, from seeing the wealth of those staying in a “resort “ in Drakensberg which was luxurious but slightly uncomfortable - very white and middle class to the long drive down to Durban through the rural beauty with families washing their children and clothes in the streams. Later we flew to Cape Town and a renewed sense of people embracing the new South Africa with real optimism. We we’re lucky enough to have a house on the seafront for a few days, just outside Simons Town and the Boulders Beach penguin colony, whale watching and travelling inland to lunch at Le Quartier Francais in Franschhoek.
The question when we got home was what next?
I have come to realise that the hospitality business is addictive, once I had time to think what to do next what came along but another restaurant.
Some city friends came down to Wales to stay, Mark had worked with Simon at the AA and were best mates. I first met his wife Sue at their wedding and we all became good friends after a few weekends spent together socially, they were living in London Sue working as a private chef but wanting a change of scene to open their own business and escape London. We looked at a couple of properties with them before stumbling over Y Polyn, it belonged to a friend of ours and we had gone to look at her house to possibly open as a small hotel and dining room when she mentioned she was looking to sell Y Polyn, they fell for it straight away especially as it had a spacious flat they could live in upstairs and we agreed to buy it between the four of us.
Sue had a classic kitchen background so combined with my self taught kitchen skills and Simon and Marks vast eating out experience we made a formidable team, all having our own views and ideas but luckily having shared tastes. We did a quick makeover painting the walls aubergine and the woodwork dove grey, changing the flooring to rattan with help from family and friends moving a lot of furniture we had inherited from the Four Seasons (which is still there to this day) and after a soft opening week the place never looked back.
I did work part time for a while determined to spend a few more evenings at home but as my family grew up Sue and Mark started their own family with the arrival of Tilly and I went back to full time hours.