Clarissa at the Cholmondeley Arms
THE regulars at the Cholmondeley Arms near Malpas are not the sort to bat an eyelid when a TV chef appears from the kitchen.
The food broadcaster and writer has been using the converted village school, an award-winning pub since 1988, as a staging post on journeys south from her home near Edinburgh for the last 23 years.
‘I find it the most delightful place, and on top of that it serves very good food,’ she says.
‘I stay there very often. I live in Scotland, and if I am going down the West side of the country it’s the perfect place to stop because it’s about halfway down. For instance, I was in London this week so I went by train from Crewe, and left my car at the Cholmondeley.
‘The regulars there are a wonderful mixture of people, farmers, people in the hunting community, there’s a Mancunian tycoon, a wonderful man who brings his vintage car club every year for lunch, there’s the cheese-makers, there’s always something going on.
‘If you go at lunchtime you will always find Johnny O’Shea, who hunted with the Cheshires for 25 years, you get a lot of gardeners because of Cholmondeley Castle gardens, and I’m quite a keen gardener, there’s a huge cross-section.
You get people coming in from Manchester, even to spend the night. It’s a very friendly pub and everybody talks to everybody, so you won’t be left on your own staring at your thumbnails. There are High Court judges and QCs, all sorts of people, one is never strapped for conversation.’
It was Clarissa’s third career, as an unlikely TV presenter, that made her famous. She had already been a barrister and a chef before teaming up with Jennifer Paterson in 1996 as the Two Fat Ladies, puttering about the country on a motorbike and sidecar, in search of fine British food.
They were halfway through filming the fourth series when Jennifer died suddenly, in 1998. Clarissa later appeared with another TV partner in the series Clarissa and the Countryman: sheep farmer Sir Johnny Scott, she has known since she was ten and it was he who told her about the Cholmondeley Arms.