Community header template

Janet and Andy Batty have thrown themselves into Arundel life. They led the Love Arundel resident consultation in October 2019 and volunteered to join Council Working groups to help drive the changes that residents most wanted including the launch of the Love Arundel Website, relaunching the Farmers Market and Make Ford Road Safe campaign.

More recently they have begun to invest in Arundel, their latest venture being The Steakist restaurant on the High Street with Executive Chef, Michael Lyons. Gill Farquharson visited the site to find out more.

“THE reaction so far has been phenomenal – The Steakist has notched up 450 followers on Facebook in just 5 days! People are also getting their heads round the idea that The Steakist isn’t limited to beef steak it can be pescatarian, vegetarian, flexitarian, or vegan as well!’ Andy Batty declares in his usual enthusiastic energetic style.

Andy and Janet have teamed up with Executive Chef Michael Lyons, who until recently was running his gourmet home delivery food service, Arundelicious. Michael had spent 17 years in high end airline catering in the Middle East, most recently for five years with Etihad Airways in Abu Dhabi, overseeing the first and business class menus. ‘I started my career in the Directors Dining room of the Hongkong Shanghai Bank in London then went to Lloyds Bank – I’ve always worked in the prestigious side of catering.’

The pandemic however caused large scale redundancies in the airline industry and Michael came back to the UK in June 2020. He lives with his partner, Fraser Renton, in Yapton – they bought the house there six years ago. Fraser runs the Sussex Art Fair at Goodwood and is also an independent artist and web developer.

Janet and Andy were Michael’s very first customer at Arundelicious and, as regulars, they got to know each other really well. A year ago, they started to focus on the idea of doing something together. Andy explains: ‘We saw Michael, grounded by Covid, come back here and really make a go of his business and that takes quite a lot of guts. I’ve got a lot of respect for people who do that.

We also liked Arundelicious – it’s quality and attention to detail- and as we got to know him more, we thought maybe we could do something together which led to this partnership. We bring investment and experience, and Michael brings the drive and skills to make the restaurant happen and run it.’ The Osteria/Pappardelle lease had been for sale for some time, but it took till February 12th this year to complete the deal. Since then, a complete refurbishment has taken place and at the time of writing, May 8th, it’s still in progress.

The menu centres around a classic steak frites but with a modern twist to cater for the diversity of diets that are becoming more popular. The Steakist will offer set menus suitable for Pescatarians, Vegetarians, Vegans as well as a signature beef steak. Michael is in charge and will continually develop the menu based around this formula.

“THE reaction so far has been phenomenal – The Steakist has notched up 450 followers on Facebook in just 5 days! People are also getting their heads round the idea that The Steakist isn’t limited to beef steak it can be pescatarian, vegetarian, flexitarian, or vegan as well!’

‘We have been practising together at home but until the kitchen is fully up and running, he can’t refine the dishes’ Andy says. However, the one thing they do have already is a top of the range, impressive looking Robata grill capable of more than 450 degrees centigrade of heat. Michael says this is essential to develop a chargrilled texture and taste whilst sealing in succulence and flavour.

Opening date is targeted for the Jubilee weekend, however it is, of course, dependant on getting staff. “We are still recruiting; we want a mixture of full timers and some part time staff and that is not easy to achieve at the moment.” They have had quite a good response to their social media campaign but finding available chefs is a challenge. That said Andy and Michael will not poach other restaurant’s staff.

Andy explains ‘If we put an ad out and someone applies, then of course we’ll see them, but we won’t approach them direct. We want a good working relationship with the other restaurants. I think there is a great opportunity to position Arundel as a gastro town. We know from the Love Arundel consultation that our night time economy comes from a 10-mile radius – residents like the choice of restaurants and pubs so if we want to keep them, we need to promote and get those people to travel here.’

The hospitality scene in Arundel is busy already but as they see it ‘‘We’re taking an Italian restaurant and a coffee shop out and introducing a new concept in their place. So that will broaden the choice that Arundel has to offer. We want to keep it as simple and as efficient as possible because we don’t want to charge top end prices. Of course, we will also have a delicious choice of desserts, cheese, and wine.’

Despite the simplicity, they have put an enormous amount of effort into getting the cut of steak just right. British Prime beef, aged for a minimum of 28 days, and all the ingredients sourced locally where possible. The sauce recipes are a prized secret. Michael is making the sauces himself and ‘the recipe is only known by me; it is only made by me and if I’m away I will leave the ingredients ready prepared.’ “Our aim is to cater for those looking for a quick lunch or supper in under an hour as well as those who prefer to linger. In the longer term the upstairs area may become a private room or wine bar but for now all their efforts are concentrated on the main restaurant.”

The Love Arundel Consultation in October 2019 (copies can be found on the Love Arundel website) revealed a number of issues and opportunities that residents felt strongly about and wanted to see some improvements in. Andy says “We learnt so much about what residents want – I am delighted that our own Town Council, under Tony Hunts leadership, is using the consultation to inform the strategic objectives for the town.’ They both volunteered to work on a number of those projects including the Ford Road Cycle Path: the development of the Love Arundel website and relaunch of the Arundel Update email, now received by 700 residents and the improved Farmers Market.

The importance of Arundel’s iconic buildings to residents also came through in the consultation. Andy and Janet decided to invest in the old Chapel at Nineveh House as part of their own pension planning. ‘At least while we own it, it won’t be turned into residential property!’ Plans now are focused on improving the mix of shops and expanding the mezzanine gallery. Marketing has improved too. Andy explains ‘The Nineveh traders have joined the Visit Arundel website and we’ve printed leaflets and business cards, and other advertising. There is also a card machine so that credit cards can be easily used. I would like to see more events in the parking area to bring it into the community a bit more.’

Not all their plans have gone smoothly and for the time being the proposed development of the garage the couple own in Tarrant Street is on hold but ‘that garage is a really ugly building in a beautiful street. So, we do plan to develop it at some point – but we will discuss it with neighbours when the time comes’ Andy promises.

Andy was born in Yeovil in Somerset – his father was a teacher with the British forces and when Andy was 18 months they moved to Germany. At 12 he returned to the UK when his father became Headmaster of the Edward Bryant Primary school in Bognor Regis, where the family settled. Andy didn’t shine academically and at 18 he became a salesman for what was then Rank Hovis McDougall in London. He continued to spend a lot of his spare time in Arundel as his then girlfriend (and later first wife) worked at the West Sussex Gazette on the High Street.

It turned out he was good at sales and, three years in, he was promoted to Head Office operating as a runner between the Marketing and Sales Departments. All the marketing department’s young employees were Oxbridge graduates and Andy seemed to have no chance of joining their ranks. However, having read in the Sunday Times that the average IQ of a university graduate was 120, he decided to sit the exams for MENSA and passed with an IQ score of 148! With this ammunition, he finally persuaded the Marketing Director, David Baines to give him a job as a Brand Manager, for which Andy is eternally grateful.

At 25 he was headhunted to join Tesco – a Commercial Director at 35, he had a stellar career which he enjoyed immensely for 20 years. On leaving, he spent 7 years as a global retail consultant before he and Janet decided to return south to Arundel. 

I’ve always felt this place is my home. I love the people – I’ve never met a more fascinating group of people than here, with amazing back stories of interest and achievement – it’s crazy! We’re here because we want to be here, we like it and, if you see the rest of your life being here, why wouldn’t you invest and be a part of it?

Of the restaurant he says: ‘Janet and I have no expectations of making a financial return – we’re doing this because we want to support Michael and because it’s the sort of place we think Arundel will enjoy. And at the same time enrich our lives here a bit as well. If it’s a financial success, that will be a bonus.’

“I have recently resigned from the Farmers market working group but am delighted with the progress we have made together in the last 2 years. The town now owns its own gazebos and has one of the best Farmers Markets along the south coast. I remain committed to the Make Ford Road Safe campaign.

It is moving along slowly but surely,’ he says. ‘Arun District Councillors unanimously backed the petition signed by 1,500 residents in support and have allocated a £1.1m budget for it. So, it’s in a good place. We have monthly meetings with West Sussex and Arun Councils and National Highways and continue to get brilliant support from our MP Andrew Griffith.”

‘If I have a worry,’ he continues ‘it’s that National Highways may not want to support the project as much as we had all previously expected. It was always assumed that when the new by-pass was built that National Highways would do the path as part of the project, which they never disabused us of. But now we’re getting closer to it happening they seem, in my view, to be a bit reticent. There may still be a challenge to convince them to do the right thing. West Sussex Council are on board and supportive but don’t have the budget yet.

All three Councils are very well aligned behind it but to get government funding, we require the route to be part of a local cycling and walking infrastructure plan, known as an LCWIP. But there are no LCWIP’s in the whole of Arun. Instead, Arun did an Active Travel Review which showed the Ford Road was a major demand of residents in the area. I’m still positive about it but it’s a long and time-consuming process. We must continue to show that residents want this scheme to go ahead and stay on our toes and make sure all the parties deliver.’