Wednesday, 30 April 2014

60 SECOND INTERVIEW: Arthur Watson


ARTHUR Watson, along with his wife, Janet Watson, is the owner of the Riverside Restaurant in West Bay. The family has owned the restaurant since 1960 and Arthur and Janet took over in 1964, and they are now celebrating 50 years at the helm. Their grandson, Eli, works alongside them as part of the chef team, while their son Tom has his own restaurant in Switzerland on the shores of Lake Geneva. 

THE Riverside restaurant has been around for more than 50 years. Could you tell us a bit about its history? 
The early history of the Riverside was a simple café that catered for the demands of the locals and visitors, most of whom came by train or bus and camped out. Many coach companies used West Bay as a destination for day trips and the demand was for cream teas and simple meals. It was always a rendezvous for the local fishermen and the domino school lasted well into the night.

SO THE Riverside has played a key role in the local community during that time?
Yes. There has been a refreshment point on the site of the present Riverside since the 1920s. First of all a tent, then some sheds, then bigger sheds incorporating West Bay Post Office and finally, after the disastrous floods of the early seventies, the present building which was constructed in 1976 to a design from the CZWG architectural partnership. Additions have since been made. During the 50 years we have also been able to employ some 400 young people during the holidays to give them a taste of work experience and to earn money of their own. 

THE Riverside is now renowned for its vast selection of seafood and local produce. When did that start?
Everything changed in the 1980s when local people began to go abroad and wanted foods they had tasted on their holidays. Also the advent of second home ownership began. The traditional menu was no longer in demand and we turned to seafoods, as the finest quality was available on the doorstep.

BEING a well known seafood restaurant that sources many of its food locally, do you cater for other tastes? 
Yes, although seafood has remained our main theme ever since, we do provide alternatives for people who do not enjoy fish. Our theme has always been to buy locally wherever possible and more than 90 per cent of our raw materials are from local sources.

THE Riverside Restaurant has won the Taste of the West Gold award for the fourth time this year and featured in the Observer’s Top 10. Do you have any tips for success?   
We are all delighted to be awarded the Taste of the West Gold Star again. This award is based upon an unannounced visit from experienced judges and is hard to get. Customer loyalty has enabled us to keep going for all of our 50 years and our staff have built up great relationships with customers. Chilly, the manager has been with us for some 30 years, Sue our restaurant manager more than 20, Nick the produce buyer and chef nearly as long, and Tony, our highly skilled and inventive Head Chef is nearing 10 years.

THE Riverside also hosts themed nights. Do you have any coming up soon? 
We are holding two special themed menu nights in May. Both dates are for Friday evenings. Our event on May 9th is based upon Spanish Cuisine and on May 16th we will have local lobster dishes as the theme.

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