De Grey's cafe in surprise return to Ludlow
Iconic tearoom De Grey's is to make an unexpected return six months after the 90-year-old business closed in Ludlow.
De Grey's, which was known across the world and included celebrity fans such as Keira Knightley, Stephen Fry and Robert Plant, is set to reopen under the same name by the end of August, new bosses have said.
The tearoom was thought to have shut its doors for good when owner Robbie Underhill called time on the historic business in January.
But in an unexpected turn, bosses at Tasty Plc, the chain restaurant company that has taken over the building, said they intend to keep not just the name, but also the traditional tearoom and bakery.
The decision was made because of the outpouring of love for De Grey's from former customers, which has convinced the company to keep it as close to the old style as possible – including the restaurant company operating a bakery and deli for the very first time – while still putting its own brand on the building.
Jonathan Plant, joint chef executive of Tasty Plc, said: "We're going to retain the name De Grey's but we're going to use our own brand – it will probably be called Wildwood at De Grey's.
"We're going to continue the tea room theme at the front, with a bakery and deli, pretty much in the same style.
"We're very, very keen to keep it in a similar style. At first we weren't sure, but since we've taken over the site we've had so many letters of interest and sadness that De Grey's had gone that we want to retain as much as possible.
"The big difference will be at the rear where there will be a kitchen doing our high-end pizza, pasta and grill menu.
"But we've spent a lot of time and effort to be sensitive to what it was, and moulding our concept to De Grey's.
"It's the first time we've done a deli, the first time we've done a bakery," he said.
One thing that may not be the same, however, will be the traditional black and white uniforms worn by the waiting staff.
"It's not fully decided yet, but we think we probably won't have that, because we want staff to be able to flit between the tearoom and the restaurant," Mr Plant said. "I'm sure people might complain about that, but we will gauge it."
Work has been going on during the last couple of months at the listed timber-framed building in Broad Street, including creating a garden at the back and sorting out damp and structural issues, he added.
He said builders hoped to complete the work by August 18, with a provisional opening date seven days later.
"We've opened about 25 restaurants, but this has been the one that has provoked the most interest," Mr Plant said, "It was clearly an important part of the town.
"We want to appeal to the old De Grey's customers – and they'll have to let us know if we've succeeded."
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