Sandy Jarvis: “We are looking forward to opening a restaurant and seeing how good we can really make it”

By Stefan Chomka

- Last updated on GMT

Sandy Jarvis and Clément Cousin on their new Leeds French bistro Bavette

Related tags Bavette Clément Cousin Leeds Sandy Jarvis Restaurant Fine dining French cuisine Bistro

Sandy Jarvis, former head chef and managing director at The Culpeper Family Hospitality Group and his husband Clément Cousin will open neighbourhood bistro Bavette in Horsforth, Leeds, next month.

Why did you choose Horsforth for your debut restaurant?

Sandy Jarvis:​ We’ve always wanted to open something together and knew it would be a bistro of some kind serving the food we really love and which I love to cook, but we never really set on where it would be. I’m from Leeds so and we decided that Leeds or the surrounding areas would be good for that - we wanted to do it outside of London to get a better/work life balance. It’s important to us that Bavette is a place we are working in whenever it’s open. 

What is the area like?

SJ:​ It’s a suburb of Leeds that’s around a 20-minute drive from the city centre. However, until the mid-1970s it was a town in its own right so it still maintains that small town community feel, which is lovely. We wanted to create a neighbourhood bistro and feel part of a community. Horsforth has both that close to the city centre feel but also a small town feel. 

What was the site previously?

SJ:​ It’s been a few guises. Our landlady ran it for about 20 years as a pub restaurant up until about 10 or 12 years ago and it was really popular - up to the point where it seems everybody we speak to has worked there at some point. Even the guy who got in contact with us with an insurance quote used to be the kitchen porter there. After that it was a PizzaExpress for about 10 years until lockdown and then in the past few years it has been a German and Belgium bar and restaurant.

Describe the style of Bavette

SJ:​ It’s a one-floor operation that will have around 35 to 40 covers. There’s space for a bit more but one of the nicest things about being outside of London is that you’re not having to cram as many tables in as you can. It will be a nicely spaced dining room with an open kitchen at the very back and it will have a Parisian bistro style, so friendly and warm but also quite traditional. There will be leather banquettes, wooden tables and chairs, and some nice artwork on the walls.

Will it only serve French food?

SJ:​ It’s very much a French bistro style but it won’t be exclusive French - we don’t want to handcuff ourselves so there will be some Spanish and Italian dishes. It will be heavily influenced by the styles of Racine and Terroirs (where Jarvis has worked) - we’re not doing anything shocking or different. The menu will be a la carte and will change continuously. I like to change the menu often enough so that it stays interesting but not too often that dishes are coming on when they are not ready – they stay for about six weeks. The menu will have a few bar snacky charcuterie bits then four starters, four or five mains, and four puddings. It’s small so we can concentrate on getting everything absolutely right.

What about the wine offer?

Clement Cousins:​ My dad has a vineyard in Anjou which is the west part of The Loire, so we will be getting some wines from there. It’s a very traditional winery, it is all organic, biodynamic and very low intervention and has been supplying the UK for about 15 years. That was my way into London. My dad said I should go and work at a place that sells his wine for the summer; that happened to be Terroirs, where I met Sandy, and I’ve now been in London 11 years.

How big will the list be?

CC:​ It will have around 20 white, 20 red, and a few rose and skin contact wines. It’s European and will be more than 50% French but also have quite a few Italian wines as a good friend of mine imports Italian wine. Our winery has six different wines, mostly red. In September last year me and Sandy went back to do the harvest and work on the new cuvee that will be our Bavette cuvee house wine, which will be available from April.

You’ve worked together before, but what will it be like owning your own place together?

SJ:​ I’m really excited. We have similar views on food, wine and hospitality - the core of everything is so aligned. Working in hospitality we don’t see each other as much as we’d like so spending a lot of time together will be really nice. The thing we are both really excited about is that I was running a group of four pub restaurant hotels, and Clement was running a bistro, pub and hotel all in one, so it will be nice to focus on just one thing and rather than spin a load of plates. We are looking forward to opening a restaurant and seeing how good we can really make it if it is our only focus.

It's tough out there. Tell us about the timing of your project

SJ:​ Timing wise it’s less about being the perfect environment in which to open a restaurant but rather that we both felt it was the right time for both of us to do it by nature of where our job cycles were. Yes, it is a tough, but I do think that people still like to go out. We have to offer them a great time but also make them feel they are getting bang for their buck; whether they go out once a year, once a month or once a week they need to feel that pot of going out money has gone to the right place. Our business plan means we don’t need to be doing 80 covers, 14 services a week from month three - we do have space and time to grow slowly and build up a base. We are not under a huge amount of pressure financially to hit the ground running and go crazy.

How different are the Leeds and London dining scenes?

SJ:​ That’s our biggest unknown as London is the only restaurant scene we know. One of the things we really wanted to do was move up in the summer and spend time working somewhere in Leeds to get to know the customers and the people from the industry and to start to understand the nuances between the Leeds and London scenes. There is a slight difference but less than perhaps we thought there might be, there is that same love of good food and hospitality.
CC:​ In Leeds there are two French restaurants that are very classic and old fashioned, so we think we’d be quite unique, especially in Hosforth. People seem excited that there’s a French bistro opening.
SJ:​ Customers in Leeds want a good amount of your time and the people working there want to give it to them because there’s not the same pressures are there are in London. People have more time for each other, which is really nice.


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