Interview with Simon Leigh-Jones, owner of English’s

This month Simon and his family are celebrating their 70th anniversary at English’s of Brighton. In 1945 Simon’s father Clifford bought English’s from A W English’s sons, and rumour has it that Mr English took his last breath behind the bar, shucking oysters. Find out how Simon became involved in running the restaurant, in our interview below.

English's in 1950s

English’s in the ‘50s

Clifford Leigh-Jones and French Head Chef de Kaye

Head Chef de Kay with Clifford Leigh-Jones (right) in the mid-60s

“How did I find myself working at English’s? I popped in to help my mother out shortly after my Dad died – I was 16 then, and I’m still here 44 years later! I think it was ‘expected’ that I would work in the family firm. In 1990 I officially took over, after my Mum retired and my sister took a back seat.

Simon Leigh-Jones and Mark Necus

‘The Dynamic Duo’! Simon Leigh-Jones (left) with Mark Necus, running the restaurant together in the late ‘80s. Mark worked at English’s for almost 20 years, and now runs successful shoe business ‘Klodhoppers’, which you can find in Hove and Haywards Heath.

“If I hadn’t joined English’s, I would have pursued my love of flying. I’ve always been mad about it, but my eyesight wasn’t good enough to join the RAF. I would have loved to have been an airline pilot or instructor – anything to do with flying, really. I did get my Private Pilot Licence in 2007 though, so I finally managed to get in the air!

Luca wine tasting at English's

“The best part of the job? Luca’s wine tastings! Aside from crafting the wine list I love the people who work, and have worked, at English’s. The guys and girls who have worked here over the years, especially the current team, are simply fantastic and a pleasure to work with. And the customers – some of whom have become great friends.

“What’s next for me at English’s? Well there’s a few years left in the old dog yet, so watch this space! In the future I’d like to see English’s continue as an independent restaurant, but I can’t see my step-son taking over the reins once I retire.

“Thanks to everyone that’s supported my family over the past 70 years, and here’s to many more to come. Don’t forget to share your favourite memories of English’s with us on social media, using the hashtag #LoveEnglishs, and join us in celebrating with our 70th Anniversary Menu, which features dishes from across the decades. Cheers!”

Simon Leigh-Jones