Leah Athol-Murray is manager of the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre Cafe, which will open once the centre is open and fully operational. We hope that will be sometime in April, but the opening may be subject to delays due to Covid.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I was born in New Zealand and delivered by a Māori All Black, hence my love of rugby. When my family moved back to the UK, we settled in Winchelsea.
I have always been a foodie and many early memories relate to food, I certainly never went back to play with a friend after we'd been given Marmite, apple and lard sandwiches by her mum. Fortunately, my mum was a fantastic cook and taught me to bake at a young age.
I studied commercial art, but after a trip on the Magic Bus to Athens, the pull of travel changed my priorities and I travelled continuously until my mid-twenties, funded by working in kitchens and galleys in Israel, Australia and New Zealand. On returning to the UK, I worked in, and then bought, a lease on a wine bar in Rye. Subsequently, I had a seafood bistro and café, named in The Independent in the top 10 of the country’s top 100 places to eat.
After being asked to provide an oyster stall at the last Rye Medieval Festival, my husband and I decided to move our business entirely into outside catering, providing food at outdoor festivals, private catering and photo shoots on Camber Sands.
What would be your desert island meal?
Vegetarian momo (steamed or fried filled dumplings with a heavenly chilli sauce).
What's your most essential kitchen item?
My Kitchen Aid mixer.
And your ideal birthday cake?
Real Kiwi Pavlova (I know it's not strictly a cake!).
Tell us about your connection to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
I’ve visited the reserve for many years and use it to train for my annual charity treks, getting in the miles in a beautiful location before heading off, usually to the Himalaya. After meeting Barry Yates four years ago, I put myself forward as a Sussex Wildlife Trust volunteer and trained as a leader for the Wednesday Walks through the reserve.
What are your hopes for the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre Café?
Essentially, I want to put it on the map as a destination café, delivering great customer service and serving fabulous food and drink. We will use small, local businesses when we can, and aim to offer a Taste of Sussex. I want to be inclusive, so we will aim to serve vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options where possible.
I can’t wait for the café to be open and to welcoming everyone to the stunning Rye Harbour Discovery Centre.