Meet Mary-Lou Sturridge and Tony Macintosh: she an ex-Groucho restaurant director, he the founder of Café Anglais. Together, they have come up with the Seaside Boarding House. A hotel and restaurant on the cliffs of the Jurassic Coast, with sea views that stretch between Grade II listed lighthouses Portland Bill and Start Point, and all enjoyed from the cunning surveillance point of your restaurant chair; this is a Literary Lunch to be missed at your peril.
Come November, the Oldie Literary Lunch will decamp to Bridport, a market town in Dorset, as part of the thirteenth annual Literary festival – ‘Brid Lit’, as it’s become known. Literary carousers and Oldie readers are invited to Burton Bradstock – the village where Billy Bragg lives, on the eastern fringe of Bridport – for the traditional routine of a three-course lunch followed by talks. All very familiar, and yet all so different. Guest speakers will be our editor, Harry Mount, Paula Bryne and Anne de Courcy.
Portland Bill and Start Point Lighthouses on the Dorset Coast
The lunch will take place at the Seaside Boarding House, in a room where one wall is formed entirely of sea-facing French windows: our speakers will perform before an ocean backdrop. Our editor will talk about Brexit, the subject of his book Summer Madness: How Brexit Split the Tories, Destroyed Labour and Divided the Country. Anne de Coucy will tell the glamorous, buccaneering stories from her book Husband Hunters: Social Climbing in London and New York and Paula Bryne will answer the question: who was the real Jane Austen? 200 years after her death.
The actual Seaside Boarding House building is straight out of one of Edward Hopper’s 1930s paintings of Cape Cod (pictured above). The construction was a great engineering and administrative coup – dubious planners were battled along the way, ahead of the hotel’s opening in early 2015. The interior is a meeting of antique marine salvage, renovated furniture from the 1920s to the 1980s, and a Peter Blake collection; a handsome mix of old and new.
A joyfully unpretentious menu: no Literary Luncher will have to feign excitement at anything ‘deconstructed’, ‘dehydrated’ or ‘foamed’. Anything that sounds more chemistry exam than local pub is, very happily, off the menu. This year, we’ve introduced the Literary Lunch set to the iced, gold-embossed rococo ballroom of the Savile Club, and now we’re off for a taste of the classic, British Edwardian aesthetic.
Gaping sea views from the terrace of the Seaside Boarding House
Why not make an occasion of the lunch, and stay in a room where you can look out over Lyme Bay from your bathtub? Make merry and order up a Mary-Lou Martini – served straight up or with a twist. If any lunch called for a holiday to be built around the event, this is the one.
Tickets for the lunch are £48. To reserve a place, call the Bridport Tourist Information Centre on 01308 424 901. Tickets will not be printed and available until late August.