When Suzanne Vazquez was travelling to work from Buckingham to Surrey in the 1960s her journey took her via Chorleywood.
“There were always lovely people getting on the train at Chorleywood station so when I saw an ad for a sandwich bar up for sale in Chorleywood I was immediately interested!”
Suzanne and husband Pepe (b. José), who both worked in hospitality, went for a recce of the premises in New Parade in spring 1968 and within a few months the Peppermill was born, followed soon after by their first child, André .
The couple quickly became two of those lovely Chorleywood people and 50 years on the Peppermill is still a family business with André at the helm. And so much has happened in between.
“On the first day we offered Shepherds Pie and Black Forest Gateau on the menu. The first week we took £64 – when we took £100 in a week we bought a bottle of wine to celebrate! It took five years to get a license and, by law, we kept alcohol out of sight under lock and key at the back of the restaurant and that’s where the bar stayed for years!”
The Peppermill was comfortable (carpet and upholstered chairs), elegant (white napkins), homely (lace curtains) and welcoming. The food was excellent from Day One. Customers recommended Suzanne and Pepe to their relatives, golf clubs, and places of work.
They were soon catering for swish local parties and London events.
“Our first outside catering job was for Dr Rope’s Police Widows at the Memorial Hall. Then we did a New Year’s Eve party 1968 in Chenies – they asked for kidney and oyster pie.“
From there it snowballed.
“ We did all sorts, big and small ….weddings, christenings, funerals – we set up marquees in gardens, we made canapés for Micklefield Hall, we catered for DHL Christmas parties at Hammersmith Palais for 1000 people, fundrasiers for Gray’s Cancer Unit at Mount Vernon (once there were five dukes in !), we worked for/served the High Sheriff of England, Lord Harlech, the Prime Minister of Canada and the Seychelles…we met Prince Michael of Kent and did two parties for Margaret Thatcher.”
But it was the local customers who gave them the greatest buzz.
“ We made so many friends over the 30 years. It was a wonderful life!”
Ean and Sue Reid are just two of many still living locally,
“ Pepe and Suzanne took over a sandwich and snack cafe and turned it into a restaurant living in the flat above in the early years. Their children Andre and Felicity were born, while they were there. From the start the food was excellent. Suzanne was the Dessert and Patisserie Queen of Chorleywood!! Saturday lunchtime became like a lunch club. They were always caring and involved with the local community, delivering meals to unwell elderly customers ( long before their stint with Meals on Wheels ) and enthusiastically supporting local charities societies and clubs, especially helping to establish Chorleywood Common Youth Football Club in its early years. They made the Peppermill the social hub of the community long before Chorleywood had coffee bars, other restaurants, and takeaways. They knew everybody but were very discreet about what they knew. Only complaint. Pepe insisted in rubbing red wine into Ean’s bald head in a vain attempt to make some hair grow!!”
“We built a BBQ for the first 7 a side and cooked 700 burgers” adds Pepe, ”The boys often came to The Peppermill and once pro Watford footballer Luther Blissett came for a fund raising Christmas lunch and stayed until 6pm talking to everybody. Wonderful fellow!”
André and sister Fliss, (Felicity) have followed in their parents’ footsteps making hospitality their careers. Felicity joined the family business for eight years “It was the best job I ever had!”
Suzanne and Pepe retired in 1998 and Phil Williams stepped in and ran the restaurant for 15 years.
“ We used to enjoy coming down when Phil ran it, we could relax!”
André took over from Phil in 2012
” It is lovely to see so many familiar faces and new generations.
We often have children and now grandchildren of my parents’ customers either eating or working with us!”
But do Mum and Dad miss it?
“ We are so lucky to still be living in the village and it’s really lovely bumping into people who were part of our life at The Peppermill. And I hope the lovely people of Chorleywood will continue to support not only the Peppermill but all the shops in this Unique village of ours. I would just like people to acknowledge how special Chorleywood is and to cherish it.”
The Peppermill, New Parade, WD3 5NJ
Don’t miss the 50th anniversary special offer! Two pizzas to the vlalue of £20 and a glass of wine or beer per person for £19.68 during February 2018