Tv and radio personality (or just think XFactor), Dermot O'leary opens restaurant in Brighton

PUBLISHED: 15:22 05 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:03 20 February 2013

Dermot, centre, with parners James and Paul

Dermot, centre, with parners James and Paul

As Brighton prepares for yet another celebrity-backed restaurant, Matthew Williams speaks to Dermot O'Leary to discover what made him add restaurateur to an already packed CV as a television and radio personality...

IT'S AN exciting time for Brighton as a swathe of celebrity culture hits its restaurants and adds yet another dimension to this ever cosmopolitan getaway. The town's favourite son, Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, has his own Japanese restaurant Okinami and Heather Mills recently acquired a vegetarian cafe on the seafront.

The latest adding a new string to his bow is X Factor and Radio 2 presenter Dermot O'Leary, who this month is opening a seafood brassiere called Fishy Fishy on East Street with his friends James Ginzler and Paul Shovlin. But are the trio ready for the celeb-led battle set to take place over residents' culinary palettes? And, more importantly, who will win?

"Bring it on," says Dermot. "It's certainly likely to put Brighton on the map even more so than it is already and that can only be a good thing. Everyone seems to be doing it for the right reasons, too. To be honest, if anyone has a right to a Brighton restaurant, it has to be Norman."

There's always a slight cynicism when a celebrity figure heads into the restaurant world. It's easy to wonder whether this might not just be a case of a name and face conveniently being attached to someone else's pet project for column inches. Dermot, however, insists this is not the case and there's certainly no doubt that all involved are getting hands on with the project.

"It's certainly not a vanity project - there are far easier ways I could spend my money than in the restaurant business," he says.

"My girlfriend Dee went to university with James' wife, so that's how we got to know each other really - going out for dinner. We bonded over a love of food. The girlfriends and wives have been the wind beneath our wings; otherwise we're just a group of lads coming up with ideas. The girls even did the interiors, too."

A lack of good seafood restaurants led the group to look seriously at the business and the restaurant is firmly aimed it at all parties, "anything from private dining to a family looking for some fish and chips together," says Dermot. Interestingly, before his television career kicked off, he had been a sous chef and a waiter in Colchester. So, in some ways, a return to the restaurant world has just been a matter of time.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," he says. "Plus both James and Paul are restaurateurs, so we've got plenty of experience. We might look at expanding further along the coast but for the time being we're concentrating on making this first one work. Where possible we're looking at making things localised and sustainable. We visited the Ridgeview Estate at Ditchling Common and will be sourcing some of their sparkling wines, for example. We have got a real pride about it."

This is not his first brush with fish: Dermot's taste for seafood and a childhood hobby have led to an interest in fishing that means if you hang around the fishing boats at Newhaven, you just might find yourself bumping into him. "It's just something my mates and I have always done," says Dermot. "We even keep our catches on a spreadsheet for bragging rights."

Meanwhile, Dermot seems right on course for a new career by the sea - and possibly a new home: "I would love to move down eventually, when the job allows," he says. "Sussex is such a lovely part of the world."

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