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Q&A with Emily Ashley of Busby and Wilds

Emily Ashley of Busby and Wilds in Kemp Town, Brighton

Your name, address and age and some background about you:

Emily Ashley, 39 years old. I’m originally from North Devon but after finishing university I moved to London where I started working at John Torode’s restaurant Smiths of Smithfield. This was where my love of food, wine and all things delicious stemmed from – it was a real learning experience.

After a few years working there and having been promoted to manager, I worked at a couple of other establishments to learn all of the different aspects of the hospitality industry.

When my partner and I were expecting our first baby, we started to think about life as a family. We loved the idea of a neighbourhood eatery that we could run together, using both of our experiences of hospitality to create a new evolution of dining.

When we first saw the site that would become Busby and Wilds in Kemptown – although it needed a lot of love – I could immediately see my vision.

What is your venue called, where is it and when was it established?

We are called Busby and Wilds, B&W for short. We named it after the architects Charles Busby and Amon Wilds who designed much of Regency Brighton. We really wanted a name that linked to the city. We are located on Rock Street in Kemptown and we were established in 2013.

Pulled beef, triple fried chips, broccoli and slaw

Tell us about the food and drink you serve…

We use only local produce, serving a mixture of pub classics like fish and chips, burgers and sticky toffee pudding, alongside a number of seasonal specials. Everything is handmade, right down to our mayonnaise and horseradish sauce.

We pride ourselves on the quality of the ingredients and the food we create. We use many local suppliers to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. Brighton Food Factory does an amazing job as supplier of Sussex produce and supports regenerative farming.

Brighton and Newhaven Fish Sales are exemplary in their sustainability and quality. And we work with local breweries – especially Gun Brewery and the Hand Brew Co – who both create amazing beers with the best sourcing and ingredients.

We are well known for our Sunday roasts – which, again, are made from the highest quality local ingredients. Our menu has been developed over the years to get the best dishes and consistency from such a plethora of produce.

Busby and Wilds sources from local producers across the south east

How many on your team and who are they?

Myself and my husband, Simon Ashley, run the day-to-day operations of the restaurant, with our amazing head chef Leizel Custodio and sous chef Hughbert Walsh being the linchpin of all things culinary. We have our chef de partie Daniel and two assistants James and Gustavo keeping the kitchen running.

Front of the house we have David, Tilly, Claire, Nicole and Amber doing an amazing job. As my husband and I have two young boys, we really rely on our amazing staff to bring the B&W experience to all of our guests.

How did the idea for your business originally come about?

My husband and I wanted to create a neighbourhood restaurant and pub where you could eat a high quality meal and have a good pint – or a small snack and a great glass of wine – in a relaxed atmosphere. The environmental impact was also of great importance to us. Not only do local ingredients taste infinitely better they create a sustainable supply chain and have minimal impact on the environment.

Crispy calamari and slaw

How have you coped/adapted during the pandemic?

We weren’t left with many options during the pandemic, I was at high risk so was shielding, and we felt the pressure on our staff to attempt any take away or collections was unfair and would put too many people at an unnecessary risk. So we were closed throughout lockdowns: not an easy time and we were unsure as to whether we would be able to survive but we had amazing support from so many customers when we reopened, it was really overwhelming.

What would you like to tell people about your business?

As a business we really like being ‘us’. We keep low-key and believe in what we do, have a lovely team of staff and fabulous customers who make it a privilege to have established our business in this fabulous city. We feel we have bought with it a moral objective and have achieved longevity without compromising our ideas or beliefs. It has been hard at times but as a family we have sacrificed and been very blessed in return.

What are your plans/hopes for the future?

We are very happy being B&W for the foreseeable future, as long as we keep striving to maintain our standards and bring excellent food and drink that has a direct link to this splendid county.

Busby and Wilds, 8-9 Rock Street, Brighton BN2 1NF


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