Not adopting the Heston Blumenthal Little Chef Popham makeover could mean a grim end for the British roadside diner chain


We loved Heston Blumenthal’s Little Chef revamp at Popham when we visited there a while back. It’s a massive improvement over the grim school-dinners-in-a-retirement home experience at their other restaurants. We proved this by visiting their Sedgefield site for comparison.

The menu was mostly dreadful. But the staff were incredibly charming and the place even had a sort of end-of-days joy to it. So it was quite sad when we drove past recently to see it completely shut down.

It’s never cheery to see a restaurant close down, even a bad one. Wouldn’t it be better if all the crap restaurants became good ones so you were spoiled for choice?


A rainy Autumn day made the clumsy way the brand had been erased from the site even more grim.

Driving down Britain’s A-roads you see a lot of old Little Chef buildings that have been taken over. Diner 168 a few miles down the road, near Thirsk, is a prime example. Another on the A580 between Manchester and Liverpool is finding a new life as an Indian restaurant. Unfortunately I can’t see much passing trade in this quiet corner of the North East, even an independent business might struggle to survive in this location.

Little Chef have currently shelved their plans to roll out the Heston format across the chain. Popham, York and Kettering are now the only signs of quality for this dying brand. But would it have saved Sedgefield, or was this location always doomed?

How about you, would you go out of your way to eat at a Heston Little Chef? Please put your comments below.