Spanish restaurant The Strawberry Tree blossoms at the Town Mill

The Strawberry Tree
Tessa, Giselle and Ed pictured in The Strawberry Tree in front of one of Tessa’s works of art

GISELLE Benrimoj and Ed Pemberton started Strawberry Tree as a pop-up restaurant in Lyme Regis before moving to the former Courtyard Café at the Town Mill. 

The cafe was small, but Ed and Giselle have big plans for their Spanish tapas restaurant and on Tuesday evening they invited guests to share their ambitions.

The first phase of those plans is now complete with The Strawberry Tree having expanded into the gallery space next door.

The restaurant is now much bigger, with a wonderful bar and small shop of Spanish food produce. And enough space for their future plans.

Ed and Giselle have combined their love and extensive experience of Spanish food, drink and culture with a desire to create and share one-off experiences that bring people together in a fun and convivial way.

Between them, they have spent more than 60 years living, eating and drinking in the Iberian Peninsula.

Many of The Strawberry Tree’s recipes are inspired by Giselle’s family history – originally Sephardic Jews from Granada in Spain – who were pushed out of their homes in the 1400s and forced to leave the country by the Spanish Catholic kings, ending up in Morocco and then later Gibraltar by the 1600s.

Ed also lived in Madrid for about 15 years until 2012, when he moved to Dorset and his love of Spanish food and drink comes from his Spanish mother-in-law.

Ed told the gathering: “Strawberry Tree will be more than a restaurant. We want to bring people together, not only to eat delicious Spanish food, but also to learn how to cook it.

“We are going to exhibit the work of artists we love, and host wine tastings and workshops. We want people to meet here and form friendships, becoming a small community set in the wider, very creative community, that is Lyme Regis.”

The Strawberry Tree’s first exhibition is of paintings by Tessa Prescott. Ed and Giselle met Tessa through a mutual friend, saw her work and asked if she would create a set of paintings for The Strawberry Tree’s first exhibition.

Tessa, who has planted a 15-acre native woodland grown from seeds and nuts gathered locally, paints the natural world. Her influences are Indian textile painting, the wandering 2D perspective of Japanese art and British printmaking.

Her work could be described as contemporary Chinoiserie.

Tessa said: “I work on a large scale to reflect the grace and stature of the subjects. I paint from mental images collected through observation.

“Planting the native woodland trees complemented my painting life. The Dorset countryside is a wonderful place to spend time outside in all seasons, observing the intricacies of nature and storing up ideas for the studio.”

The paintings are unframed and finished so that they are soft and unbound, in keeping with their subject; when hung, a glimpse of the natural world in man-made surroundings. Tessa’s exhibition of work is at Strawberry Tree until May 24.

The Strawberry Tree
Ed Pemberton explains the concept behind The Strawberry Tree at last Tuesday’s official launch of the new restaurant at the Town Mill
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