After 26 years, the longest running and loveliest restaurant in town is closing. The Regal has served the best Chinese food for 100 miles since 1990. With its round tables, white table cloths, napkins, sensitive layout and carpet, it is quiet and unique. I sat here alone one warm early June evening in 2001. I had taken a call that afternoon from Graeme Eastham, then MD at Nicholas King Homes, who had overseen our tricky negotiations from the outset. Think it had been a while and things had gone quiet. In a solemn voice: “James, something’s come up. What can I say?” Anticipating the worst, I churlishly blurted “You can say Hannaway it’s yours, if you like!!” Silence. “Well (pause) Hannaway, The Rex is yours… congratulations”
I can’t remember the rest. We have remained friends.
So that evening I found enough money to celebrate at The Regal. This dark photo captures where I sat to watch the sun glow down on Aitchesons across the road. Odd, the things, caught in time, incidental to your moments of euphoria or joy, like that hand holding on to yours in your coat pocket, in every street. In sadness too, I’m sitting at the same table in October light watching the Regal close. The view’s the same. No it’s not. Competition doesn’t need a multi storey car park, it requires less careless planning consent in a café-saturated half-mile High Street. The Rex’s journey and celebration owes much to the Regal. Thank you always.