Charlotte Church enters the world of celebrity cuisine

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Robert De Niro helped to give the world the trendy fusion cuisine of the Nobu chain of restaurants, while Michael Caine has backed several fashionable London eateries. Now it's the turn of the Welsh diva Charlotte Church, who, despite her stated preference for junk food, has become the latest celebrity seeking to enter the catering business.

Church, 20, the former child star and "voice of an angel", is in negotiations to pay £100,000 for The Old Post Office, a "restaurant with rooms" in the village of St Fagans, on the outskirts of her native Cardiff.

She is said to have fallen for the establishment when she dined there with her boyfriend, the Welsh rugby player Gavin Henson, last month. Staff told her the place was up for sale, and the following day she rang to say she wanted to buy it.

The company behind The Old Post Office owns another bar and restaurant in the fashionable Bay area of Cardiff. Sharon Noakes, the managing director, said Church's offer for the lease had been accepted and the sale was expected to be completed within weeks.

"The sale is going through as I speak. Miss Church is very, very keen to buy the business and we expect to have tied it up within a month," she said yesterday. "We have accepted her offer and have no reason to believe the sale will not go ahead."

While the name may not have quite the same ring as Langan's Brasserie and its location unlikely to be one where the rich and famous will be queuing up for black cod with miso sauce, The Old Post Office is hardly the riot of country-house chintz its name implies. The building has been extensively revamped over the past couple of years and critics have praised its clean and contemporary look and accomplished, modern British and European cuisine. Typical dishes include tian of seared, hand-dived scallop and salmon tartare with herb salad and caviar dressing as a starter, and pan-fried wild sea bass on sarladaise potatoes with lobster remoulade and oyster cappuccino as a main course.

Business is said to be booming, with both the 70-cover restaurant and six bedrooms, which cost £80 a night, normally fully booked at weekends. Set meals cost around £35 for three courses. The guidebook Welsh Rarebits Hotels of Distinction 2006 describes The Old Post Office as "dining at its best", adding: "There's nothing remotely olde worlde or retrospective about this up-to-the-minute restaurant with rooms. What was once the post office ... is now a restaurant with a cosmopolitan, contemporary look serving accomplished cuisine. Forget cosy Welsh and chintz - there's not a traditional tapestry bedspread in sight.''

St Fagans itself is a picturesque village just 10 minutes from Cardiff city centre where there is also a Welsh National History Museum, featuring restored ironworkers' cottages, a castle, a Victorian school and a traditional bakehouse selling organic bread and cakes. Most of the village, including the freehold of the restaurant, is owned by the Earl of Plymouth, who receives an annual rent of £21,000 for the property. The only cloud on Church's horizon is that the lease has just 15 years to run.

Tasty investments

* ROBERT DE NIRO

The Oscar-winning star's most successful venture has been as one of the partners behind Nobu, which has branches in New York, London, Milan and other major cities.

* MICHAEL CAINE

Caine was one of the original backers of Langan's Brasserie in Piccadilly, London, before co-owning Canteen, in Chelsea Harbour, one of the restaurants where Marco Pierre White made his name. Caine is currently a co-owner of Deya, an upmarket Indian restaurant.

* NEIL MORRISSEY

The star of Men Behaving Badly and voice of Bob the Builder has invested in three establishments in the village of Laugharne, south Wales, famous for being the home of poet Dylan Thomas. In 2004, Morrissey bought Brown's Hotel, the pub where Thomas was once a regular.

* DAMIEN HIRST

The artist's first venture was a partnership with Marco Pierre White at Quo Vardis in Soho. In 1997, he launched Pharmacy in Notting Hill; he made £11m from the sale of its fittings after its closure. He now owns 11 The Quay in Ilfracombe, Devon.

* LEE CHAPMAN AND LESLIE ASH

Chapman, a former footballer, and his wife, Ash, also from Men Behaving Badly, owned the members' club/restaurant Teatro in Shaftesbury Avenue in the Nineties. They now run SO.UK, a Moroccan/Asian Pacific bar and restaurant in Clapham, south London.

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