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Cardiff character: David Le Masurier

David is the founder of the Pettigrew Tea Rooms

David Le Masurier potters in from the kitchen and places a pot of peach tea on the table, before settling down into a secondhand chair. He is the founder of the Pettigrew Tea Rooms, a small café with a large cult following that opened last March in Bute Park.

Having left his corporate job in hospitality, David decided to pursue his dream of setting up a café, chronicling his journey every step on the way in a blog called ‘I Want To Bake Free’. He quickly became a hit, and now David is as much a part of the character of the little tea room as the quirky collection mismatched china mugs in the corner and the old typewriter that sits on the windowsill.

The pursuit of a dream

David’s pride in his achievement is a result of knowing just how much effort he put into making it happen. Not only are the Pettigrew Tea Rooms currently ranked as the number one restaurant in Cardiff on Trip Advisor, but its opening was also filmed for The Great British Bake Off. Glancing over the room, he says, “When I walk in here I know what was involved. I was lucky, but also I worked for it.” 

Contrary to the romantic notion that pursuing your dreams means first throwing your caution to the wind, David stresses that caution was in fact his constant companion on his entire journey. “I’m a big believer in risk limitation,” he says. He spent four months, for instance, writing his application for the venue. He says that the final document was “considerably longer than my dissertation” but adds with a wry smile that “it was all good fun, really – in retrospect!”

David, who turned 30 just before the tea rooms opened, acknowledges he felt some anxiety over pinning all his hopes on one idea. He recounts, “I thought at the time, I’m either going to hit my thirties, and ‘Yay! Tea room dream!’, or I’m going to hit my thirties, having made a lot of noise about all of this, and no tea room, no business, nothing at all. And it was literally 50/50. But when opportunities come about, you’ve obviously got to go for them.”

A café with character

David talks about his tea rooms with an affection that is rather endearing. He skips verbally around the room, explaining one item and then another. There’s the clock on the wall that belonged to his grandmother’s brother, a garland of autumn leaves that he crafted himself and – he literally springs up this time – a chair that he found at the police auctions in Pontypridd. He picks it up and points out the individual details in its design: “The barley twist on this is just gorgeous, and I love the little heart shape on there. I think I see individual beauty in things.

“Someone came here once and said, ‘Oh, your chairs, they need a good rub down.’ But I think, ‘No, that’s just years of use – someone’s picked that chair up and moved it. It’s beautiful.’”

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