Rye Harbour Discovery Centre Café Manager Leah Athol-Murray

, 11 January 2021
Rye Harbour Discovery Centre Café Manager Leah Athol-Murray
Leah Athol-Murray

The Rye Harbour Discovery Centre is not expected to open until at least April 2021 - but when it does open, it will have a wonderful café, and this will be run by Leah Athol-Murray.  

We caught up with her to ask about a life in food!

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in New Zealand and delivered by a Māori All Black, hence my love of rugby. When my family moved back to the UK, we settled in Winchelsea.

I have always been a foodie and many early memories relate to food, I certainly never went back to play with a friend after we'd been given Marmite, apple and lard sandwiches by her mum. Fortunately, my mum was a fantastic cook and taught me to bake at a young age.

I studied commercial art but after a trip on the Magic Bus to Athens, the pull of travel changed my priorities and I travelled continuously until my mid-twenties, funded by working in kitchens and galleys in Israel, Australia and New Zealand. On returning to the UK, I worked in, and then bought, a lease on a wine bar in Rye. Subsequently, I had a seafood bistro and café, named in The Independent in the top 10 of the country’s top 100 places to eat. 

After being asked to provide an oyster stall at the last Rye Medieval Festival, my husband and I decided to move our business entirely into outside catering, providing food at outdoor festivals, private catering and photo shoots on Camber Sands.

What would be your desert island meal?

Vegetarian momo (steamed or fried filled dumplings with a heavenly chilli sauce).

What's your most essential kitchen item?

My Kitchen Aid mixer.

And your ideal birthday cake?

Real Kiwi Pavlova (I know it's not strictly a cake!).

Tell us about your connection to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

I’ve visited the reserve for many years and use it to train for my annual charity treks, getting in the miles in a beautiful location before heading off, usually to the Himalaya. After meeting Barry Yates four years ago, I put myself forward as a Sussex Wildlife Trust volunteer and trained as a leader for the Wednesday Walks through the reserve.

What are your hopes for the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre Café?

Essentially, I want to put it on the map as a destination café, delivering great customer service and serving fabulous food and drink. We will use small, local businesses when we can and aim to offer a Taste of Sussex. I want to be as inclusive, so we will aim to serve vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options where possible.

I can’t wait for the café to open and for us to welcome everyone to the stunning Rye Harbour Discovery Centre.

For the latest update on the Rye Harbour Discovery Centre, see here

Leave a comment


  • Michael Ganss:

    Wow, Leah, you sound like the perfect person for the job. I look forward to becoming one of your regulars.

    12 Jan 2021 09:32:00

  • Terry Howard:

    After a day birdwatching it would be great to come in and have a cheese scone and a hot chocolate. Thanks Leah.

    12 Jan 2021 09:47:00

  • Van der Veken George:

    Before corona we were regular visitors of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, sometimes several times a year. We hope that we can come from Belgium to the UK very soon, so we can visit our favourite Nature Reserve, because we miss it very much.

    12 Jan 2021 10:21:00

  • Terence:

    Very much looking forward to visiting your cafe Leah, hope it goes very well for you ☺

    12 Jan 2021 11:03:00

  • David Phillips:

    Welcome Leah! As a regular visitor to the reserve can’t wait to meet you and your food . Looking forward to when the Reserve is open again and to the grand opening of the Visitor Centre.

    12 Jan 2021 12:08:00

  • David Phillips:

    Welcome Leah! As a regular visitor to the reserve can’t wait to meet you and your food . Looking forward to when the Reserve is open again and to the grand opening of the Visitor Centre.

    12 Jan 2021 12:09:00

  • Veronica Keywood:

    Hi Leah, I think we have met, did you and your husband have a fish restaurant called Oscar’s in Rye? My husband and I had some lovely meals there. Looking forward to visiting Rye Harbour again and the cafe.

    Yes that's right! We look forward to welcoming you to the cafe, once we are able to open. Best wishes, Leah

    12 Jan 2021 13:26:00

  • Susannah Farley-Green:

    Hi Leah
    As regular local visitors to Rye Harbour we have been closely watching progress on the new Visitors Centre with great anticipation. We very much look forward to being able to explore the Centre and sample refreshments from your cafe.

    12 Jan 2021 15:06:00

  • E Fuller:

    We look forward to the opening of the cafe, but hope that being a ‘destination cafe’ won’t mean the prices are above the average as that will discourage the regular, older visitors on a fixed income in favour of the visitors from further afield!

    Thank you. We do understand your concern, but our aim will be to be inclusive in how we approach our cafe menus.

    12 Jan 2021 19:24:00

  • Kelvin Cawte:

    An idea might be to offer Friends/SWT members a discount to acknowledge their support and encourage new membership.

    Thank you for taking the time to comment Kelvin. This is under discussion.

    13 Jan 2021 12:19:00

  • Mags Ivatts:

    Hey Leigh the Cafe sounds great and we’re really looking forward to the opening! Judging by the crowds that walk up there every time the sun comes out you will be madly busy! Very best wishes xxx

    14 Jan 2021 22:46:00