Tribute: Andrea Leeman

Andrea (Andy) Leeman who died on 1 April, was both a food and wine writer so I came across her wearing both hats. She was as gorgeous as she was talented. I remember her recklessly wearing some particularly fetching white jeans at a wine tasting attracting the lascivious glances of her male colleagues and the envious ones of her female ones who were more prosaically clad head to toe in black to avoid splattering themselves with wine. And we shared a passion for white burgundy. But it was as a cook rather than a chef that I suspect she would most like to be remembered.

I’m not sure how and why hospitality was in her blood. She ran a restaurant for a while in London which attracted the great and the good of the swinging sixties and seventies about whom she was disappointingly discreet. Her much-loved brother Andrew was also in the business, and was described when he died in 2007 ‘as an ebullient bon vivant who lived life to the full but at the same time made sure that the guests at his restaurants [Morton’s in Berkeley Square and Langan’s Brasserie] enjoyed themselves.’

Andy, who had moved to my home town of Bristol, was also an ardent champion of local producers before it became fashionable to be so and wrote three books dedicated to West Country counties Gloucestershire, Devon and Somerset which contain some charming and sympathetic profiles and recipes.

My late husband and I were lucky to eat regularly round her kitchen table where she used to effortlessly produce wonderfully simple, seasonal food. A typical meal would be a vegetable soup, a fish stew, a green salad (always), some cheese and a fresh fruit tart. Very English, light and delicious. 

A big thrill for me, as an avid fan of the Orlando books, was that her husband Nick Maclean’s mother was the author Kathleen Hale so we would sit surrounded by all her wonderful paintings of their Hertfordshire garden. 

Andy was absurdly modest. When asked in an interview with the Guardian what was her biggest food disaster she replied ‘Goodness me … there have been so many. If you cook, everything is experimental, and you inevitably go through several flops before you find a success.’ She was so sure-footed though in combining flavours and textures it was hard to credit. 

Both Nick and Andy had been ill for some time, Andy miraculous surviving three bouts of cancer and some gruelling radiotherapy with which she put up with great stoicism and extraordinary good humour. Nick died approximately two months later. I like to think because he could no longer face life without those delightful kitchen suppers. I will miss them both greatly.