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George Best cafe opens in Co Down village that football hero called home

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George Best’s sister Barbara McNarry cuts the ribbon along with her husband Norman as they join the owners of Bestie’s, Davy Cardwell, Stanley Kydd and Leigh Gamble, at the official opening

George Best’s sister Barbara McNarry cuts the ribbon along with her husband Norman as they join the owners of Bestie’s, Davy Cardwell, Stanley Kydd and Leigh Gamble, at the official opening

Davy with some of the memorabilia

Davy with some of the memorabilia

George Best in 1968

George Best in 1968

George Best’s sister Barbara McNarry cuts the ribbon along with her husband Norman as they join the owners of Bestie’s, Davy Cardwell, Stanley Kydd and Leigh Gamble, at the official opening

A new George Best-themed cafe was launched last night in the footballing legend's former seaside home of Portavogie.

'Bestie's @ The New Quays' is the brainchild of chef and owner Davey Cardwell and partner Leigh Gamble.

An extension to The New Quays restaurant, the cafe will celebrate Portavogie's connection to the former Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballing great.

Davey (56) recalls being starstruck as a teenager when he first met Best in the company of a former Miss World, and often cooked for him years later.

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Davy with some of the memorabilia

Davy with some of the memorabilia

Davy with some of the memorabilia

"We're still hanging pictures and doing some painting, it's been crazy," he said yesterday just hours before opening the doors.

Recalling his first meeting with the star, he added: "It was in the Park Avenue Hotel years ago when I was about 14, he was there with Mary Stavin."

The Swedish model won Miss World in 1977 before appearing in two Bond films in the 1980s and releasing an aerobics video alongside Best.

"I thought he was a gentleman then and a fantastic footballer. Many years later when he moved to Portavogie I was head chef and cooked for him a few times, getting to know him a bit better than you normally would for a superstar," he said.

"He was always at his home with his wife's horses and we would take him home the odd night.

"He was just such a nice gentleman who seemed to have time for everybody.

"We had a policy in here that we didn't want to disturb him when he was eating, but after dinners he would spend about 15 minutes signing things that people left behind the bar.

"After that he became part of the furniture, he played snooker and pool with the regulars quite often and we had a good laugh with him."

Davey took over the restaurant five years ago and after leasing the venue decided to take on the challenge himself.

Having collected George Best memorabilia over the years, he said the idea for the cafe quickly snowballed after convincing the footballer's sister Barbara McNarry.

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George Best in 1968

George Best in 1968

George Best in 1968

"I called to ask if we could use the name Bestie's but she told me it was licensed. I explained I had the idea because of his connection with the village," he said.

"Then we met the following week and we both got very excited about it, where it grew and grew, and the family donated personal memorabilia and signed photographs.

"We even have his pool cue that he used to play with in here.

"I didn't want it to be a Man United or a Northern Ireland bar, I wanted a legacy to his life.

"So it's more like a small museum than anything else, it's very tastefully done with our own mugs and coffee designs.

"This was purely because I wanted people to remember him in the village. Everyone who comes in tells you a story about him, like playing pool with him or walking his dog."

The opening of Bestie's comes as more than 1,000 local restaurants are hoping to boost business with the Eat Out to Help Out initiative, including The New Quays.

Davey commented: "We're really trying to encourage people back into restaurants, but what better attraction can you have than George Best?"

Speaking in 2012, Best's ex-wife Alex talked fondly of the home the couple purchased in the village in 2002, where they had moved from London in a bid to help him battle his lifelong alcohol addiction.

"I loved that house. It is my favourite house ever. It was wonderful, and it was the first house that George lived in that he participated in renovating and decorating. It gave him something to focus on as he battled his demons," she said.

Before the house was eventually put on the market, she added: "The only reason we left was because George was so ill. It was part of me and part of George. We redeveloped the whole place and made it into a very special, beautiful home. It is sad and I hope whoever buys it looks after it."

Belfast Telegraph