William Fuller, who has died at 84, was a restaurateur in the swinging London of the 1960s, whose clients included Harold Wilson and Yoko One, and who came home to Yorkshire to run Harrogate’s renowned Drum and Monkey eatery.
Born in January 1934, he was the son of Capt Thomas William Fuller and Mary Gabrielle Charlotte Maturin. He attended the Royal Naval Academy at Dartmouth from age 13 to 18, but his truncated naval career ended in 1955, with the rank of Midshipman.
A brief dalliance with farming followed, before he moved to London and joined the advertising agency, Mather and Crowther, as a copywriter.
His entrepreneurial flair came to the fore shortly afterwards when he began selling flowers door to door around Chelsea, from the back of a converted pre-war taxi. The newsreel Pathé Pictorial made a short film of him at work.
But it was haute cuisine, not horticulture, in which he would make his mark. The caterer and bon viveur Clement Freud hired him to run his operation at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park, which he continued to do for six seasons. On the back of its success, he acquired the catering concession at The Discotheque, the first of the capital’s new 1960s nightclubs.
In 1967 he married Carol, daughter of the test pilot John Derry, who had been in 1948 the first Briton to break the sound barrier.
At around the same time, the impresarios David Conville and Charles Ross invited him to open and run the famous Spot restaurant in the Kings Road, the first of three. Keen to branch out on his own, he became sole owner of Spot III on the Fulham Road. Its frequent guest list included Lawrence Olivier, David Jason and Albert Finney, as well as Ms Ono and the then Prime Minister.
In 1979, he returned with his family to his native Yorkshire, and acquired the Drum and Monkey. It was among the county’s best-known restaurants, and dining there could be seen Jools Holland, Howard Keel and Bruce Forsyth.
Mr Fuller’s belief that good food done well – rather than dishes he regarded as pretentious nouveaux cuisine – combined with value for money proved to be a winning formula, and the lunchtime queues were such that booking downstairs was impossible. Evening reservations had to be made six months in advance.
He ran the Drum for 24 years, but sold it in 2003 and retired to a family life of writing, piano and tennis. He also became an active community worker, notably with the Samaritans. He had three children, Thomas Rollo, William Hugo and Victoria Mary, and six grandchildren.