Peter Andre with his children

Absolutely Andre

Peter Andre is surely one of the most recognisable people in modern British celebrity culture, and for those of us who remember his bare-chested debut on number one hit Mysterious Girl, his is a face that shows very few of the scars from two decades in the spotlight.

Up close and personal, the Brighton-based Aussie is as amiable as he is immaculately styled, as Camilla Davies found out.

When I meet Peter Andre in a swanky restaurant in the capital and reveal my allegiances for the south coast, the singer, presenter, model and entrepreneur is quick to pledge his love for Brighton: “It’s like ‘London by the Sea’, isn’t it? I love it down there – we’re lucky!”

An accomplished media star, Andre shot to fame in 1996 after his debut chart single sold more than two million copies. After a period away from the flashbulbs, the Australian performer was reawakened in the UK’s public consciousness through his stint in the jungle in 2004 on I’m a Celebrity….Get Me Out of Here! and his subsequent three-year marriage to glamour model Jordan.

“The reality TV route has been a way back in for a lot of people, and while that wasn’t really my intention from the outset, it was a lot of fun and sparked the next chapter in my life, so obviously I’m very grateful for it.”

The 40-year-old don has since written and performed new material, also picking up three ‘Dad of the Year’ awards. And unleashing entrepreneurial skills in the form of children’s books, perfume and, most importantly to Brighton, coffee, means this is someone who has successfully swerved the ‘cult of celebrity’ tag by producing for himself a career that is evolving and relevant.

Indeed, the opening of his second New York Coffee Club, in Brighton, was a sizeable step, and follows on from the brand’s flagship base in East Grinstead. It’s an enterprise Peter started in partnership with his three brothers, and business is booming.

“Oh, the coffee shop is great! We’ve made it New York style in the sense that we’ve got hot dogs, we’ve got pizzas, but also very, very, very good coffee.”

But with a longstanding coffee culture in Brighton, what makes New York Coffee Club stand out from the multitudes of independents that already grace our streets?

“Because our coffee is, by far, the best! Nobody can touch our coffee,” Pete quips. “Like anything, it’s about how much you put into your key ingredients. Surroundings are all very nice, but that soon becomes just for show – it’s really about your core product and how dedicated you are to making it as good as possible. People these days really do notice the difference.”

Andre prides himself on the constitution of the cafe flat white, and has built an impressive following since opening in 2012. Even better, the coffee shop picked up an Employability and Enterprise Champion 2013 Award at the Young Epilepsy Champions gongs. The cafe employed young epilepsy sufferer Sam Ashby on a work placement, and the support shown by NYCC and the Andre brothers was deemed by the charity to be so accommodating that Sam developed the skills and confidence necessary to progress into paid employment. But this is not the only element of the café that makes the Aussie proud.

“We’ve included a play area in New York Coffee Club. When I used to go to Starbucks with the three kids – Junior, Harvey and Princess – they’d be so excited because they were going to get a treat. But after 10 minutes they’d want to leave, yet I’d still be savouring my coffee, and perhaps wanted to go on the internet or read the newspaper. I knew that my own coffee shop needed to have that element where parents could sit and actually relax in the knowledge that their kids were occupied and happy.”

Unfortunately, Peter may not have the opportunity to enjoy too much of his vision over the next few months. The TV star has a new addition to his brood with the arrival of baby Amelia, his daughter with fiancée Emily MacDonagh. The 24-year-old gave birth in January, weeks after Andre proposed in the nursery of the couple’s home. The pair are currently preparing where and when to set the nuptials.

Peter Andre with his fiancee Emily MacDonagh
Peter Andre with his fiancee Emily MacDonagh

With a new addition to the brood, the star admits he’s feeling the effects. “It has been a rollercoaster year so far, and I feel like I’m living on pure adrenaline… and coffee!”

Despite his modesty, it looks like a business plan built on caffeine is providing Peter with more than just the ability to stay awake. Aside from the cafe chain, he recently returned to the recording studio, with his new song, Kid, featuring in the animated film Mr Peabody and Sherman, a DreamWorks production tipped to be a massive hit this spring. The track has fed the singer’s appetite for music once more. “It really was great fun going into the studio again. Not only that, but I enjoyed doing a song where we could add an element of rock and roll. That was so cool for me because I do love that genre.”

The film follows the relationship between a super-intellectual canine who adopts a bespectacled human child and raises him. Father Mr Peabody and son Sherman use their time travel contraption, the WABAC machine, (a play on phrase ‘way back’) to revisit critical moments in history as both an academic lesson and a bonding experience. But when Sherman’s ‘frenemy’ Penny comes to stay, mayhem ensues and the three must work to fix the space-time continuum.

And of course, coming at the time of  the arrival of his daughter, Kid now holds further special resonance for Peter.

“To be doing a kids’ film at the time of Amelia arriving was really special – it felt so right. But more than that, I think the movie really mirrors mine and Junior’s relationship. The father-son relationship of the characters Mr Peabody and Sherman is me and Junior down to a T. Obviously I’m not a dog like Mr Peabody, and I’m not a genius either, come to think of it, but apart from that, all the bad jokes… that’s me through and through,” he laughs. “The bond the two have, the frustration that Sherman doesn’t really listen to his Dad; it’s every parent’s situation. But that bond that they have, as best friends: that’s us.”

Peter’s older children have appeared in a number of his reality TV shows, but with the singer now infiltrating the big screen, will they follow him into the limelight? The star stops to mull it over. “I think Junior could, but somehow I feel Princess would want to do something just completely different.”

When it comes to talking about his kids, Andre grows very animated. In a recent interview the star joked about his children’s’ concept of fame.

“Sometimes Princess will go: ‘Why does everyone scream or ask for photos?’ or ‘Why are they so nice?’ and I say ‘Well Bista, because we’re nice to them.’ Because I don’t think it’s about them thinking you have to be on TV or that you have to be doing something for people to react to you. It’s more important that they think people react to you because you react to them. I’ve never even heard them use the word ‘famous’, which is so nice because they’ve just accepted that it’s… it’s just us… that we’re friends with everybody.”

Andre prides himself on being a hands-on Dad and on bringing this same practical approach to his business ventures. He’s adamant that his kids take priority and is perhaps saddened that his own parents haven’t been able to meet the new addition yet, settling instead for Skype conversations before they make the journey from Australia.

And despite being a distance away from his childhood home, Andre is thankful to have put down roots in Brighton , describing the area as “irresistible”. He’s previously expressed how the city helped him through his first year alone following what was an acrimonious split from Jordan. Now happily settled once more, he has only good things to say about the area.

“I lived in Withdean which, of course, is where Brighton & Hove Albion used to play. It was great seeing sport going on all around there. You’d hear the noise, the cheers coming from the stadium; it was just great. It felt like a stereo!”

Such a fan is Mr Andre of Withdean that our spies have even spotted him filling his trolley at the local ASDA. Pete laughs. “Well, it’s all about ASDA! They haven’t seen me hanging about the car park, have they?!”

With the stadium premises relocated to the Falmer complex, it looks like the university students have inherited Peter’s sport stereo system. What else stands out for Peter?

“The thing about Brighton is there is so much to see – so many areas that have their own unique personality and feeling… the modern, the arty, the rugged, the polished. I love it. And the Marina is really special; I’ve run from Brighton Pier to there and back – that’s three miles each way.”

These days, however, his fitness regime comes second to conducting night-time bottle feeds. Pete laughs. “There’s really not as much time to work out the moment, and when I go to the gym I’m just so tired. But I think the adrenaline keeps me thin!” This isn’t the fitness advice you’d usually expect from a celebrity whose abs, in years gone by, have featured on many a schoolgirl’s bedroom wall!

So why ever leave Brighton, you say? Having taken the reins of ITV’s show 60 Minute Makeover, in which members of the public have their homes transformed in just an hour, Andre needed a more central base and has been spending more time in London.

With a career spanning music, the catwalk, catering, and more, it’s hard to guess what lies next for Peter.

“Hair!” he laughs. “Going forward, I think a lot will be about hair products – shampoos, conditioners, the works. We’re launching a new summer fragrance with my perfume, too. And I’m talking to ITV about a new project, so I guess I might be in need of a bit more of that fantastic coffee!”