SCANNING the cafe I could have easily missed Rachel Riley sitting inconspicuously on a side table by a window.

The TV presenter has mastered the technique of blending in when she is at home in Essex where she lives with husband Jamie Gilbert and their three cats.

Wearing a long-sleeved maroon top with diamante detail and hair in a bright blonde bob, Rachel looked just like she does in magazine photos.

Her large sea-green eyes lit up when she talked about married life: “Being married is really good. We’re settled in our house and we have three rescue cats – Raffa, Beasty and Becs.

“I’ve just been tidying up because we have someone coming round to give us a quote for redecorating the hall. It is definitely home now and we loving living near the sea.”

Moving to Essex with computer business millionaire Jamie wasn’t necessarily part of the plan. She says: “It works for us having my family around the corner and close links for Jamie to get into London.”

Rachel married Jamie in Sussex in 2011 and the day featured in Hello! Magazine.

She says: “It was such a hot day after such cold weather in August. We had lots of photos taken with my old school friends, the Southend girls, and they were all a bit drunk by that point so it was a lot of fun.”

Rachel met Jamie at Oxford University. They took a break for a year before getting back together in 2010.

She says: “When we got back together it felt right and we settled straight away and got the cats and everything. “We had a year-and-a-half engagement so we had plenty of time to plan. Even so there was quite a bit to do. I became obsessed with lists and sub-lists of lists!

“I didn’t plan the honeymoon, Jamie sorted it out and paid for it. I didn’t know where we were going until we got to the airport and he told me it was Hawaii.”

Tucking heartily into a smoked salmon bagel and sipping a coffee, Rachel looked relaxed and happy. She currently goes to studios in Manchester every two weeks for three days of filming Countdown.

She says: “I have learnt a lot from presenting on Countdown. “Probably the most important skill has been to not laugh at the things they say in the gallery.

“They can be really filthy sometimes and I have laughed out loud a couple of times while trying to keep a straight face. It’s part of the job and you need them to keep you informed what is going on.” Rachel, who turned 27 this month, has received some flak for appearing on TV in tight dresses. Recently it was reported that she has been asked to dress more conservatively.

She looks a little uncomfortable when I quizz her on this, saying: “I was criticised for my outfits but overall the press have been kind. “I think because Countdown is such a family show and no one has done anything controversial.

“I was having fun with outfits and when you buy one you like you get a few in different colours. That’s it really. Men wouldn’t get that sort of criticism on the show because they stick to a shirt and tie.”

Despite regularly being hailed as one of the most beautiful women on TV, being labelled a “sex symbol” does not sit comfortably with her. Bursting into laughter, she says:

“I don’t think of myself as a sex symbol at all. “It’s very weird to see yourself listed alongside other women in that way. I don’t think about it at all.” A big bonus about working in the Manchester studio is being near her beloved Manchester United.

She says: “My dad, Chris, is originally from Salford and he got me and my little brother Alex into football. Now I am in Manchester I get to go and see Man United play more.”

Rachel was a high achiever both in her academic work and in sports at Southend High School for Girls.

She says: “I wasn’t a girly girl at all. I didn’t dance, I played football and loved all sports.

“I remember cutting my hair really short when I was eight after seeing Winona Ryder. I am low maintenance and I have never liked having to wash and dry long hair.”

Rachel is close to her brother Alex who is studying for a zoology PHD. She says: “My brother Alex used to bring all sorts of animals home to look after so it’s no surprise he is studying zoo-ology.

“One time me and my mum heard rustling in his room and looked under his bed to investigate. There were two boxes, one with a snake in it and another with a tarantula!”

Rachel’s mum, Celia, who is a fundraising manager for Peaceful Place, in Rochford, has been a big influence on her. She says: “Mum is very involved in charity work and has instilled that in all of us. “I’m lucky in that my work patterns mean I have time to get to get involved charity work.” As well as regularly getting involved with charity work locally and nationally, Rachel has raised over £150,000 for charity through winning a series of TV quizzes. “I won £66,000 on the Chase, On Million Pound Drop I got 50k and I did the Bank Job and Mastermind, where my specialist question was Manchester United 1999 to present day.”

Rachel has also had the chance to appear on shows such as Nine out of Ten Cats and on the Channel 4 show IT Crowd. “Having the chance to be on different shows has meant I have a completely different audience and it has opened up different opportunities.”

One opportunity Rachel is keen to pursue is to promote maths in the same way that science has been brought to the masses via shows such as the Wonders of Universe with Professor Brian Cox.

She says: “Brian Cox has done wonders for science in his show. “I think the same could be done for maths. You can go into all sorts of interesting subjects like teleportation and time travel as well as all the mathematics used to create modern technology.”

For now Rachel says she is happy with the day job and, after a brief glance into the air, she tots up the number of Countdown shows she has filmed to almost 1,000.

As Rachel puts on her black coat and gets ready to leave she seems to suddenly go into “blending in”mode and she slips out of the cafe door.

She says: “It’s quite nice when I come home because I get to sink into the background. “I don’t find that I get recognised that much.

I sometimes feel bad if I go to an event and I think no one will know who I am.” After our goodbyes Rachel does her magic trick of disappearing up the high street and passers-by do not bat an eyelid.