Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

From Italy with love: Lichfield Tea Company

Sauce sat down with Rae Holland in her beautiful shop overlooking a courtyard in the Heart of the Country Shopping Village at Swinfen. She shared her inspiration for founding the Lichfield Tea…

Sauce sat down with Rae Holland in her beautiful shop overlooking a courtyard in the Heart of the Country Shopping Village at Swinfen. She shared her inspiration for founding the Lichfield Tea Company.

“It was a hobby that turned into an obsession that took over my house, so we had to get a shop. It was something I used to do with my nan, who was Italian. In Italy they only drink coffee – they don’t drink tea at all. If you’re ill, you get chamomile.

“In the mornings she used to make everybody a cappuccino – she just called it milky coffee. I’m allergic to milk, so it would make me really poorly. She would then give me chamomile, which is a natural anti-inflammatory, so instantly I would feel better. She thought tea was magic. She didn’t realise it was an infusion – because it’s called chamomile tea, to her it was tea.”

Rae’s grandparents owned an old-fashioned newsagents and all-stores in Coventry when she was a child. Her grandma started importing tea for her to taste and to sell in the shop.

“So I grew up drinking lapsang souchong and Earl Grey,” Rae explains. “She really got into it and it was our little hobby. When they retired they moved to the South of France and we would take tea every time we went to visit. I started the shop with money from my share of the inheritance when they died.”

In 2016, tired of working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in a stressful job, Rae and her husband Ollie decided to slow down a little and opened their first shop on the other side of Heart of the Country site. They moved into a larger unit when they outgrew the first premises, and have now expanded floorspace further by knocking through into the neighbouring shop. They have installed a kitchen and will soon be serving ‘hearty, homely, vegetarian food’, cooked by Rae herself.

In terms of teas and the various coffees Lichfield Tea Company offers, choosing what to stock is largely a matter of personal taste with some family input and, of course, an eye to what customers will think.

“I try it, and if I like it, we sell it,” laughs Rae. “When my grandparents had their shop they kept meticulous accounts. My uncle still had records of some of the tea gardens. So we still had a connection, for example, with Kenilworth. My grandparents were in Coventry so they recognised the name and went with it; now we stock tea from the same garden in Sri Lanka.”

English Breakfast is by far the most popular choice. Naturally, visitors to the shop tend to be blinded by the sheer number of options with around 80 teas in stock on Rae’s shelves at any given time.

“It’s much easier to have a conversation with someone and make a recommendation based on what they like and whether they want to try something new,” she says. “We’re thinking about a tea passport, where we have a little description and space for comments to keep a record of what you’ve tried.”

Rae’s seasonal picks for March, April and May start with the aptly named Spring Tea, a fresh and floral green tea with strawberry and rose.

“We also have this Japanese black tea, which is a real little find. It doesn’t smell particularly, but it tastes like the centre of a Malteser. It’s really light but flavoursome, so ideal for spring.”

If you’re looking to push beyond your comfort zone and try something unique, Rae recommends Pu-Erh – a real tea lover’s tea.

“It’s a fermented tea so it’s super good for you, like kimchi. It’s only grown in the Yunnan province of China. They come in cakes, and they get more expensive the older they are.”

As for the recent trend for cold infusions, Rae has no truck with the idea that shaking a teabag in cold water is the way to go…

“If you want cold tea, make a really strong cup of fruit tea, hot, pour it out and put ice in it,” she suggests. “We do a lemon tea that’s basically homemade lemonade in a very sweet vat of strong English Breakfast. It looks like pond water but it tastes amazing and goes down a storm.”

Interestingly, the recent resurgence of interest in tea after years of growth in coffee seems to be driven by a younger generation, with new brands like T2 and familiar names like Whittard benefiting from the attention.

“The people who are most excited about it are the 18-24 year olds,” Rae enthuses. “It captures their imagination and they love trying something new, and they love the fact they’ve discovered you.”

Lichfield Tea Company
www.thelichfieldteacompany.co.uk 
Unit 11a, Heart of The Country Shopping Village, Swinfen, WS14 9QR

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Candid Beer opening Good Friday

Good Friday just got even better, with Candid Beer’s bottle shop and taproom set to open in Woodings Yard at 12 noon on 19 April, just in time for Easter…

Good Friday just got even better, with Candid Beer’s bottle shop and taproom set to open in Woodings Yard at 12 noon on 19 April, just in time for Easter weekend.

Stafford’s latest addition champions craft beer from small independent breweries across the county and beyond, with suppliers selected by owner Mark Bamping to complement Candid’s relaxed and community-focused ethos.

Relax and have a beer with your friends in the new taproom, or purchase your cans and bottles to take away – perfect if you’re planning a cheeky spring barbecue. Some of the names you can expect to see lining the shelves are Loka Polly, Northern Monk, Marble Beers, Cloudwater, Six°North and Pomona Island Brew Co.

If delicious craft beer isn’t your thing, don’t panic. Candid Beer will be serving Staffordshire Gin, local wines from Halfpenny Green Wine Estate, Hasbean and Ethical Addictions coffee, loose leaf tea from Birdhouse, soft drinks and bar snacks. 

Candid Beer also doubles as a creative workspace for those who need to get out of the office, or for those who don’t have an office. ‘Can-Do-Er’ membership, which includes come-and-go-as-you-like access to their shared working space in the taproom or quiet breakout space, unlimited tea and coffee, WiFi and the much needed buzz of co-working company, is available at £65 per month.

Upstairs, Candid will offer ‘Creative Space’ hire suitable for everything from team away-days to weekly book clubs. The space is fully equipped with display and audio equipment as well as access to tea and coffee facilities. Future plans also include the opening of a nano-brewery on-site.

“We are really excited to embark on this new venture and to bring Candid Beer to Stafford,” says Mark. “Our aim is to take the best bits of a pub, a bar, a café, an office, and a studio and bring them together under one roof in what we’re describing as a community hub. We’re looking forward to opening our doors on Friday 19 April 2019 at 12 noon and welcoming the community of Stafford into our new home.”

Easter weekend opening times:

Friday 19 April 12:00-18:00
Saturday 20 April 11:00-21:00
Sunday 21 April CLOSED
Monday 22 April 12:00-18:00

Candid Beer
candidbeer.co.uk
Units 4 & 5, Woodings Yard, Stafford, ST17 4BG

Photo credit: Matt Winnington

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April beers with Otter’s Tears

We welcome back Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, for more beer recommendations this month… Following on from last month’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on breweries that…

We welcome back Phil Hardy, owner of Otter’s Tears in Burslem, for more beer recommendations this month…

Following on from last month’s instalment, I thought I’d focus on breweries that have meant a lot to me over the years – people who have become firm friends as well as brewing the beers I love and can trust to deliver.

Torrside brew in New Mills up in the High Peak. It’s a democratic set-up between 3 experienced home-brewers – Chris, Nick, and Peter – with support from their long-suffering partners, one of whom is the talented artist who designs the labels for each beer. The guys started out with the mindset of wanting to brew what they loved to drink, and this is reflected in their smoked beers, imperial strength monsters, and well-balanced hop-bombs. With that in mind, I’ve sneaked in two beers for one here.

Torrside Sto Lat GrodziskieZenkai Pale Ale, 3.7%
Part of a two-way collaboration with Bramhall’s Made Of Stone. A simple, crisp malt base allows Mosaic and Chinook hops to come shining through in the aroma. With plenty of grapefruit and mango flavours, Zenkai is a delicious session pale ale perfect for the changing season.

Sto Lat Grodziskie,  2.8%
Grodziskie is a traditional Polish beer style brewed using 100% oak-smoked wheat, and Sto Lat stays as true to the style as possible. Ultra-pale with plenty of fizz, it owes its refreshing bitterness to Polish hops. The smoke comes through particularly well in such a low ABV beer, with an end result lying somewhere in the unexplored hinterland between champagne and smoked ham! Head Brewer Chris thinks this beer perfectly represents Torrside; I think it will also appeal to the flavour loving readers of Sauce.

Northern Monk Seismic Shift DDH IPAI’ve followed Northern Monk from long before their first brew. Back even before current head brewer Brian’s mammoth, year-long training journey with some of the world’s finest brewers across multiple continents, we have a long history and friendship. The Northern Monk Patrons Project is an initiative set up to foster collaboration, creativity and community between artists, athletes and creatives across the North. This is their latest release, which features peel-able label art from amazing street-style artist Tank Petrol.

Seismic Shift Double Dry Hopped Double IPA, 8.5%
Simcoe hops feature prominently in this beer, bringing passionfruit, grapefruit and dank pine to the forefront. It carries tangerine notes of Amarillo, the tropical flavours of Citra and Mosaic and finally a touch of floral, citrus Loral. A high percentage of flaked oats in the grist, plus a touch of wheat, ensure a soft mouthfeel. Fermentation with their IPA yeast of choice leaves an accentuating sweetness with generous peach and apricot esters.

Durham Brewery DiabolusOur final beer is from Durham Brewery and is a bit of a beast. Durham have been at this brewing malarkey for a long time, so they know a thing or two about good beer. I was first introduced to them around 2010 and was immediately hooked by their mastery of tradition and willingness to embrace innovation. I helped launch their White Stout, a beer with the qualities and flavours you’d expect to find in something black as pitch, whilst being pale and transparent. I also built a Twitter-led international Imperial Stout tasting session around their beautiful Temptation Russian Imperial Stout, which leads perfectly onto the third beer: Diabolus, a variation on that brew.

Diabolus Rum Cask Aged Imperial Stout, 11.5%
In a very limited edition of just 600 bottles, this batch of Diabolus – like all the others – is a variation on the theme of Temptation. Durham have matured the beer in oak rum casks, resulting in a deep dark colour with flavours to match. Aromas of rum and black treacle with hints of oak precede a body that’s creamy and full, with strong liquorice flavours. Sharp, fresh morello cherry and damson notes cutting through this rich umami body, and the finish is long and lingering.

You can pick up April’s picks at Otter’s Tears this month, and find Phil’s March beer recommendations here.

Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG
www.otterstears.beer

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Roots Larder to open zero plastic shop

This Saturday, 6 April, sees the opening of Roots Larder’s permanent presence in Stafford. After spending its first 6 months as a mobile service, eco-friendly business Roots Larder is now…

This Saturday, 6 April, sees the opening of Roots Larder’s permanent presence in Stafford.

After spending its first 6 months as a mobile service, eco-friendly business Roots Larder is now planting its roots within Tranquility, off Newport Road close to Stafford train station.

The local business offers bulk wholefoods including a range of spices, herbs, grains, pulses, cereals, dried fruits, nuts and loose leaf teas, all without unnecessary plastic packaging. All are sold by weight, so you can buy as much or as little as you need to cut down on waste, and customers are invited to bring their own containers to fill.

Until now, Roots Larder has operated at local markets from a trusty transit van as well as offering a click and collect service from Stafford, Eccleshall, Stone or Uttoxeter. To enable the shop to carry more stock and offer a wider range of goods that fit in with the ethical approach, owner Nigel has decided a permanent shop space is needed.

Along with the selection of store cupboard essentials and plastic free toiletries and kitchen wares that Roots Larder has become known for, Nigel will also be introducing Fair Trade silver jewellery, Rawsome bars, fresh bread, natural incense, stained and fused glass items, and handmade dog accessories.

The shop will be open from 10:00-15:00 on Saturday for the launch event. Meanwhile on Friday 5 April, small business owners are invited to share what they do and chat reducing single use plastic at a pre-opening networking event in store from 18:30-20:30.

Normal opening hours for the shop will be:

Wednesday 13:00-19:00
Thursday 10:00-16:00
Saturday 10:00-15:00

Roots Larder
www.rootslarder.com
Castlefields, Off Newport Road, Stafford, ST16 1BQ

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Chris Cohen: A man on a mission

Feast with Friends is the Stoke-on-Trent based chef teaching young and old to pay attention to eating well. Cooking has always been a passion of Chris Cohen, the chef behind…

Feast with Friends is the Stoke-on-Trent based chef teaching young and old to pay attention to eating well.

Cooking has always been a passion of Chris Cohen, the chef behind Feast with Friends. Now in his 40s, Chris worked weekends in his mum’s catering business as a teen and wanted to pursue a career in the kitchen on leaving school.

“Funnily enough, my mum put me off that,” he tells Sauce. “She wanted me to be creative in more obvious ways. I guess what she didn’t know then was that food would become such a creative discipline as it is now, and so visual.”

His own experience in the education system has influenced the path of Chris’ development as a chef and as an educator – with a degree in architectural design.

“I really struggled at school and I love the fact that I educate now,” he says. “I treasure that beyond anything. Sharing what you know is important. I worked across Staffordshire and down in London running kitchens. Then I realised I wanted more from my education. I got my degree and did a teaching qualification, taught in schools and colleges and really enjoyed it.”

Chris Cohen, Feast with Friends

Photo © Stephanie Murton Photography

Over the last year Chris has found a way to unite his love of cooking with a desire to teach, under the Feast with Friends banner. He works both as a private chef, creating dining experiences for people in their own homes, as well as teaching classes and workshops for people of all ages in schools, colleges and workplaces across the county.

In the future, Chris has a longstanding ambition to set up a means of educating and training aspiring young chefs in the Stoke-on-Trent area. He sees this as creating a pipeline for the expansion of the independent dining sector in the city, as well as providing opportunities for its young people.

“I’ve worked with and played a part in the training of a few people who have gone on to do amazing things. You see what they’ve done and how they’ve travelled. It would be great if people travelled then came back to Stoke to set up their own restaurants. What can we do to move that forward? That’s something I’m passionate about.”

In the meantime, much of Chris’ day to day work centres around the Well Fed Initiative. Aimed at educating people of all ages about nutrition and eating well, the initiative provides tailored courses for everyone from small children to university students, with the option of curriculum-focused content.

“I’ve done a lot of work in primary schools, which is immensely challenging purely because most primary schools don’t have a space dedicated to cooking,” Chris relates. “It is a case of doing things in different ways to get kids cooking and thinking about healthy eating differently. Not making them feel like they’re being talked down to is part of that.”

Chris developed the principles of his specialised food workshops based on health service guidelines, to the extent that he has permission to use the NHS logo on the Well Fed Initiative.

“I’ve taken some of the guidance – which is something I did in my teaching anyway – and used it to come up with my own ways to get people eating more healthily,” he explains. “I work on a five F system, which talks about factors like feast and find, based on food psychology and exploring food.”

Part of the joy of food is the idea that it is an exploration of different tastes, textures and aromas – an idea that Chris believes should not be reserved for fine dining restaurants. Indeed, he’s trying to instil this way of thinking into even the youngest children through his classes, seminars and parties.

“What’s obvious with a lot of children is that, even by quite a young age, their relationship with food is already difficult,” Chris notes. “It’s very natural for children not to want to eat very green vegetables, for example, because of the strong chlorophyll flavour, but by cooking them in different ways and getting them to eat them in different ways you can overcome that.”

Doing things differently in this context will often include trying out mindfulness, which Chris introduces using the ‘raisin test’.

“We take any ingredient, usually fruit or veg, and they put it in their hand and look at it,” Chris explains. “It’s getting to know it, looking at the way the light shines on it, giving it a sniff, pulling it apart so you can really smell it, and putting it on your tongue but not eating it straight away. Then we’ll talk about how that’s where digestion starts.

“What amazed me the first time I did it was how it intensifies the flavour of what you’re eating. It’s so powerful. And alongside that, if you try it with food that’s heavily processed in a negative way, the flavour of that food is always absolutely dreadful because you’ve explored it properly. If you slow down the way you’re eating, you get to enjoy your food – and learn which food you enjoy.”

It’s all too easy to be distracted by screens these days, or just the rush of work and family life, but actively paying attention – not only to what we put into our body but how our body reacts to it – can help in more ways than one. Chris is fascinated by ongoing research into the gut microbiome and digestive health, and particularly its influence on good mental and overall health.

“I think personalised health is about listening to your body,” he says. “Sometimes we wait for something to be wrong, whether it’s a skin condition or IBS or a heart problem. It’s about getting people to think, ‘If I get my digestive health right, the rest can follow’.”

You can find Chris’ recipe for cured mackerel with carrot purée, pickled carrots and wasabi avocado in Sauce Spring 2019.

Feast with Friends
www.feast-with-friends.com

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March beers with Otter’s Tears

Otter’s Tears is an independent beacon calling out to beer lovers on Burslem’s high street. The bottle shop is owned and run by Phil Hardy, who opened it in 2015…

Otter’s Tears is an independent beacon calling out to beer lovers on Burslem’s high street.

The bottle shop is owned and run by Phil Hardy, who opened it in 2015 with the goal of supplying customers with great quality, interesting beers from across the UK and the Continent. You can read the full story of Phil’s love affair with craft beer in the Spring 2019 edition of Sauce, out next week.

Beer connoisseur Phil kindly put together these tasting notes on his top picks for what you should be drinking this March. Find these beers at Otter’s Tears while stocks last, and look out for more recommendations from some of Phil’s favourite breweries in April and May.

Elusive Brewing x Weird Beard
Lord Nelson 2019, 6.8%

I met Andy Parker, owner and head brewer at Elusive, around 2010. He was in IT back then, a beer blogger and keen home-brewer. Knowing my love of saison style beer, he sent me a bottle of this to try long before he ever brewed it commercially at Weird Beard and now at his own brewery in Finchampstead. It blew me away then and still does today. Lord Nelson is a single-hopped saison designed to showcase the wonderfully aromatic Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand. Expect a pale and hazy beer with aromas and flavours of Sauvignon Blanc grapes and gooseberries from the hop, with bubblegum notes brought into the mix by the saison yeast.

Siren Craft Brew x Track Brewing
Strawberry Praline, 7.4%

Literally over the road from Elusive you can find Siren, joined for this brew by Manchester’s Track Brewing. The first thing that hits you as you take a sip is a tang of sharp strawberry purée, quickly enveloped by dark chocolate and roasted hazelnuts. This is a robust but smooth and creamy stout, subtly sweet with a hint of strawberry syrup. It slips down like a chocolate and strawberry milkshake topped with toasted nuts. A full-flavoured treat!

Burnt Mill x Cloudwater
Lying Low IPA, 7.4%

Cloudwater, established in 2014, took the world beer scene by storm. With a definite slant towards hazy hop-forward styles they quickly reached number two on the world brewing stage according to Ratebeer. Burnt Mill are only a couple of years old, but are clearly going in the same direction – a definite one to watch. This collaborative India Pale Ale brewed at Burnt Mill’s Suffolk brewhouse is a proper juice-bomb. Soft sweetness gives way to pithy bitterness in perfect balance. Heavily hopped with a blend of Citra, Mosaic, Enigma and Idaho-7 for aromas of ripe peach and passionfruit. With tropical fruit flavours and aromas to match, this definitely deserves a space in your beer fridge.

Otter’s Tears
24 Queen Street, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 3EG
www.otterstears.beer

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Milford’s hidden gem

With fantastic views over Milford Common and Cannock Chase, just a few hundred yards from the River Sow and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, The Viceroy is something of a…

With fantastic views over Milford Common and Cannock Chase, just a few hundred yards from the River Sow and the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, The Viceroy is something of a hidden gem.

It’s in this village just outside Stafford that chef-director Ain Ullah and his brother Rushan, who heads up front of house operations, are advocating a fresh approach to Indian gastronomy. Their aim is to deliver culinary experiences of the highest quality to truly reflect the region’s rich natural larder, challenging perceptions around Indian and Bangladeshi cuisine in the heart of Staffordshire.

“Since I was a child I’ve wanted to be a chef,” says Ain. “I worked my way up. I started washing the pots and pans in the kitchen, working with my uncle who actually taught me a lot. In the early 2000s I had a breakthrough and started cooking for a restaurant in Derby.”

After this, Ain moved down to London and started cooking with celebrity chef Atul Kochhar at Benares in Mayfair. With this experience under his belt, he went on to establish his own restaurant in Derby, where he found the freedom to start experimenting with different flavours and making his own spice blends. The Viceroy was added to his portfolio back in 2014.

“Most Bangladeshi and Indian curry houses have a big pot of gravy and when you order a dish they’ll use that same gravy in every dish, adding just a few different spices,” Ain states. “So every dish has a similar taste. We grind our own spices here in the kitchen. You can taste all my curries and every one will be different, which is very important to us. Each starter is complemented by a different sauce, rather than just giving one sauce for all starters as most Indian curry houses do. That’s why our menu is quite limited; the way we want to cook it is the way we think is the best way to do it.”

It’s for this reason that you won’t catch Ain adding spinach to your korma, for example, or serving up bright red tikka masala. Educating customers about traditional and contemporary Indian cuisine and how it differs from typical curry house dishes here in the UK is part of the mission.

“I think Indian restaurants provide more Anglo-Indian dishes because of where we are,” Ain conjectures. “Indian food can have really strong flavours and spices, and I think a lot of chefs tone it down for the European palate. What we’re doing now with our menu, the ingredients we’re using are English-French given a twist with Indian spices. So it goes together.”

There’s a real focus at The Viceroy on using local suppliers to source local produce wherever possible. And rather than keeping stock in the freezer, the restaurant gets daily deliveries of fresh ingredients. Another key element in The Viceroy’s unique offering is the attention to detail when it comes to customer service.

“We’ve trained our waiters to be able to advise customers based on their likes and dislikes,” says Rushan. “Some people have a very strong idea of what they want and what tastes they like. Although our dishes are different to others’ we have flavours that will appeal to every different customer.

“Whether they like mild or spicy or medium hot we have dishes that will suit, but they are flavoured a different way to the norm. For example, we don’t have chicken korma on the menu, but we do have a dish called White Chicken Curry which is a traditional Indian dish.”

The drinks menu has not been neglected either. While gin – paired with complementary mixers – and beer are on offer, wine is the drink of choice to go alongside your meal. Although you may not find familiar names from the retail racks in their cellar, the knowledgeable front of house team can always make a recommendation from the extensive list.

“When customers order wine before their food the staff ask what dishes they will be eating – whether it’s seafood, lamb or chicken – because we have different wines to complement them,” Rushan tells us. “My staff, once we have the menu from the chef, go through tasting sessions so we can pair the dishes with the wine. Some of our lamb dishes, for example, go really well with a full-bodied red.”

If you’re visiting Shugborough or the Chase this autumn and winter, you could do much worse than stop by The Viceroy to sample their delicious fusion of English ingredients and Indian spices. The brothers are not short on recommendations from the menu.

“I was really excited when the chef was drafting the menu about the kekda avocado starter,” confesses Rushan. “It’s soft shell crab with avocado panna cotta. They go together so well, with just a drizzle of passionfruit chutney. In years I wouldn’t have thought of having that in an Indian restaurant. I’m not a very big fan of seafood, but again when the chef was thinking of putting halibut on the menu with a coriander and mint chutney I tried it and really enjoyed it.”

The addition of saffron to the rice, which is not common practice due to the expense, produces a special flavour to complement the various dishes, but often the rice will be tailored to complement a specific main. For example, the halibut is best accompanied by a lemon chilli rice, because lemon goes so well with fish.

“At the moment my favourite dish is our Goan lobster, with fresh coconut, red chilli, coriander and black peppercorns,” Ain reveals. “We’re running out of it because it’s selling so well. And I love cooking the Kali Mirch, a chicken dish in a spicy sauce with dried chilli. It’s one of my favourites to eat because it’s on the spicier side and it’s contemporary.”

Plans for the immediate future include an extension with 16 VIP seats, along the lines of a chef’s table experience. There will be an exclusive tasting menu and a butler service available in this private dining space. Customer satisfaction is always the number one priority, and the long term goal is to be the best Indian restaurant in Staffordshire.

“We’re hoping to win some awards along the way, but our main goal is to satisfy all of our regular and new customers by  making sure our staff are happy and our food is the best.”

If you would like to sample Ain’s dishes for yourself, Viceroy is open 5:30pm until 11:00pm, seven days a week.

Viceroy Indian Restaurant
8 Brocton Road, Milford, ST17 0UH
www.viceroyrestaurant.co.uk

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The Boat Inn puts Staffordshire on the Top 50 Gastropubs map

The Boat Inn at Lichfield fought off tough competition to put Staffordshire on the map at Estrella Damm’s Top 50 Gastropubs awards ceremony earlier this week. The judges praised chef-patron Liam…

The Boat Inn at Lichfield fought off tough competition to put Staffordshire on the map at Estrella Damm’s Top 50 Gastropubs awards ceremony earlier this week.

The judges praised chef-patron Liam Dillon for transforming The Boat into a ‘very special venue’ and a worthy winner of the Newcomer of the Year title for 2019.

“Liam’s menus boast maturity, uniqueness and, above all, skill and great balance of flavour,” according to the panel of industry experts – including The Good Food Guide editor Elizabeth Carter and Managing Director of Inn Places, David Hancock – who awarded the Best Newcomer prize. “He has created a gastropub that delivers on all fronts, from excellent service the moment you walk through the door, to outstanding dishes.”

The award was presented in a ceremony at Lillibrooke Manor in Maidenhead on Monday.

“It was a great day and a fantastic achievement,” Liam told Sauce. “The team are over the moon with the award and we have all been working very hard to put The Boat Inn where it deserves to be. We are all honoured to be in the same bracket as the amazing establishments in the Top 50 list.”

Liam worked for Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley in London after graduating with a degree in the culinary arts from Birmingham College of Food in 2006. Thus began a decade of striving to work in the best kitchens in the world, starting off in Sydney at Quay before taking in Eleven Madison Park and Noma in Copenhagen, among others. Since opening The Boat, he’s gone on to win Best Chef at the Midlands Food, Drink & Hospitality Awards last year and the venue picked up Best Independent Restaurant at the Taste of Staffordshire Awards 2018. 

Look out for our interview with Liam in the Spring edition of Sauce, out in March.

The Boat Inn
Walsall Road, Lichfield, WS14 0BU
www.theboatinnlichfield.com

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Wins for Hoar Cross Hall chefs at Salon Culinaire

Staffordshire hotel and spa Hoar Cross Hall has achieved major success at Salon Culinaire, the UK’s most prestigious chef competition, which was held last week at the Birmingham NEC. Situated…

Staffordshire hotel and spa Hoar Cross Hall has achieved major success at Salon Culinaire, the UK’s most prestigious chef competition, which was held last week at the Birmingham NEC.

Situated in beautiful Staffordshire countryside near the sleepy village of Hoar Cross, just 9 miles from Burton-upon-Trent, Hoar Cross Hall is well-known for its luxury spa facilities. But it has also developed somewhat of a reputation for afternoon teas, with themes to reflect key calendar dates and the county’s wonderful seasonal produce.

Hoar Cross Hall’s executive head chef Tom Biddle and pastry chef Charlotte Wakelyn both came out on top in their categories after showcasing their skills, creativity and knowledge of provenance to panels of judges from across Europe.

Executive chef Tom won best in class in his two categories, beating stiff competition from peers in the UK and Malta. Meanwhile, Charlotte scooped bronze and silver awards for her afternoon tea pastries and miniatures, establishing herself as one of the UK’s foremost pastry chefs.

“It’s a pinnacle for any chef to get through to competing at Salon Culinaire, but to come back to the hotel with medals is quite literally the icing on the cake!” said Charlotte. “Chef is incredibly supportive of my work which means that we can forge forward and build a reputation for having one of the best afternoon teas in the UK in what are arguably the most stunning surroundings.”

The menu she presented for inspection included a passionfruit and lemon meringue eclair, a caramel and sea salt dark chocolate opera slice, and individual baked and decorated Battenberg cakes.

“I’m ecstatic for Tom and his brigade as they are continuing to elevate presence of The Hall as a foodie destination for The Midlands,” added Adrian Pickard, managing director at Hoar Cross Hall. “We want our afternoon teas to be known for their sense of experience for families and friends and Charlotte has just added a huge stamp of approval from the culinary world.”

Hoar Cross Hall Spa Hotel
Maker Lane, Hoar Cross, Burton-upon-Trent, DE13 8QS
www.hoarcross.co.uk

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Quintessentially British

How better to brighten up your afternoon than with tea and cake? Tea rooms are a staple of Staffordshire life and everyone has their preferred spot to indulge, whether it…

How better to brighten up your afternoon than with tea and cake? Tea rooms are a staple of Staffordshire life and everyone has their preferred spot to indulge, whether it be a traditional setting with fine china and finger sandwiches or a cosy café with a more modern take on the afternoon tea. We’ve picked out some favourites from across the county.

Hetty’s Tea Shop

Named for café owner Emma Atkinson’s grandmother, Hetty’s can be found in a converted Grade II listed building at Froghall Wharf, alongside a quiet arm of the Caldon Canal and historic lime kilns. The peaceful location is the perfect base for a countryside walk, where you can return to the warm atmosphere and local specials like Homity Pie. Hetty’s serves breakfast, brunch and salads, alongside teas, Italian coffee and hot chocolates. And if the weather is particularly frightful, it is also a licensed venue.

Froghall Wharf, Foxt Road, Froghall, ST10 2HL
www.hettysteashop.co.uk

Lazy Days Tea Room

This quaint tea room is situated at the heart of the picturesque South Staffordshire village of Brewood. A perennial favourite of cyclists, not least because of its proximity to the Shropshire Union Canal, Lazy Days offers breakfast, lunchtime meals, teas, coffees and homemade cake along with a friendly welcome and relaxed atmosphere.

25 Stafford St, Brewood, Stafford, ST19 9DX

The Vintage Tea Emporium

Old-fashioned service and dainty presentation are on the menu at Uttoxeter’s Vintage Tea Emporium. There are almost 30 loose leaf teas to choose from, served up alongside delicious homemade cakes and scones which are all baked daily on-site. You can also enjoy a light breakfast or lunch in a charming vintage setting overlooking the market place.

38 Market Pl, Uttoxeter, ST14 8HP
www.vintageteaemporium.co.uk

Whitmore Tea Rooms

If you were asked to imagine a quintessential English tea room, it would probably look like this. In a restored 18th Century cottage in the shadow of Whitmore’s pretty parish church, this venue is stunning year-round. The breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea menus are available daily, with an ever-changing array of homemade cakes filling the countertop. If you’re really pushing the boat out, go for the Royal Afternoon Tea which includes a glass of sherry and a glass of Champagne.

Three Mile Lane, Whitmore, Newcastle-under-Lyme, ST5 5HR
www.whitmoretearooms.co.uk

Langan’s Tea Rooms

Set in the elegant Burton House in the centre of Burton-upon-Trent, Langan’s Tea Rooms serve freshly prepared breakfasts and lunches as well as traditional afternoon teas. You can indulge with a sense of purpose, too, as Langan’s is a social enterprise. All profits go towards education, training and employment for people who have been rehabilitated at Staffordshire’s BAC O’Connor centres.

Burton House, George St, Burton-upon-Trent, DE14 1DP
www.langanstearooms.co.uk

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