Staffordshires Food and Drink Scene.

Category: Staffordshire Suppliers

#cancelthecurfew

Dear Prime Minister, This is a letter from the hospitality industry with a stark message. Our industry is dying and the 10pm curfew may be the final nail in the…

Dear Prime Minister,

This is a letter from the hospitality industry with a stark message. Our industry is dying and the 10pm curfew may be the final nail in the coffin.

Up and down the country, our pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants, music venues, theatres, event spaces and all other businesses that fall under the hospitality industry’s umbrella are teetering on the edge. Some are suffering death by a thousand cuts, while others have been ignored and left to starve.

As an industry we directly employ around 10% of the working population and contribute £39billion in direct tax revenue. That doesn’t take into account the contribution from industries that rely on us, from brewers and distillers to farmers and wholesalers. If nothing changes then hundreds of thousands of people will lose their jobs, thousands of businesses will close their doors forever, billions of pounds of tax income will be lost, and the hospitality industry will never be the same again.
We have borne the brunt of the measures announced over the past fortnight. We are vilified as breeding grounds for the virus, yet Public Health England’s own figures show this is not true. In fact, the latest figures show that we have one of the lowest infection rates outside of the home.

We are doing our utmost to make our venues safe for our staff and customers, acting on each new set of guidelines as they are announced, regardless of the notice we are given. However, the measures announced over the past week are the end of the hospitality industry as we know it.

The 10pm curfew has been heralded as a measure that will help to drive down the infection rate across the country. This is patently not true when you look at the figures.

The figures for what it will cost the hospitality industry and the night-time economy are stark. It is estimated that it will cost £5.5million a day in Central London alone, and venues are reporting a 63% drop in revenue since the curfew was imposed. Thousands of venues rely on post 10pm trade, with many taking over 60% of their revenue in that time, some even more than that. These are not “non- viable businesses”, these are venues that have reopened safely since 4th July.

In fact, restaurants, pubs, bars, and everyone in between have spent thousands to become COVID- Secure. To open safely many have taken on debt despite the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over them. Prior to COVID-19 we were regularly checked by Environmental Health Officers and local authorities to ensure we were meeting rigorous standards. Since COVID, these standards have become more stringent, leading to a position where we are one of the most tightly controlled and regulated environments accessible to the general public.
A 10pm curfew drives the public from the safe environment of our venues and into areas with no regulations. From 10pm people flood the streets as seen over the weekend, overwhelming public transport and taxis, and begin to filter back to their living rooms and kitchens for “one more drink”.

We are not asking for unlimited handouts. We are asking to open our doors. To be allowed to do what we do best whilst keeping our staff and customers safe. We are asking for your permission to keep the hospitality industry alive.
Stop blaming hospitality, let us serve. #CANCELTHECURFEW

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Let them eat buns

After working for almost 20 years as a chef, executive chef and chef consultant, Curtis Stewart has taken on a whole new challenge in the form of Trentham Bakehouse. Originally…

After working for almost 20 years as a chef, executive chef and chef consultant, Curtis Stewart has taken on a whole new challenge in the form of Trentham Bakehouse.

Originally from Manchester, Curtis now lives in Stoke with his partner Jenna and two young children. When the previous baker at 8 Atherstone Road – Dave – retired last summer after 22 years running The Bread Basket, Curtis and Jenna stepped in to take it on. A lot of Dave’s regulars still come in for their daily bread, or a sandwich and a chat, which has helped smooth the transition. But as far as Curtis is concerned there’s still a way to go.

“We’ve rewired, we’ve taken out walls, we’ve got new flooring down and new tiles going up,” he tells Sauce. “It’s been hard because we’ve not been able to close. I’ve been working on it in the afternoons, evenings and at weekends. My day starts at 3:00, and I’ve been here until 22:00 or 23:00 most nights, which is a bit mad.”

Curtis would like to grow organically, recruiting more staff so that their production volumes and product range can increase. As of March, The Slamwich Club on Hanley’s Piccadilly were the bakery’s only trade customers, but that side of the business is set to expand too. Curtis also has plans to introduce a new sandwich menu, combining his freshly baked bread with a deli-style offering of local charcuterie and cheeses. The aim is to offer something customers can’t get from the supermarket, but he recognises it will take time.

The next step is to build seating around the front of house area – a place for people to sit and enjoy a coffee (from Staffordshire Coffee, of course) and a pain au chocolat. The process of making pains au chocolat, croissants and the buns Trentham Bakehouse is rapidly becoming Insta-famous for takes three days. Stage one starts on Tuesday, so they’re ready for the weekend. With a new pastry chef on board to assist, Curtis is hoping to offer what has only been available on a Saturday, every day of the week.

“Monday and Tuesday are normally our prep days,” he explains. “We won’t normally do a brown bake on a Monday, because we are just gearing up then. Tuesday we will add a brown bake. Then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday we do white tin loaves and bloomers, organic rye, wholemeal, toasted wheat flake and malt barley loaves.”

However, it’s the traditional twisted buns filled with anything from cinnamon sugar to Lotus Biscoff spread that are fast becoming their bestsellers.

“I’ve been to a lot of bakeries and I think there has to be something that draws you in,” Curtis says. “The bun is very versatile, but there are loads of other things that we want to introduce as well, like duck egg custard tarts and cruffins.”

Viennoiserie will be the focus – a category of patisserie which uses a yeasted (or leavened) dough. Croissants, danishes, kouign-amann and cruffins all fall into the viennoiserie category because they are yeasted and laminated. With new ideas in the pipeline all the time, it looks to be these droolworthy pastries that will set Trentham Bakehouse apart locally.

“People don’t think certain things would work here in Stoke, but I think there is a lot of opportunity for small businesses,” adds Curtis. “If you’ve got a good concept there is a good chance that it will work. Because the market isn’t saturated here, there are opportunities to do something that nobody else is doing. People are always willing to pay for things if they think they’re getting value for money.”

Do you think a bakery is seasonal in the way that other places are?

“When you work with flour and yeast it is very unpredictable. You’re working with something that is alive. You see how differently the dough reacts when the seasons change. In the summer time, your window for working with it is very small; in the winter your window is very large.”

In terms of flavours, the winter has been a time of malts and ryes, but when it comes to spring time Curtis will be looking towards wild garlic and Canadian sourdoughs as well as alternative different flours, wheats and seeds. From a pastry perspective, spring and summer will be all about the mille feuilles, pavlovas, meringues – anything that is fruit-based or fruit-filled.

“The beauty of doing this is that there’s no blueprint; you can do as you want, when you want. Consistency is the only thing I’m searching for. It is the key.”

Trentham Bakehouse
8 Atherstone Road, Trentham, ST4 8JY
facebook.com/Trenthambakehouse

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Flavours from around the world

Stoke-on-Trent based chefs Ant Snape and Jon Riviere have known each for seven years, since they met while working at Chester Racecourse. The friends are soon to open what was…

Stoke-on-Trent based chefs Ant Snape and Jon Riviere have known each for seven years, since they met while working at Chester Racecourse.

The friends are soon to open what was formerly Zest on Hanley’s Piccadilly as a casual dining bistro, but their first venture together was Trotting Potter Salts. The unusual name stems from the fact that Ant is originally from Bolton, where football club Bolton Wanderers are referred to locally as ‘the Trotters’, while Jon is a Stoke-on-Trent native.

Jon had been experimenting with flavoured and blended salts for a number of years before meeting Ant. When he mentioned it they found it was a shared hobby – Ant had made similar things to gift to family members.

Since starting Trotting Potter, they’ve found that chefs are sold on the benefits and are receiving great feedback from their customers, while the general public are yet to be fully convinced.

“I think it’s been hammered into us that salt is salt and it’s bad for you,” Ant speculates. “But like anything, it’s good for you in moderation. But as our generation has grown up, salt is what you put on your chips and that’s that.”

“I think it comes down to the food culture,” adds Jon. “For example, in the places where these salts are produced, they’re used locally. If you go to Cyprus everyone will be using the local Cypriot pyramid salt and embracing it, whereas over here the food culture is different.”

Now more of us are starting to enjoy cooking (and preserving) more seriously at home, we are learning and starting to appreciate salt’s uses and its role as a flavouring in its own right.

“We’re not claiming that our salts will make you healthy, but it’s all about making little changes,” says Jon. “If you can get a salt that is less refined, and has got a slightly different flavour, and you sprinkle it on your chicken after you’ve cooked it, you’re going to taste it more and use less.”

Ant and Jon’s extensive range of salts can be split into three categories: single origin salts, flavoured salts, and blended salts.

“Single origin salts, like the Himalayan salt, mined in Pakistan, come from one location,” explains Jon. “We’ve got some that are Hawaiian, one from Peru – that’s a single origin which can be traced back to a single source. The single origin salts each have slightly different colours, tastes and chemical make-ups.”

Black Lava is a Hawaiian sea salt, which is coated with activated charcoal – normally coconut charcoal – to give its characteristic colour. Jon recommends sprinkling it over butter and eating with bread to fully appreciate the flavours.

Red Alaea is also from Hawaii, from the same source as Black Lava, but this fine-grained version is mixed with a red clay that is local to the island, which means you’re getting different minerals as well as the stunning colour.

Persian Blue salt from Iran is speckled with beautiful blue crystals formed when it was compressed by surrounding rocks millions of years ago. Taste-wise, it is Trotting Potter’s least salty salt. Ant recommends it for drinks and cocktails: “If you’re having tequila, try this instead of harsh, bitter table salt.”

The relative saltiness of the various origins is down to their sodium content. The Persian Blue contains less sodium than, say, Atlantic sea salt from Portugal which is their saltiest tasting salt due to its high sodium content.

Inca Sun comes from Peru, near Machu Picchu, and is so named because it is reputedly still processed the same way it would have been by the ancient civilisation. A salt water stream that springs from the mountains is dammed into a series of pools where it dries it out in the sun and is later harvested.

Probably the most popular and widely recognised salt Jon and Ant stock is Himalayan salt. The majority of it is actually white, with deep red and pink veins giving the ground rock salt its recognisable pink hue, but it’s one both chefs keep in their cupboards for everyday use.

Jon and Ant also make their own flavoured salts, including a deep red Merlot salt, infused with red wine and then dehydrated. “It doesn’t really lose its colour, so I like putting it on bread rolls before baking, on roast potatoes or brushed onto the pastry of a beef Wellington,” says Jon.

A pure liquorice compound is used to make their distinctive liquorice flavoured salt, which is great for making salted caramels, sprinkled over popcorn, and with chocolate desserts. Other flavoured salts in the range include raspberry and snowy coconut, perfect with rum cocktails.

The third category, blended salts, feature more added ingredients and include Trotting Potter’s pastis salt, which recently received national recognition from the Guild of Fine Food in the form of a two star Great Taste Award. Following the award announcement, with judges describing it as ‘a masterful blend of spices’, they have had a wave of interest from farm shops and delis wishing to stock their products.

“Our pastis salt is a blend of fennel seed, star anise and citrus zest, among other things, and it’s one of the first salts we actually blended,” Jon tells Sauce. “It works especially well with white fish and shellfish. Because of the crystal size I use the Portuguese sea salt for gravadlax, but if you’re making a ceviche the pastis salt will go very well as the cure.”

trottingpottersalts.com

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Chef Matt Davies back in the kitchen

Wednesday night saw Chef Matt Davies return to the kitchen (those of you that don’t know his story pick you can find out all about it in the Spring issue)….

Wednesday night saw Chef Matt Davies return to the kitchen (those of you that don’t know his story pick you can find out all about it in the Spring issue).

The venue was The Boat Inn for a special charity dinner, in support of Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and Hospitality Action. With a menu featuring some of Chef Matt’s favourite dishes including fish ravioli and crab bisque, pork, apple and leek and texture of chocolate it didn’t disappoint to wow the guest.

Both the kitchen and front of house had familiar faces for Matt, with staff he has trained since they first entered the industry and now are talented chef’s in their own right.

The night which was a sell out was a resounding success, raising over a thousand pounds for each of the two chosen charities.

 

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Bradbury’s Farm Shop celebrates one year

One year after Bradbury’s Farm Shop opened, owners Peter and Lisa are inviting you to come along and join their anniversary celebrations. On Saturday 6 October 2018 at 10am the…

One year after Bradbury’s Farm Shop opened, owners Peter and Lisa are inviting you to come along and join their anniversary celebrations.

On Saturday 6 October 2018 at 10am the Bradbury family will be celebrating the first anniversary of the opening of their farm shop at Curborough Hall Farm Countryside Centre near Lichfield. To mark this special occasion, they will be joined by the Mayor and Mayoress of Lichfield as well as a number of the producers whose food they stock. And they’re inviting customers old and new to join the fun.

Having grown up on a Staffordshire County Council farm, Peter Bradbury has known farming all his life. When his parents Jean and Raymond retired back in 2000 he wanted to keep their family farming tradition alive.

In 2003 Peter and his wife Lisa secured a Staffordshire County Council dairy farm in Hamstall Ridware and started up from scratch, with the support of their two young sons. Over the years the family have progressed from a 40-acre starter farm to 105 acres in Hopwas, near Lichfield. As for many in their line of work, recent times have been hard.

“Consumers don’t realise how tough everything can be, from wet winters and summer droughts to high feed prices and the price pressures from retailers,” says Peter.

One Christmas around the kitchen table the Bradburys had a family meeting and decided that it was time to get out of dairy farming after over a decade in the business. Then along came the sheep. It wasn’t long before the few orphaned lambs that Lisa offered to take on had turned into a flock of a few hundred. Along with building up the farm’s herd of Hereford cattle they were soon on the right track.

“All our livestock are grown free range and at their own rate, naturally and slowly, the way we believe they should be,” says Lisa.

The initial plan was to sell through the livestock markets, but with increased public awareness around the provenance of meat, it soon became apparent they would be better delivering this aspect of the business themselves.

In May 2017 Lisa noticed an empty unit at Curborough Hall Farm Countryside Centre, just a few miles from the centre of Lichfield. The Centre is home to a garden centre, Mabel’s Tea Room and a range of independent businesses. The farm shop and butchery were the only missing element.

It took the whole family lots of hard work and determination over the summer months to get the unit looking its best for opening day on the 5 October 2017. Not knowing what to expect on their first day of trading, the family was overwhelmed by the support of the local community, who they are now inviting to celebrate with them.

“We are able to bring our own reared beef and lamb into the butchery at an affordable price for customers and at a fair price for us as farmers,” Peter says. “This is what we have always strived to do, to have the farm and shop work together in harmony and by doing this creating a sustainable family business for generations to come.”

Bradbury’s Farm Shop & Butchery
Curborough Hall Farm Countryside Centre, Watery Lane, Lichfield WS13 8ES
www.bradburysfarmshop.co.uk

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You can now Forage at Coppice

A peaceful lane just outside Middleton in the southeastern corner of Staffordshire is where you’ll find Forage at Coppice. Founded in 2012 by the Smith family, Coppice has grown to…

A peaceful lane just outside Middleton in the southeastern corner of Staffordshire is where you’ll find Forage at Coppice.

Founded in 2012 by the Smith family, Coppice has grown to become home to The Fig & Olive restaurant, a florist, a spa and a homeware shop. The newest addition to the Coppice offering is the Forage Food Hall.

While the doors to Forage opened for the first time on Wednesday 6 June, Sauce went along to join the team for their grand opening on Saturday 30 June.

Born from a passion for great food and drink – one which we very much share here at Sauce – Forage has been set up with the aim of assembling under one roof some of the finest fresh produce from across Britain.  

With plenty of fabulous suppliers in store, you will be able to taste some delicious produce and learn the perfect accompaniments to dishes. There were over 20 suppliers in attendance from both Coppice and Forage, offering samples of everything from artisan baked goods to free range meats, unusual cheeses and seasonal fruits. There was also a butchery demonstration in front of the in-store dry-ageing cabinet.

Visitors to Forage can take home fine food and drink from passionate local producers and enjoy freshly made goods from the Butchery, Bakery and Deli counters. As well as a vast array of wines, spirits and ales, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheeses and cut meats, there’s also beautiful patisserie from The Patisserie Box of Cheltenham, and freshly baked artisan bread from The Bread Collection at Knowle.

Representing Staffordshire in the food hall are producers including R W Leedham & Son at Syerscote Manor. Their flock of 200 Lleyn x Suffolk sheep are crossed with Charolais rams and fed a home-grown mix of oats, barley and beans before being put out to pasture to produce excellent lamb, available from Forage.

You’ll also find great quality meat from Packington Free Range at Barton-under-Needwood on the butchery counter. The Mercer family’s low density, environmentally conscious approach to farming and high welfare standards have earned their products a reputation for quality that extends well beyond Staffordshire’s borders.

Well worth a visit if you are a fan of fresh produce and fine dining, Forage at Coppice is open Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, Saturdays 9am to 5.30pm and Sundays from 10am to 4.30pm.

Forage at Coppice Garden Centre
Coppice Lane
Middleton, B78 2BU
www.facebook.com/pg/ForageatCoppice

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Cocktails to go

Operating out of Tamworth, this mobile cocktail bar is housed in a converted Rice horse trailer. Ben and Nicky are the husband and wife team behind Trailer Made Cocktails. They…

Operating out of Tamworth, this mobile cocktail bar is housed in a converted Rice horse trailer.

Ben and Nicky are the husband and wife team behind Trailer Made Cocktails. They created the trailer bar to enable them to take classic cocktails and carefully chosen small batch spirits on the road. The pair work in close concert with various craft distilleries and up-and-coming brands so that customers have the opportunity to sample exciting new drinks.

Matching the vintage look of the sage green and cream trailer with the theme of a contemporary speakeasy, the couple installed solid wood bar tops and feature wallpaper. The look and approach have established the mobile business as a popular choice for weddings and events across southern Staffordshire and beyond.

Trailer Made specialise in bespoke drinks packages for weddings. Despite their primary offering being based around cocktails, gin and rum, they are extremely flexible. A pr-selected range of wines, craft beers, ciders, mocktails and soft drinks can also be arranged if need be.

If you don’t have the excuse of a wedding to hire them, Nicky and Ben are more than happy to bring the fun to you with a personalised tasting event in the comfort of your home, holiday cottage or other location of your choosing.

Their Instagram feed is a great source of inspiration for cocktail recipes, but to try one of their creations first hand you could do worse than head to the next Lichfield Grub Club on the last Wednesday of the month.

www.trailermadecocktails.co.uk

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How do you get people to eat better quality British meat?

Master butcher Stephen Hill from the Award Winning Perry’s of Eccleshall has a few ideas. Current master butcher Stephen Hill has been with the business for three and a half…

Master butcher Stephen Hill from the Award Winning Perry’s of Eccleshall has a few ideas.

Current master butcher Stephen Hill has been with the business for three and a half decades, but Perry’s has been renowned in this picturesque east Staffordshire village for over 90 years. After starting out as WM Perry next to Eccleshall Livestock Market, founder Bill Perry set up the shop and abattoir as it now exists on Stafford Street.

As regional finalists in the butcher category in the Countryside Alliance Awards’ butcher category and winners of seven gold awards at the English Winter Fair for their traditional pork sausages, Perry’s are obviously doing something right.

All of the produce in the shop is locally sourced, the majority from within five miles of the premises.

The beef comes from Knightley Grange and Lawnhead, while a farm in Cranberry supplies the pigs.

While many Eccleshall natives are familiar with this hyper-local approach, Stephen says some customers are surprised to hear that all of the meat in the shop is slaughtered and butchered on-site, and aged for between 28 and 35 days, where appropriate. More and more people are asking about the provenance of their food, he adds.

And because of their commitment to traceability, Stephen can tell when more than one customer comments on the quality of meat from an individual beast. Their grass-fed beef – with its deep flavour and characteristic marbling – is particularly popular.

Stephen is the first to admit that traceable, local, properly matured products do have a price difference attached. But Perry’s meat is priced to sell, and often compares favourably with other butchers and even – on occasion – with the supermarkets. In any case, the team often prefers to let quality speak for itself.

“One lady was hosting a dinner party and had bought a joint from us,” Stephen relates. “Twice as many people were coming as expected and we were shut because it was Saturday afternoon, so she bought a similar size joint from the supermarket. She cooked them next to each other and said the supermarket one shrank to half the size!”

At Perry’s, there’s a traditional nose-to-tail approach to butchery. That means making full use of the whole animal and not wasting any bones, organs or other offal. When it comes to cattle, Stephen says around 95% of the animal can be used, including the bone marrow, which goes into their beef burgers. Ox cheeks and oxtail are also now back on the menu, 20 years after the BSE crisis.

This is partly why Stephen runs a number of butchery and knife skills courses out of the shop. Understanding how to neatly bone a chicken or joint half a lamb, for example, allows customers to minimise waste and make the most of the produce they buy.

“Two ladies who came on one of the courses said they got twice as much out of their chicken because they cooked it, had their meals, sliced the rest up and had sandwiches – and it was so easy.”

The market is tough and while many local butchers are closing their doors for the last time, Stephen and the team at Perry’s are striving to maintain a sustainable model – as well as taking on more than one of those butchers and their skills.

“It’s all about sustainability, traceability, and giving quality and assurance,” he explains. “The price is the price, which is difficult. Sometimes things move – spring lambs will be through the roof as per usual. At the end of the day, if you’re lambing through the winter you’ve got to feed and look after those lambs.”

Customer demand is very much led by TV chefs and personalities, according to Stephen, with lamb neck fillet enjoying a wave of popularity. Perry’s recommend diced shoulder, which brings the price down to around £12 per kilo from £25, making achieving the Masterchef effect much more affordable for the customer. Beef and turkey were in high demand over the Christmas period, along with some more unusual requests.

“We did quite a few five-bird and seven-bird roasts this year,” says Stephen. “They were whole birds in birds in birds, not parts.”

Shin of beef is one of Stephen’s favourites, but for him the most under-rated meat is goat. After selling eight goats over the course of 2017, it’s something he’s keen to push this year. For the most part, he is happy if he can get a customer to try something new.

“We had a lady look at the Gloucester Old Spot bacon, but she said it was too fatty so took some regular back bacon. I gave her a few slices of the Old Spot to try. A couple of weeks later her husband came in and said, ‘Have you got any of that bacon? It was gorgeous!’.”

Looking ahead

At least for now, the meat reduction movement does not seem to be having an effect on business. Although he personally wouldn’t consider becoming vegetarian or vegan, Stephen thinks altering your diet to have a meat-free day once a week and fish once a week makes a certain amount of sense.

“I’ve always said eating a 16 oz steak is too much. You need to eat about 6-8 oz of protein a day. We need to keep those smaller portions to keep our diet right.”

Looking to the future, is there a new generation of young butchers ready to take up the cleaver? With one apprentice’s training coming to an end, the business will be looking to take on another in June or July. Stephen has also been involved setting up a butchery Trailblazer apprenticeship programme. This work is key to the long-term sustainability not only of Perry’s of Eccleshall, but of the industry as a whole.

“We need these people to sustain meat; we need these people to move it forward. No, it’s not a nice job, but as long as it’s done professionally and humanely, we will sustain meat processes in this country at a high level.”

Perry’s of Eccleshall

Tel. 01785 850288
www.perrysofeccleshall.co.uk

 

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