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First look: Hank's Vegan Pub opens in Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 12:00 17 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:46 19 January 2020

Geoff Bligh and Phil River of Hank's Pub and Food in Ipswich which will cater for the growing vegan community. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Geoff Bligh and Phil River of Hank's Pub and Food in Ipswich which will cater for the growing vegan community. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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Wings, steaks, loaded nachos, craft ales and cocktails on the menu at Suffolk's first fully vegan pub.

Hanks Pub and Food on St. Helen's Street in Ipswich. Picture: Neil DidsburyHanks Pub and Food on St. Helen's Street in Ipswich. Picture: Neil Didsbury

When they opened Hank's Deli on Lloyds Avenue in Ipswich last summer, owners of the vegan shop and eatery, Geoff Bligh and Phil Rivers, had no idea it would become one of the town's runaway successes, with queues down the street.

This week, now with a staff of 20, the couple have flung open the doors to their very own inn, Hank's Vegan Pub, found within the former Grinning Rat premises on St Helen's Street in the town.

Open for drinks from 3pm on Friday, January 17, and for food from Sunday (it's already fully booked), the cosy, refurbished watering hole has the vibe of a proper country pub - the only difference being every single drink and dish on sale is completely plant-based.

"We've done everything here from the ground up," says Geoff. "We've got brand new commercial kitchens, all new beer cellars and lines. This is a grade two listed building and that character fits in with what we wanted to do. Everyone, including the council has just been so helpful and super excited - they want independent businesses and something that isn't exactly the same as everywhere else. It's been wonderful and the reception has been fantastic."

Seitan steak with skin-on fries, jus and peppercorn sauce  Picture: Nicola WarrenSeitan steak with skin-on fries, jus and peppercorn sauce Picture: Nicola Warren

The menu (which has beer, wine and cocktail matching notes alongside each dish) brings ingredients to the town many diners likely won't have tried before, from hand-made meat substitute seitan (pronounced sy-tan), to calamari made with rings of heart of palm, and 'fish and chips' crafted from banana blossom and sheets of nori, which surprisingly really does mimic the taste and texture of the 'real' thing.

"We've been really conscious of our menu and looking at price points and making it traditional, accessible and affordable. You can come here and have a good night out and not have to spend a huge amount of money. My favourite dish is definitely the fish and chips. It's pretty impressive, oh my gosh. They've done a lot of work on that dish. Equally, the steak is just as incredible."

Dishes to sample include Hank's wings, coated in barbecue, hot or buffalo sauce with blue cheese dressing and carrot and celery batons, aged cheese tasting boards, seitan steak with soy and agave glaze, skin-on chips jus and peppercorn sauce, Hank's burger, gnocchi with squash and farrow bolognese, and nut crusted chocolate torte.

There's a menu for children. And big Sunday roasts with all the trimmings beckon at the weekend.

Calamari rings made with heart of palm  Picture: Charlotte Smith-JarvisCalamari rings made with heart of palm Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

At the bar Phil and Geoff have chosen some very interesting craft beers and vegan wines, supplemented by quirky cocktails and mocktails (one with CBD oils) and soft drinks including lemon and yuzu fizz, and Suffolk's own LA Brewery kombucha.

"We really wanted to go local at the bar where possible and Briarbank in Ipswich has some great vegan beers. It's perfect, they just roll the barrels down the street to here! It really is amazing. A few years ago you'd struggle to put this many taps on with vegan beer, but there are so many to choose from now. My personal favourite is the Earth Ale Spicy Weiss. We went to London and met the chap that started the micro brewery. His beers are wow. They forage the ingredients and make them in small batches and the Spicy Weiss has a tree bark infusion. Their beers aren't run-of-the-mill commercial pints. It's more of an experience with your meal."

Hank's Vegan Pub is open from midday to 9pm for food from Tuesday to Sunday and until 11pm for drinks.

"We've been working away really hard at this," adds Geoff. "And to now see people sat in the pub is fantastic. It puts all the hours into perspective. We've been over the moon to be able to do this."

Chocolate and nut torte  Picture: Charlotte Smith-JarvisChocolate and nut torte Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis



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