Jamie Oliver: 'I love Ipswich'

CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver has confirmed rumours he is looking to set up a restaurant in Suffolk.

Russell Claydon

CELEBRITY chef Jamie Oliver has confirmed rumours he is looking to set up a new restaurant in Suffolk.

The Essex-born healthy food campaigner has said he is on the look out for a site to establish a top eatery in Ipswich.

Mr Oliver said he was interested in pitching up in the town because of the wealth of local produce on the doorstep.

Speaking to BBC Radio Suffolk he said: “I love a bit of Ipswich.

“My mate Jimmy is up in Jimmy's Farm just outside of Ipswich and I have always been supportive to him - he has done a great job.

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“I have just opened a neighbourhood restaurant in Bath and we have been looking at a few sites in Ipswich but have not found anything yet.

“But I would not rule it out - it has a great vibe, a good buzz and not a bad football team.”

The chef, whose Ministry of Food TV show based on his latest book is currently airing, added: “Suffolk is so rich. It is a wonderful county and I am an Essex boy so I am not biased.

“It is a beautiful place and it has some of the best produce in the whole country sitting there on the door-step.”

The 33-year-old and his family are no strangers to Suffolk, often visiting the county for short breaks.

Mr Oliver said: “When I go away for a quiet little British weekend I get myself up to Thorpeness, Aldeburgh and all around that lovely way and I can really switch off - it is nice.”

Jimmy Doherty, who shot to fame in the BBC Two documentary series, Jimmy's Farm, is a childhood friend of the celebrity chef and Mr Oliver has always supported his rare breeds pig farm at Wherstead, near Ipswich.

Mr Oliver's new group of “neighbourhood” restaurants, called Jamie's Italian, offer authentic, affordable and great quality Italian food at high street prices.

The first was launched in Oxford earlier in the summer followed by Bath and Kingston, with plans for restaurants opening in Brighton, Cambridge and Cardiff.

Last night Elizabeth Harsant, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said the celebrity chef would be a great asset to the town.

“It would be wonderful news,” she said. “I would like to take this opportunity to invite him to come and meet one or two of us and we can show him potential sites. He would be a welcome addition to the waterfront, St Nicholas Street or the town centre - there is so much potential there. He would raise the profile of Ipswich and be a great asset to the town.”

Ugur Vata, who owns the Galley Restaurant in St Nicholas Street, Ipswich, said he would welcome a restaurant from Mr Oliver.

“It can only be good news for the town,” he said. “Anything that puts Ipswich on the map is a good thing. Obviously it would be more competition but I wish him the best of luck.”

Mr Doherty was unavailable for comment last night.