Everything you need to know about Ipswich's new vegan deli - Hank's
PUBLISHED: 18:30 05 July 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 09 July 2019
Our food and drink editor visits the newest dining option for vegans in Suffolk.
You know what I think when I imagine a deli? Thickly cut, salty slices of pastrami. Endless smelly cheeses. Piles of cakes. Coffee. Jars of delicacies I don't really need but have to have. A deli is a foodie experience. An assault on the senses. But if you're a veggie or vegan options tend to be….a bit, shall we say, limited. You can't, after all, eat hummus and salad forever.
That's why plant-based eaters of Ipswich and beyond can now rejoice in the opening of Hank's Deli, due to spring up shop this Wednesday (July 10) on Lloyds avenue.
Laughs Geoff Bligh, who owns the deli as well as Peninsula Vegan Foods with his partner Phil Rivers, they'll have a sign up on the door saying 'yes, everything's vegan'. And that's the whole point of this place, which has a brimming counter laden with loveliness, shelves, fridges and freezers rammed with vegan goods, and a petite, industrial-style seating area. It's somewhere those who've chosen and animal-free diet and lifestyle can comfortably set foot in, knowing all the legwork's been taken out for them. No more having to read labels, or constantly ask if something's meat-free, egg-free, dairy-free, or tested on animals.
At the North American style dining concept food can be ordered to eat in, outside or taken away. There's free water on tap (no horrid plastic bottles here). Cutlery and crockery is mismatched. And there's a general overall feeling of bonhomie.
Phil and Geoff's journey to the business began with their online food shop, which has become more successful than the couple could have imagined. "We never really ate ready meals before," says Geoff, "But when we went fully vegan we'd go shopping and look at them and try and find, say, a vegan lasagne, but it wasn't there. There was no really good, quick vegan food. I thought 'I can make a lovely lasagne at home. It might take me two days…but why not make 50 of them?'."
Hank's Deli will stock the duo's tasty, homemade style frozen dinners - ideal for grabbing on your way home for dinner - with an evolving array available to choose from, be it chilli, leek and potato casserole with butterbean mash, Sri Lankan curries or tagines.
When it comes to the deli counter, Geoff's eyes light up. A Canadian native, he's no stranger to a good deli and has sought to offer the dream deli experience to Hank's customers - albeit entirely plant-based.
"If you look at some of the new products here, we have things like big salamis, pastrami and chorizo, and we have meat slicers so we can slice those to order, maybe to take home for a pizza. These products are made using the same spices as the meat versions and the sausages are aged and left to dry like meat. We also buy in some great cheeses, including one from a British producer who makes camembert with blue cheese inside, and dulse cheese. We've got the standard Violife too, but the others are cashew-based with a vegan enzyme. I had a friend visit last weekend who's vegetarian but cheese was the only thing stopping him going vegan…he tried these and was so happy he's changed his mind!"
The menu, says Geoff, will change all the time, offering a few hot and cold options every day, from tofu-based homemade quiches, made savoury with a touch of nutritional yeast, to salads, pastrami on rye, burgers and more. One thing's for sure, vegans won't get bored eating at Hank's. "Our experience of being vegan and eating out," Geoff adds, "is that everywhere seems to have vegan options but when you go back again, it's still the same menu. And sure, it might be tasty, but you don't want to eat it again. Here, we want to keep things fresh."
On the sweet side there are London-made high protein, no carb, sugar-free desserts, a range of speciality cakes made for Hank's (from After Eight mint chocolate cakes to around 20 types of cupcake and muffin) and the pair's own homemade cakes and puds, from Biscoff cheesecake, to Victoria sponge. "And our brownies are incredibly, incredibly popular. It's hard to keep up with demand."
In the warm weather, pop-in for their gluten-free, sugar-free fruit and vegetable-based ice lollies, or a pot of award-winning Booja Booja ice cream.
And it's an ideal spot for a drink too, with the deli serving Coffeelink filter coffee (with Oatly Barista and a range of other milks), interesting teas, and soft drinks ranging from real cola to locally-made LA Brewery kombucha.
That's not to mention the shelves, stacked with everything from loose sweets, spices and dried goods, smoked organic tofu, sauces, soaps, household detergent refills….and even beard oil and dog paw skin soother!
"We're so excited to show it off now. Nervous, but excited."