7 Suffolk food and drink heroes
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
The last 18 months have been incredibly trying, there’s no doubt about that. The pandemic has caused uncertainty across a range of industries – and one sector which has been dealt an incredibly unlucky hand is hospitality.
Constantly changing rules and restrictions, financial trouble, forced closures, staffing and supply chain issues and more have all caused the hospitality sector to hang on by a thread.
But this month, it’s time to offer a helping hand.
Saturday, September 18, marks National Hospitality Day, a UK-wide initiative that urges customers to leave no business behind this autumn.
A combined project between charities Hospitality Action, The Drinks Trust, Springboard and Licensed Trade Charity, the day is a chance for foodies to show support for their local restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels by heading down and dining out.
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In addition, the day also gives restaurants the opportunity to shout about all that they do – creating buzz and excitement around the day, as well as encouraging customers to donate to these charities where they can, which have all been keeping our beloved food and drinks sector afloat during such an unprecedented time.
And here are just a handful of places across the county that are certainly worthy of your support.
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From keeping their kitchens open to ensure people could eat during the height of the pandemic, to making food deliveries, and offering free meals for schoolchildren – we look back at the amazing feats of some of Suffolk’s most incredible businesses.
So make sure you pick up the phone, make a reservation, and pop down to one (or more) of these fine establishments this month. They all deserve our patronage more than ever.
The Grill at Twenty5, Ipswich
Last year, following the government’s announcement that it wouldn’t provide free school meals for children during the holidays, one Ipswich restaurant bucked the trend and made sure no child went hungry.
The Grill at Twenty5, located on Ipswich’s St Nicholas Street, kindly offered free lunches to schoolchildren during the October half-term. Tina Leamon, who manages the restaurant alongside her son James, said she was “so disappointed” that the motion was defeated in a parliamentary vote.
“No child should go hungry. We protect children against all sorts of things - these children do not ask not to be fed. I’m quite appalled that the government would vote against it,” she said at the time.
“We would like to try and help those struggling that little bit more for whatever reason. We disagree with the vote on school meals and whilst we can’t help everyone, we hope this will help at least one person.”
A free meal and drink were available from the restaurant between 12pm and 2pm to schoolchildren of any age, and the accompanying parent or carer didn’t need to buy anything in order to redeem the meal.
The government has since u-turned on the vote, but The Grill at Twenty5 really stepped up when the local community really needed it, feeding hundreds of children at a crucial time.
Open Monday to Saturday, this restaurant prides itself on its home-style cooking made from locally-sourced, fresh ingredients. Dishes on its menu include a variety of steak cuts, salmon, burgers, squid, chicken wings, and more. It also boasts a number of desserts, alongside an extensive drinks menu.
To find out more, visit attwentyfive.co.uk
The Chestnut Horse, Great Finborough
Cast your mind back to the start of lockdown, and who could forget the scenes of supermarket shelves up and down the country. Bare, empty, and barren, it was definitely one of the lowest points of the ongoing pandemic.
While supply chain issues and panic buying led to people unable to find the bare necessities, pubs across the county worked hard to ensure we could still fill our cupboards.
One of these pubs was The Chestnut Horse. Situated in Great Finborough, this family-run pub transformed itself into a community shop, supplying local residents with a variety of goods and essentials that proved hard to come by last spring.
Pub partner Sharon Shipp said at the time: “We were very aware that many locals were unable to easily get hold of everyday items, as we don’t have a village shop.
“We started this initiative, and everyone has been so incredibly supportive, we’re so lucky to have the community that we have.”
The shop – which was open every day between 12 and 2pm – stocked a variety of fruit, vegetables, milk, eggs, bakery items, meat, and other essentials. It also sold homemade pastries and scotch eggs which proved particularly popular.
Parish councillor Simon Tarabella added: “Little did the village realise when Sharon took over the running of the Chestnut Horse just how much of an asset to village life her and her family would become.
“Not only have they integrated into the village way of life but have proactively helped to make people’s lives better especially in this current uncertain time. As a local village resident and member of the parish council I can’t thank her and her family enough for all the help and hard work they put into this village. Sharon, we salute you.”
To show your admiration and pay it back to The Chestnut Horse, why not book a table down there next Saturday?
The pub, which underwent a refurbishment back in May ahead of indoor dining restrictions lifting, is open Wednesday to Sunday. It serves a range of classic dishes including lasagne, burgers, steaks, chilli, pizza, and scampi and chips. To find out more, call 01449 674688.
The White Hart, Otley
Just outside of Ipswich is the village of Otley, and there you will find The White Hart pub.
Landlady, co-owner and chief cook Lynda Saint worked tirelessly with her team last spring preparing a variety of hot and frozen meals, which they then offered out for either collection or delivery, with the latter a priority for anyone shielding.
Speaking at the time, she said: “The delivery of frozen food is a service for Otley and villages within a two-mile radius, to help the community in these difficult times – it has been well-supported and much appreciated.
“By keeping things very local, I can keep going for longer and give something back to all those who have used their local pub regularly over the years. And that really is what is important.”
Lynda worked closely with a number of local suppliers, including Witnesham’s Richards Fruit & Vegetables Pepperell’s Meat in Harleston, and Earl Soham Brewery. This was to ensure Suffolk-grown produce was put to good use, and nothing went to waste.
With her pub reopen again following the easing of restrictions, The White Hart is ready to see new and familiar faces alike this autumn.
Its menu features a range of homecooked pub classics, with a focus on local produce to create dishes according to the seasons. And be sure to whet your whistle with some of the region's favourite locally-brewed drinks, including Adnams, Aspall’s, and Earl Soham. To find out more, visit thewhitehartotley.co.uk
The Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich
Last year really put a strain on our frontline services. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, and every healthcare professional in between really felt the pressure as we were plunged into the pandemic. But one Ipswich pub made sure its local heroes were fully fed during such trying times.
Located on the town’s waterfront, The Steamboat rolled out ‘Meals for Medics’, in which owner Andy Barlow and wife Susie cooked hundreds of free meals for NHS staff, care workers and emergency service workers. At the time, he said: “We delivered 82 meals in the last two weeks to the staff at the St Elizabeth Hospice.”
In addition, the pub also prepared a range of freshly-cooked meals for local residents available for collection, including sausage and mash, chicken madras, burgers, and vegan chickpea and butternut squash tagine.
“We’ve been using sausages kindly donated by our local supplier Proctor’s, chicken that has been donated from Nandos via The Teapot Project, and lots of donations from our amazing customers and the local community to make the meals for the key workers.”
With The Steamboat fully operational once again, there’s no better time than now to head down and show your support, after they afforded us the very same kindness.
Currently open Wednesday to Sunday, it serves a number of traditional pub favourites and snacks, ranging from nachos, chilli, homemade soup, sandwiches, paninis, twice-cooked chips, and burgers. Its secluded beer garden is the perfect place to catch the last of the summer sun and enjoy a pint of ale or glass of wine from its ever-changing drinks list. To find out more, visit thesteamboat.co.uk
The George, Cavendish
Looking after the elderly has always been a priority within our society, and one Suffolk eatery rallied together to provide a lifeline for its local ageing population when it needed it the most.
Throughout the lockdown, The George in Cavendish provided a meals on wheels service in order to ensure no one went without a freshly-cooked meal – and delivered around 60 per day over a weekend period during its peak.
“Cavendish is a village that has a lot of elderly people self-isolating who are in need of some variation to their lockdown. Getting a tasty, healthy ready meal delivered to their door is a real lifeline as some are unable to leave their homes. They also want to support us to ensure we can open our doors once this is all over,” explained director Bonnie Steel.
Bonnie, alongside business partner Lewis Bennet and her brother Richard ran a fortnightly menu, allowing the trio to keep the menu fresh and seasonal. Each meal was £10, and dishes included beef lasagne, slow roast pork belly, lamb cobbler, and chicken curry, with vegetarian alternatives on offer.
The George is now reopen for customers and its ever-changing, seasonal menu is not to be missed. Everything is homemade – even the bread. Its wine list has also been carefully-curated to include a great selection of quality wines that been handpicked by the staff themselves.
The George is open Wednesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, and on Sundays for lunch. To find out more, visit thecavendishgeorge.co.uk
The Woolpack, Ipswich
Home-cooked food is at the forefront of this Ipswich pub’s ethos, and it worked hard throughout the lockdown to make sure anyone who was isolating had access to a hearty, delicious meal.
The Woolpack pub offered a takeaway service before the lockdown was officially mandated – and had people from around the world placing orders for their vulnerable relatives.
Landlady Marita Rodwell explained at the time: “We decided to start offering the takeaway service before the closure order started, as we have lot of regulars who were self-isolating and not able to come out. I think it’s really important to still give people something to look forward to and smile about.
“We’ve had orders in from Australia for people’s parents that are still here. We’ve also had phone calls for orders from people also wanting a chat, as well as hungry and tired NHS workers.”
During lockdown, the pub offered free delivery to anyone that lived within a mile’s radius of it, and also offered spaced out collection slots for customers to order dishes such as nachos, Sunday roasts, curries, burgers, and casserole.
“It’s been very heart-warming, being able to help out how we know best – with good food and drink. And seeing people’s smiles have made this all worthwhile. I try and give a wave and a smile to everybody as I leave their delivery. We are very thankful we are able to help in this very small way and look forward to being open in the future, with the strong and supportive community at our doors,” Marita added.
As normality resumes, The Woolpack is currently open seven days a week, and alongside homemade meals, snacks and pizzas, proudly boasts a range of real ales, ciders and local craft beers. The perfect way to spend a balmy autumnal day. To find out more, visit woolpack-ipswich.co.uk
The Queen, Brandeston
Back at the start of the first lockdown, this village pub opened a shop within its premises, as well as organised a home delivery and food-box service for those unable to leave their homes.
The Queen in Brandeston wanted to make sure none of its local neighbours were without provisions during the quarantine, so worked closely with local suppliers to stock an array of fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, and other groceries.
Marks Waters of the pub explained: “I think in terms of opening the shop, it was really to adapt to the landscape and to also support the community in Brandeston. We’ve got a pretty local supply chain, and we’ve been working with local businesses such as Fen Farm Dairy, Havensfield Eggs, Fairfield Farm crisps and Adnams.”
The pub’s shop - which was open five days a week – was set up with the vulnerable in mind and only allowed two people in at a time for social distancing purposes.
For anyone who was at home, food boxes were available for delivery, with local resident Peter Thurlow adding at the time: “The pub bringing in those supplies and delivering them to people in their homes in the village is very important to us all.”
Its current menu is jam-packed with a number of delicious gastropub staples, including triple-cooked chips, burgers served in brioche buns, beer-battered haddock, and halloumi fries. The Queen is open Thursday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, and on Sundays for lunch. To find out more, visit thequeenatbrandeston.co.uk
Who is behind National Hospitality Day?
National Hospitality Day – taking place on Monday September 18 – is the brain child of four national charities: Hospitality Action, The Drinks Trust, Springboard and Licensed Trade Charity.
Hospitality Action was established in 1837, and offers vital support to all of those who have worked, or worked within, the UK’s hospitality sector. It supports staff who work in a variety of establishments including hotels, restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés, schools, hospitals or event venues.
The Drinks Trust has been providing care, support and assistance to the drinks industry workforce since 1886. It is run by drinks industry professionals, and provides individuals with services across vocational, wellbeing, financial and practical support.
Springboard is a charity which inspires young people into hospitality, leisure and tourism careers, providing them with the necessary knowledge, skills and advice through a variety of programmes in schools, colleges and universities.
And finally, the Licensed Trade Charity helps pubs, bars and breweries who need help, offering practical, emotional and financial support every year.
Any money donated during National Hospitality Day will be divided between the four charities, enabling them to continue the crucial support they offer the sector.