Delis with a difference: we speak to 3 of Suffolk's best
PUBLISHED: 16:40 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 16:43 21 September 2017
Suffolk's delis have one thing in common - they offer the fabulous local brands and products that make the county one of the best in the UK. But each deli is a delightfully different foodie experience. Charlotte Smith-Jarvis found out more.
Black Dog Deli, Walberswick
Most people leaving the rat race of London, for a slice of country life in Suffolk, relish the idea of a more stress ¬free pace of living. But chef Andrew Storer, who returned to the county four years ago, after 20 years working in the city, says he’s more rushed off his feet than ever since taking on the Black Dog Deli in Walberswick in 2015.
“Working for the Roux brothers was a doddle compared to this,” he laughs. His foodie venture earned him a place as a finalist in the Best Newcomer category of the EADT Suffolk Food and Drink Awards this year.
Andrew’s passion for cooking and making everything from scratch has led to the chef obsessively chopping, stirring, rolling and baking a huge amount of products for the deli. There’s hardly time for him to stop for coffee during his working day, which typically starts at 6.30am and ends around 10pm. It was his obsessive nature and need to sell only the very best that impressed the judges.
Andrew doesn’t just make quiches, sausage rolls, salads and cakes. He’s also churning out fresh homemade pasta in the autumn and winter months. And such is his reputation for frozen home cooked ready meals that he’s thinking about getting a production kitchen and finding someone else to manage the deli, while he rustles up all manner of epicurean delights to supply his own business and other delis and shops.
“My plan was always to open a deli and do something like I do now,” he says. “I try to use my chef skills to make all I can. My kitchen is tiny, and I think what we can do in that tiny kitchen is amazing. I try to keep it different all the time.”
At the moment he’s busy packing up picnic boxes for day-trippers to Walberswick, filled with hot chorizo salad, dressed crab salad, or maybe one of his much-¬loved sausage rolls with salad. His oven is working overtime baking brownies, flapjacks and dainty fancies studded with local raspberries for the hundreds of people flocking to the coast at the weekends.
As cooler weather sets in, and he reduces the shop hours to Wednesday to Sunday, Andrew’s trusty pasta machine will come out. It’s well worth making a trip to the shop just for a box of his delicious pasta. He can make around 400 pieces – from langoustine ravioli to wild mushroom and truffle casoncelli – at a time, and they sell out in a flash.
“Pasta’s a big thing for me here. I love making it. With my wife being Italian I spent six months there and did a stage (internship) trying to learn how to make pasta. It’s hard work in this little kitchen!
“I’m very proud of what I can do here. I became a chef because I love food – I’ve been cooking since I was 13 years old. And the feedback is incredible, people really do like us and often say to me, ‘You’re the person who makes this place, and that’s something because the food’s amazing’.”
Lawson’s Deli, Aldeburgh
Former accountants Clare Jackson and her dad John Ormerod had grand plans when they took on Lawson’s Deli in Aldeburgh this January.
High on the agenda was transforming the much ¬loved shop into a mecca for cheese aficionados. But neither anticipated that, less than a year into their venture, they’d be opening a second shop in Southwold. This autumn, not only does the new sister deli open, but both shops will undergo a total rebranding, including a new name, yet to be revealed.
All things fromage are at the centre of their foodie store, says Clare. “Both of us are really into our cheeses. That’s what we’re focusing on here, really trying to invigorate the cheese counter. We’ve taken great strides in that direction and will continue in Southwold.”
Clare and John have been working with London’s Neal’s Yard Dairy, learning about all things cheese – including how to display great hunks of it in a more inviting and accessible way.
“We’re focusing our range on some really key pieces of cheese,” adds Clare. “Our new big initiative is we have had a cheese of the month every month since we’ve started. One of my favourites was Doorstone. It’s a very mild goats’ cheese. A lot of people came in saying ‘I don’t like goats’ cheese’, but they tried it and went away with it!”
Also sampled in the shop recently was Le Gruyere, with both a Reserve (matured for six to nine months) and a summer cheese laid out side by side so customers could taste the marked difference between the two. While the Reserve is nutty with a bite, the summer version is sweeter, made with milk from cows sent out to summer pasture.
Alongside changing guest cheeses is a ‘who’s who’ of big name artisanal and award¬-winning varieties, such as mouth-¬tingling Lincolnshire Poacher and Montgomery cheddar, blue-¬veined, spicy Colston Bassett stilton, and melting, mushroomy Baron Bigod from Fen Farm Dairy near Bungay. Tastings are encouraged. Both both Clare and John want to pass on their passion for great cheese to all their customers.
Elsewhere in the shop are the perfect companions for a cheese-¬based night of indulgence.
“We’ve got crackers, chutneys from several different ranges, and we’re jarring up our own in-¬house relish and chutney. One’s beetroot-¬based, then there’s a thick chutney which is really nice, with fig seeds through it. We’ve got local honey from Hill Farm, and beautiful honey from The Art of Honey. Eric sources that in Hungary. They produce these honeycombs in bamboo and they’re absolutely fabulous.” To garnish the cheeseboard there’s a new pick and mix nut bar, and fresh figs.
The new Southwold version of the deli is near the Adnams Cellar and Kitchen in the town, in what used to be a run¬down antiques shop. Again, it will be cheese focused, says Clare, with the full deli range, but the way the cheese is displayed will be different, not behind a glass screen, and customers will ‘interact’ with it differently. “The cheese is going to be a lot more prominent,” says Clare. “We want to curate our cheese really beautifully.”
Earsham Street Deli, Bungay
Michelle Steele has just had her first week off in 10 years. Yes, that’s right. The ambitious businesswoman doesn’t really mind though. Her shop, Earsham Street Deli, is, she says, her baby. She adores spending time there, sourcing the best ingredients and products, and meeting customers as they walk through the door.
As a consequence of her love of all things food, the deli is an emporium, set out almost like an apothecary, wall displays packed to the rafters, counters and shelves bedecked with jars of nuts, sweets, herbs, spices and coffee beans, all ready to be measured out to order.
It’s an epicurean’s dream. How many folk pop in for a sandwich, and end up leaving with a brown cardboard box of locally made cakes – honey and bergamot, gilded chocolate brownies and lemon drizzle – a chutney or two, and a bag of Suffolk roasted coffee, perhaps The Firestation’s?
Judges in this year’s EADT Suffolk Food and Drink Awards were so impressed by the offering and service at Earsham Street Deli, they crowned it Best Independent Food and Drink Retailer, the second time the store has won in the awards.
Michelle was just 22 when she opened the deli, initially operating out of a smaller shop up the road for over seven years, then relocating nearly three years ago to the bigger shop she now occupies. Bread and butter for the deli (literally) is its range of sandwiches and baguettes, freshly made to order in combinations such as smoked salmon, rocket and horseradish crème fraiche, and Parma ham, brie and sunblush tomatoes.
There’s coffee to take out, roasted by Butterworth’s in Bury St Edmunds. The shop brims with a mixture of local, UK and high quality European food and drink, and Michelle says she loves being in Bungay, where she has ready access to products from both Norfolk and Suffolk.
“We’re so lucky here. We’ve got Marsh Pig – their charcuterie is great. Fen Farm and St Jude’s are fantastic. We’re thoroughly spoiled, and the thing is, there are so many producers and I love everything. Everything that’s on the shelf is tried and tested, and here because it’s earned its space.
“We say we’re an emporium from Suffolk, Norfolk and beyond. I wouldn’t discount a great product because it’s not from Suffolk or Norfolk. You have to support the local producers, but at the same time there could be an independent producer somewhere else making something fantastic.”
Newcomers to Earsham Street are Nuoi Butters, made by sisters Lauren and Sophie in Diss, and medlar jelly and medlar cheese from Eastgate Larder.
Elsewhere you’ll find Stokes sauces, Choose Spice curry pastes, chocolate from Gnaw and Pump Street, delicate teas made in Cambridgeshire, giant tins of olive oil, fruit nectars from Germany.
In the deli counter are at least 10 or 12 East Anglian cheeses, Suffolk Salami sliced to order, rare breed sausage rolls, Brays Cottage pork pies, and quirky bits and pieces such as acacia honey with white truffle, and moscato grape nectar. It’s impossible not to feel hungry walking about the shop.
Michelle hopes the deli’s award win will attract more people to visit Bungay. The town is picturesque, she says, without the price tag of some more popular and publicised destinations.
“Along here we’re all independent. We’ve got a greengrocer’s, a whole food shop, a fishmonger’s. We’re really lucky and we all work really well together. There’s a real community and everyone tries to work together as a whole.”