The Bildeston Crown’s Chef Chris Lee writes in praise of East Anglian produce.
Have you noticed how what we eat and where we source our produce has never been more interesting? Column inches are not spared in debating the atrocities of mass produced poultry farms, Delia’s apparent support of tinned mince or the effect convenience food has had on obesity levels.
It’s great that knowing where our food comes from is such an issue but sometimes I can’t help feeling that we dwell too much on the negatives and pay scant attention to the positive. The fact is that this island nation produces fantastic food and I for one am pleased that we are finally getting round to shouting about it.
Oliver Rowe built a tv series around sourcing all the ingredients for his King’s Cross restaurant from within the M25. If I was given the same challenge to do the same, but with the geographic limtations of East Anglia, I think it would be considered a breeze.
We are particularly fortunate at The Bildeston Crown, and indeed The Lindsey Rose, the other pub within the group, in that the owner is not just a businessman but fundamentally a farmer. Although volumes required dictates that we are not totally self-sufficient (yet), our customers regularly enjoy locally reared, Suffolk rare breed, red poll beef; lamb from the farm in nearby Semer; Nedging Pork and even vegetables from the owners’ own gardens. The Game season offers up an abundance of locally shot pheasant but we do confess to going further afield for venison, albeit from the owners’ former Scottish Braeroy Estate. As for poultry we are more than happy to cross the border to Essex for Label Anglais chicken and at Christmas, Kelly Bronze turkeys.
Here in East Anglia, it is no hardship to boast that we are doing our bit for the planet by being “food miles” aware. The truth, however, is that it has been less a matter of understanding about carbon footprints and more about just loving my job of creating great dishes with produce grown or reared on my doorstep.
We are particularly fortunate at The Bildeston Crown, and indeed The Lindsey Rose, our sister pub, in that the owner is not just a businessman but fundamentally a farmer. Although volumes required dictates that we are not totally self-sufficient (yet), our customers regularly enjoy Suffolk Red Poll beef and lamb from the farm in nearby Semer. Pork is sourced from a specialist farmer in neighbouring village Nedging. When not supplied direct from the farmer, we use M&M butchers in Stowupland which specialises in locally produced meat.
Game has been supplied by locals, indeed even guests, after a good day’s shooting. A more regular supply whilst in season is Box Tree Farm in nearby Wattisham. As well as being an excellent source mallard, partridge, pheasant, Muntjac and even a Woodcock or two, the farm offers top quality Partridge shooting in September and October and then Pheasant and Partridge days from November to January.
For our fish we need to go slightly further afield, and use Marrfish who for 5 generations have been vessel owners. The Marr family have invested in many vessels and fishing rights, as such are proud of the unique opportunity to receive and supply exceptional quality fish, allowing us to offer a daily changing fish choice
Direct Seafoods is a well-established company which has been trading for over 25 years.They are extremely fortunate to have long standing family friends who own their very own fleet of fishing vessels, and have been fishing the UK waters for decades. These particular vessels are primarily day boats on the South Coast and catch a good variety of sought after species of the highest quality. This therefore secures the freshest fish on the market for our customers.The benefits of day boat fishing with such close links are that, the fish is landed at 3am, then hand picked for premium quality for Direct Seafoods, picked up by a member of the Direct Seafoods team by 11am, in their depot by 2pm, inspected by the depot manager for the utmost quality, and delivery to The Crown At Bildeston the following morning. Sustainability and backing the UK’s coastal fisherman is at the forefront of what Direct seafoods strive to do on a daily basis. They have always promoted fish from our native waters and in early 2011 they also started a Nation Wide Fish Campaign to back British Local Coastal Fishermen. This involves buying their whole catch to help reduce discards and promote other species. Which we at the Crown fully support and follow.
Eggs & Cheese:
The free range eggs come from the family-run Gate Farm in Flowton. Cheese is a little more challenging and although we always have Suffolk Gold and Suffolk Blue produced in nearby Needham Market, we source a wider range of British cheeses through a specialist supplier.
Fruit & Vegetables:
We use produce from the owners’ own gardens and are currently working with the gardeners at Nedging Hall to plan requirements for the coming year. Potatoes are mainly sourced from a farm at Nedging Tye and other locally sourced vegetables are ordered through Anglia Produce in Manningtree. We also use our own herb garden and forage for fresh local mushrooms