The Suffolk Food Hall Turns Ten
Ten years ago this May, cousins Oliver and Rob Paul opened the Suffolk Food Hall near Ipswich, to sell a range of local produce and delicacies from around Suffolk and beyond.
Leaving their London careers behind them to return to their family farm on the Shotley Peninsula, the cousins converted a redundant farm building into a light and airy food hall on the banks of the picturesque River Orwell. The business has grown bigger and bolder over the past decade, winning many awards and a loyal following in the process.
As the cousins and their team prepare to celebrate, we caught up with Oliver for a quick chat...
Your business is celebrated as the 'champion of champions' for local food - what are your overriding principles when it comes to choosing what to sell?
“Quality precedes all criteria, followed by local, i.e. we progress further afield until we find products of the standard our customers want. That said, because of our network with local farmers and hence a short supply chain, we are often best quality and best price”.
You have achieved so much in a relatively short space of time, what are you most proud of in your business?
“Without question; the team and hence our contribution to the local community on many levels: social, cultural, economic…”
What plans do you have for the next ten years?
“The first ten years have been about capital investment; now we're focused on investing in our human capital”.
What do you enjoy most about running your business in Suffolk?
“The work-life balance. Whilst it’s much more entwined and we trade 363 days a year, the business is orientated to family and friends; for us personally, for staff and most importantly, for our customers”.
Using products you can buy in the food hall, what would be your favourite meal?
“First cut of purple sprouting broccoli, with smoked Shipcord shavings. Although they’re very rich, slow roast beef ribs with a Hodmedod’s quinoa salad; bread and butter pudding made from left-over pastries.
And, my current favourite tipple is Adnams Dry Hopped Lager”.
Where would your favourite place be, to walk off such a feast?
“Stalls Valley Wood [link to pdf] in Wherstead on the Shotley Peninsula”.
Thank you Oliver and congratulations on your ten-year anniversary.
What else is at the Suffolk Food Hall?
In the huge food hall there is a dedicated butcher, baker, chocolatier, green grocer, wine and beer merchant, delicatessen, fishmonger, and a cafe.
There is also a garden centre on the site, a large home wares shop, a paint-your-own-pottery studio, a cookery school and a new restaurant with fabulous views of the river and Shotley Peninsula. A new attraction is the mysterious puzzle room, where visitors have to answer a series of questions in order to escape...
Nearby in Freston, are also three self-catering holiday cottages, all graded with four stars.
Many events take place throughout the year too. Apart from cookery workshops, there are regular quiz nights, a tractor fair, sheepdog trials and a charity clay shoot.
Special offers at the Suffolk Food Hall.
Celebrate with the team at the food hall during the first week in May and receive 10% off your bill on Monday to Friday in the Cookhouse restaurant.
There is also a fun give away on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, (5th, 6th and 7th of May) when visitors will be given a free slice of cake during a ten minute period at 10am and again at 4pm.