£1m investment in local food retailing

A HISTORIC estate has launched a £1million shop and eatery where visitors will be able to sample home-grown produce, including game, venison, beer and vegetables.

A HISTORIC estate has launched a £1million shop and eatery where visitors will be able to sample home-grown produce, including game, venison, beer and vegetables.

Elveden Estate shop and café restaurant, which is set to open to the public on Saturday , will also feature food from local and regional suppliers.

The new enterprise will create 30 new jobs on the estate, which lies on the Suffolk/Norfolk border near Thetford, has been owned by the Earl of Iveagh's family since 1894. It includes the largest single block arable farm in lowland Britain, where large quantities of vegetables are grown.

The estate's former sawmill and carpentry shop have now been transformed into a courtyard development, with a restaurant menu featuring the vegetable crops including potatoes, onions, carrots and parsnips, grown on the estate.

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Livestock is also reared on the estate, including a small herd of South Devon cattle and the Countess of Iveagh's pedigree Berkshire pigs, which are reared free range on the estate's parkland. Christmas trees, which decorate town centres throughout the UK, are grown there.

“As a major farming operation we have had to recognise the changing world of agriculture and react to those changes,” said Lord Iveagh.

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“We have had to take a long, hard look at how we could maximise what we are producing both now and in the future. We have therefore looked for new avenues for our produce, and this latest development gives us an opportunity to present food direct to the customer both in the raw state and in home-made food for the café restaurant as well as for people to enjoy at home.

“We also felt it was important to go one step further and support the rich seam of local and seasonal food on offer in this region.”

The estate had spent around 18 months researching and testing produce and products, and is hoping that other local producers, especially niche producers, will be able to benefit from the larger shop window it can offer, he said.

The new retail premises features exposed wooden beams, a new solid oak wood floor and in the winter months there will be an open fire in the café restaurant.

Locally brewed ales from the Iceni Brewery, including an Elveden labelled ale and stout brewed on site is included in the selection of produce.

There will also be Elveden own-label products, such as Christmas puddings and mince pies on sale.

Robert Tate, project manager for the new enterprise, said sourcing of the products and produce had been a major part of the planning process.

“We had the target of finding a local producer or supplier of the ranges we needed from within the eastern region,” he said.

“We felt this was an important part of the business plan and would reflect the environmental objective of reducing food miles. Consumers do want quality produce, and we believe they will be impressed with the line-up we have for them at Elveden.”

Seasonal produce will be a key part of head chef Chris Allen's Elveden menus, and will include game from wild bird shoots on the estate, and venison from the four different breeds found there.

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