Take a first look at the menu of the brand new Hog Hotel and restaurant
- Credit: Archant
The Jones family has brought new life to what was The Fishers Hotel in Pakefield.
Dave, the cheeky hedgehog, has been the centre of a flurry of activity on social media recently.
The cute mammal, designed by Spring, is the face of the new Hog Hotel in Pakefield, which has just flung open its doors.
Ambitious directors Nathan and Sally Jones, alongside Nathan's sister Cathy, see the hotel as the first in a series of 10 properties along the eastern coast.
But for Nathan and Cathy, the idea to set roots in Pakefield to begin with is personal. Their parents had a fish and chip shop down on the beach. And while visiting their dad last year throughout his illness and eventually passing, they found themselves lured back, with a desire to quit the bright lights of London and 'give something back' to their family's home pasture.
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Nathan sold his interest in Harbour & Jones - a contract catering business with a multi-million pound turnover - and set sights on pursuing a new direction for his family, purchasing what was The Fishers Hotel and memorialising his dad Dave in the quirky branding that's part and parcel of the new venture.
No stone's gone unturned in the complete renovation and rejuvenation of the hotel, which has been carefully re-imagined into a 16-bedroom haven of soft swishing greys, gentle pastel yellows and soothing shoreline blues and greys by Shelf interior design of Eye, and with local tradespeople drafted in at every stage.
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But it's not 'too fancy'. The team want to ensure local people aren't alienated by the new hotel - especially the restaurant, which they want to be filled with residents from the area throughout the week.
The kitchen's headed by Matt Catteral, who's moved to Pakefield from London with his fiancé for a brand new start on the Suffolk coast.
In just a few weeks Matt has managed to build up a steady network of local suppliers to ensure The Hog Hotel makes a positive impact on the immediate economy.
"One of the things Sally and I really want to achieve," Nathan says, "is to help other businesses and our high street shops to flourish. We actually use our greengrocer in Southwold for a lot of our fruit and vegetables. He's not the cheapest, but it's all part of us trying to help protect local shop owners."
Sally adds: "We don't need to go any further for many of the things we need. It's been a really lovely learning curve for us coming from London. Everything's on our doorstep."
Matt beams with enthusiasm and is especially excited to welcome to his kitchen two young catering apprentices from the local college, who he'll impart real-life skills and knowledge to over three months, with hopes the brand can build its own in-house team as its hotel empire grows.
"And I've been so happy to meet new suppliers," he says. "I'm in awe of what I can get out here. The bread, for example, from Jonny down the road at The Penny Bun Bakehouse is unbeatable. The difference we've got compared to London is that we're almost farm to fork here. We're buying stuff directly from the farmers and local suppliers. It's really nice to be able to talk to people like Waveney Smokehouse. They've been here for 150 years and have phenomenal smoked fish."
Dining begins in the mornings with breakfast in the gleaming conservatory, overlooking a brand new enclosed garden, with the eatery is open for both residents and non-residents.
It's not just your bog-standard bacon sarnies or full English on offer either. Choices include halloumi and egg with butterbean hummus, sumac and sourdough, their own Hog beans on toast with English burrata, rocket and basil oil, wild mushrooms with polenta and salsa Verdi, rocket and poached egg, and a selection of pastries and breads with Matt's homemade preserves.
Actually, everything on the menu is made by Matt (apart from the local bread) including pasta.
There's a daily menu called Toasted, created to represent East Anglian ingredients at a keen price, and changing regularly, with the launch menu including a cheese plate, the Hog burger, carrot kibbeh with grilled flatbread, chilli hummus, tabbouleh salad and lemon tahini dressing, Hog beans on toasted Marmite bloomer with grilled Suffolk Gold, and a cured meat plate of chilli chorizo, Monks Green beer sticks, blood, red wine and chocolate salami, air-dried venison, Suffolk salami, sourdough, pickles and homemade relish.
Sunday lunch is a glorious celebration of local meats.
But the Taste menu is where Matt really gets to flex his culinary muscles.
Served from Thursday to Saturday evenings, Taste is the hotel's unique take on a 'themed menu' honing in on a particular place or region, with Matt and the team painstakingly researching and trialling recipes to ensure an authentic experience, matched with wines from that very same place.
To kick things off, June and July are dedicated to Venice - somewhere the Jones family hold close to their hearts.
The menu is priced at £45 per person for five courses.
In August diners can journey to the Greek islands, September sees the restaurant jet to Mexico City, October is Bordeaux, November Goa and December Argentina.
"My last line of work," says Nathan, "was contract food services. And those chefs, Matt included, are incredibly talented. They know how to cook different cuisines and we'd do theme days. I just thought, crazy as it might be, it would be a really cool idea to do that in a commercial environment. If it works well we will launch our Passport, and people can subscribe to that."
The Venetian menu begins with chiccetti (nibbles) such as salt cod brandade, and a naughty Harry's Bar toastie.
Next up is either Nonna's meatballs - a binding of beef, Parmesan, herbs and milk soaked fresh breadcrumbs, held in a rich tomato sauce, or gigantes beans.
Matt's homemade bigoli pasta vongole follows, drenched in garlic, chilli, parsley, lemon, white wine and olive oil (a vegetarian version is available).
Then choose from tender roasted hake with Venetian-style potatoes, the 'birdy chicken' of chicken breast and slowly braised thighs, or butternut squash tart with lentil stew.
To finish…classic tiramisu or a spiced Italian apple cake inspired by Lord Byron who was captivated by Italy on his tours of the country.
Nathan has worked with a trusted wine supplier to bring to The Hog Hotel many bottles unavailable anywhere else in East Anglia, hand-picked especially for the restaurant. "We've got some really delicious wines at sensible prices and you can have them all by the glass apart from our 'posh' reds and whites and sparkling wine. We will look at the Coravin system going forward so if people want to try a £90 bottle but it's out of their price range, they can maybe spend £15 on a glass instead."
Additionally Green Jack Brewery in Lowestoft is supplying the hotel with 750ml bottles for beer lovers, who can choose that over wine. And there will be a large range of gins to include local Tiny Tipples, Hedgepig.
"We can't wait to hear what people think of the hotel and restaurant," says Sally. "It's been a lot of work but we're so proud of what we've managed to achieve so far and we hope it becomes a real destination for the area."
Restaurant bookings are available now, with bookings for rooms opening this Friday, June 14.