The Suffolk pubs keeping the community together during isolation
We speak to some of the local pubs who are working hard to keep spirits high during this tough time – through the power of takeaway food
With Britain having been in a nationwide lockdown since Monday 23 March, everything non-essential has been made to close to the public for the foreseeable future. That includes the beloved local pub.
For many, the local is a reliable and welcoming hub within the community, and somewhere that people can gather to find solace. Come rain or shine, you can always rely on your faithful pub to offer you somewhere to escape it all and unwind with your nearest and dearest.
But with pubs closed to the public, that hasn’t stopped some establishments remaining a selfless pillar of the community.
Here, we speak to some of the Suffolk pubs who are staying open to not only offer local delivery and collection services, but to also help keep a sense of normality during these tough times.
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The Moon & Mushroom
Just north of Ipswich, you’ll find The Moon & Mushroom, a pub situated in Swilland. Owner Nikki Gavin told us: “We have been overwhelmed with support and gratitude that we are offering lovely food in these dreadful days.”
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She added: “It gives us an opportunity to speak with our customers over the phone and try to bring a bit of normality to their lives – some have been in isolation for weeks.”
“The takeaway gives them something to look forward to and we’ve had wonderful feedback. The Parish Council have been amazing in getting the word out and have supported us throughout,” Nikki said.
Some of the food on offer at The Moon & Mushroom includes fish & chips, a traditional Sunday roast, homemade chicken kiev and an 8 oz. gourmet beef burger. Takeaway ale, spirits and wine are available too.
The team running the takeaway service is bar manager-now-chef Mark Lawrence, and he is assisted by Sue Collins and Millie Eldon.
“This lovely community have supported me during the 16 years I have been here – and it’s my turn to return the favour. What we are providing during these dark days is restaurant quality food in your own home,” Nikki added.
The takeaway and delivery service is open 7 days a week (Monday – Thursday 5pm – 9pm; Friday – Saturday 3pm – 9pm and Sunday 12pm – 6pm) for those who live within a five-mile radius. For further information, please call 01473 785320 or visit their website. The full menu can be found on their Facebook.
The Blaxhall Ship
This traditional country village inn, situated in the heart of the Suffolk countryside in the titular village of Blaxhall, has rallied its staff together to ensure it can stay open to give its residents delicious and comforting pub grub.
The three remaining staff at The Blaxhall Ship’s helms are general managers Ken and Mags Anderson, alongside chef Dwayne Ballantyne Clarke, who are working together to provide a daily collection/delivery service of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. As well as this, they are producing a takeaway menu that can be either collected or delivered.
Meals available for takeaway include traditional pub favourites such as Sunday lunches, fish & chips, scampi & chips, burgers and pizzas. The Blaxhall Ship is also providing a takeaway beer service, in which customers can either provide their own containers or use plastic bottles from the pub.
General manager Mags Anderson said: “The situation we face now could never have been imagined –we had friends in the locale, so when the locked down happened, plans were quickly made and implemented.”
Ken Anderson added: “We wanted The Ship to continue to be an integral part of the local community. Thus, the takeaway menu, the fruit veg, and meat supplies were advertised by leaflet drop and through social media. Facebook, Anchor, Zoom and Spotify are all being utilised to keep in touch with The Ships’ regular customers. We also posted that if any distant friend or loved one had concerns about a vulnerable relative person in the area, we would pay a visit to ensure their well-being.
“We take pride in what we are doing and are all committed that Coronavirus will not end the 300-year-old history of the national asset that is The Ship at Blaxhall.”
The Blaxhall Ship is open seven days a week, 1pm-7.30pm for collection and takeaway orders, is available for those within a 10-mile radius. For further information, please call 01728 688316. The full menu can be found on their Facebook.
The White Hart
Otley’s The White Hart pub is another pub that is aiming to provide its local community a friendly and familiar face, by offering a collection and delivery service to anyone who may need it.
“We are open for collection of pre-ordered hot food, and takeaway cask beer, keg lager and cider, and bottles of wine,” said landlady, co-owner and chief cook Lynda Saint.
Customers are asked to place their orders before 2pm on the day in order to give them time to prepare and space the collections.
Lynda said: “Customers are also asked to be punctual as we space out the order, to ensure social distancing and restrict contact. A table across the front door ensures there is no actual access to the inside of the pub – luckily we have a large front terrace. Payment is either by BACS to our account or by contactless card on collection.”
To help customers feel a sense of time and order, the pub will try and theme their nights. “Friday is curry, and Saturday is pizza,” said Lynda. The pub is also offering a range of homemade frozen goods, which are available for collection or delivered to anyone who is quarantining, although with safety being a top priority, The White Hart is only offering delivery to those nearby.
Lynda said: “The delivery of frozen food is a service for Otley and villages within a two-mile radius, to help the community in these difficult times – it has been well-supported and much appreciated. I couldn’t take orders from anyone further afield, though. This is to ensure the food is eaten at the correct temperature and there aren’t too many orders, as that would swamp the remaining staff we have, and make collection times too close together.”
Suppliers who have been working with Lynda and The White Hart include Richards Fruit & Vegetables in Witnesham, Pepperell’s Meat in Harleston, Earl Soham Brewery in Debenham and Makro in Ipswich. “By keeping things very local, I can keep going for longer and give something back to all those who have used their local pub regularly over the years. And that really is what is important.”
The White Hart’s takeaway service is available from 5pm – 7pm, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday & Saturday on a pre-ordered basis only. For more information,visit their Facebook.
Cavendish’s The George pub is rallying together to help serve its local community by offering nearby residents a ‘heat at home’ delivery service -- something has been somewhat of a lifeline to the village’s elderly residents.
Bonnie Steel, director of The George, said: “It’s basically ready meals on wheels. We are running a fortnightly menu so we can keep the menu fresh and still change with the seasons.”
Bonnie runs The George alongside business partner Lewis Bennet. The two have spent the last ten years running the Cavendish pub, after having worked together at different restaurants previously. They are currently joined by her brother Richard, who was last month’s Waitrose magazine’s ‘Chef to watch’, who sadly had to close his restaurant in London two weeks ago due to Coronavirus.
“Myself, Lewis and Richard have come together to set up hearty take away meals to our local community,” explained Bonnie. “Cavendish is a village that has a lot of elderly people self-isolating who are in need of some variation to their lock down. Getting a tasty, healthy ready meal delivered to their door is a real lifeline as some are unable to leave their homes for 12 weeks. They also want to support us to ensure we can open our doors once this is all over.”
Some of the meals that have been available to order include beef lasagne, slow roast pork belly with braised red cabbage and creamed potatoes, lamb cobbler and chicken curry. Vegetarian alternatives have also been on offer. All meals are £10 each.
“We delivered 60 per day over Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” explained Bonnie. “We have had an overwhelming amount of support from our local customers.”
The George is taking orders from Wednesday to Friday from 9am – 2pm. All food must be pre-ordered, and all payments are to be taken by card over the phone. To get in touch, please call 01787 280248. Menus can be found on their Facebook.
The Woolpack in Ipswich is another pub that has come together to help see that its local community doesn’t go hungry – even going as far to receive orders from the other side of the world.
Landlady Marita Rodwell said: “We decided to start offering the takeaway service before the closure order started, as we have lot of regulars who were self-isolating and not able to come out. I think it’s really important to still give people something to look forward to and smile about.”
“We’ve had orders in from Australia for people’s parents that are still here,” Marita explained. “We’ve also had phone calls for orders from people also wanting a chat, as well as hungry and tired NHS workers. We’ve even had trays left outside with people ready for their fish pie at lunch.”
The Woolpack is offering free delivery to anyone that lives within a mile’s drive of the pub. They also have collection slots that are spaced out, in order to adhere with social distancing.
The Woolpack’s takeaways range includes nachos, Sunday roasts, curries, burgers, lamb casserole bread and butter pudding with custard.
“This is good home cooking that The Woolpack is well-known for, and delivered hot to the door. Surprisingly we also deliver cask beer for sale by the pint,” added Marita.
“It’s been very heartwarming, being able to help out how we know best – with good food and drink. And seeing people’s smiles have made this all worthwhile. I try and give a wave and a smile to everybody as I leave their delivery. We are very thankful we are able to help in this very small way and look forward to being open in the future, with the strong and supportive community at our doors,” Marita said.
The Woolpack is serving 12pm-2.30pm and 5pm-9pm Monday to Saturday, and 12pm-7pm on Sundays. To get in contact, ring 01473 215862. Menus can be found on their website.
Located on Ipswich’s Waterfront sits The Steamboat, a pub that has been working tirelessly to offer food to both local residents and those working on the frontline.
Owner Andy Barlow runs The Steamboat alongside his wife Susie, and said: “We’ve been working from the kitchen of our closed pub to offer a collection service of food and beer - one thing people miss with pubs being closed is real ale and pub grub.
“We also do ‘Meals for Medics’, in which we prepare hundreds of free meals for NHS staff, care workers and emergency service workers. We delivered 82 meals in the last two weeks to the staff at the St Elizabeth Hospice.”
Meals that have been available from The Steamboat’s menu include sausage & mash, chicken madras, various burgers, and vegan chickpea & butternut squash tagine.
“We’ve been using sausages kindly donated by our local supplier Proctor’s, chicken that has been donated from Nandos (via The Teapot Project) and lots of donations from our amazing customers and the local community to make the meals for the key workers.
“We’ve also been working with a local brewer, Matt from Shortt’s Farm Brewery, to provide mini kegs people can have at home,” added Andy.
Collection is available 5pm-7.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 5pm-7.30pm on Saturdays. Please call 01473 601902 to place your order and arrange a collection time. Updated menus and service times can be found on their Facebook.