Gourmet cheese and food shop opens in Ipswich town centre
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
A pair of ‘massive foodies’ have just opened their dream shop in the heart of Suffolk’s county town.
Caroline and Ian Blaydon welcomed the first customers through the doors of Wildgoose Fine Foods at St Stephen’s Lane on December 5.
Formerly a fancy dress shop that’s been shut for some time, the 16th century coaching house is now crammed with tasty morsels from around the globe, with a huge focus on Caroline and Ian’s passion – cheese.
“Originally we looked at this building in November 2019 with a view to having a cheese and fine foods store,” says Caroline, “but what was really attractive was the upstairs room with a vaulted ceiling – ideal for cheese and wine tasting evenings. We wanted to open in April but seeing the way the wind was blowing with Covid, put the brakes on. Coming out of lockdown we both thought there was a real need for something artisanal like this in the town. Both of us have really missed Memorable Cheeses since it shut, and nothing has replaced that so we said ‘let’s do it’.
“Our main focus is on selling really great cheeses in the town. Buying from specialists like us is very very different to buying from supermarkets. For example, brie de meaux from a supermarket is usually treated, so it never actually gets to ripen properly. We wanted to bring a proper cheese experience here, as well as all the accompaniments you need, with a view to offering something different.”
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Wildgoose stocks around 30 to 35 cheeses currently, sourcing from independent wholesalers, and with deliveries every week, so there’ll always be something new to try.
“It will be quite seasonal too,” adds Caroline. “At the moment, for example, we have lots of blue cheese and the most beautiful Vacherin Mont D’Or. We have local favourites like Baron Bigod from Fen Farm Dairy, Norfolk White Lady, and Binham Blue, but so many more from around the UK and further afield. An unusual one is Cornish Kern which has won lots of awards, and we have Chevretta goats’ gouda from the Netherlands – that’s more tangy than cows’ gouda.”
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Caroline’s current favourites?
“Stinking Bishop. Don’t be put off by the name. It's named after a pear that’s made into a perry and used to wash the rind, giving it its pungent flavour and amusing name.
“Another is Berkswell, a hard sheeps’ cheese that’s quite similar in taste and texture to Italian mature Pecorino. And Rachel is flying out at the moment. It’s quite sweet for a brine-washed cheese but goes beautifully with a glass of dry white wine.”
Blue lovers will be spoilt for choice, being able to buy world class varieties from Cropwell Bishop Stilton, to Forme D’Ambert - one of the oldest blues from France, dating back to Roman times.
The shop is licensed and currently building up its stock of wines, spirits and beers ideal for sipping alongside your purchases. North Suffolk brewery Ampersand is out on the shelves (the creamy chocolate stout Cocow is a worthy stocking filler) alongside liqueurs from DJ Wines in Earl Soham, such as the complex dessert wine Bigod 1101.
There’s a whole Christmas section with luxury mince pies, puddings, goose fat, stuffings, gravies and sauces. And hampers are already flying out of the shop.
Elsewhere on the shelves there’s a veritable feast of yummy things to line your cupboards – many of which you won’t find in Suffolk outside of Wildgoose.
“We’ve got stunning preserves from Belberry – that's a high-end maker from Belgium,” says Caroline. “They make fantastic preserves for cheeses including apricot and cumin and rhubarb and muscat. And we have Briscoe’s jellies in flavours such as ginger or cinnamon, which you wouldn’t think work with cheese...but they do.”
Other notable finds include Cocoba chocolates (as found in London’s Harvey Nics), gourmet marmalades in flavours such as Seville orange and lavender, cardamom bun-scented coffee, gingerbread, green cucumber vinegar, fudges, Italian biscuits, premium crackers, and even goats’ cheese and black peppercorn popcorn.
“I really like our products from Don Gastonom in Spain as well,” says Caroline, rattling off a list that includes pheasant and truffle pate, and traditional bravas sauce.
So far the response has been “amazing” and Caroline is keen to point out the shop is a permanent fixture in the town – not a pop-up as some customers have enquired.
“This is our launchpad. In the future we want to do business cheeseboards for lunches, party cheeseboards, cheese and wine tastings and to branch out into catering . My husband has been smoking fish on a small scale so we’d like to incorporate some of those things, like rum-cured salmon and smoked trout.
“I love being surrounded by all this food because it is my absolute passion but really it’s just the start for us.”
Wildgoose Fine Foods is open from 9.30am Monday to Friday and from 10am Saturday.