Every product has a story behind it. In the case of the food and drink industry, those stories are often fascinating tales of passionate producers who just love what they do.
Here in Merseyside there are countless brilliant producers hard at work making and growing the food and drink we love. In every edition we aim to champion those local producers. By buying directly from them, not only will you have a delicious product to eat or drink, you will also be supporting the local economy and the environment too.
Here are our first three…
Gorge’Us Tea Rooms
Ceri Newton owns Gorge’Us Tea Rooms in Spital, as well as making and baking award-winning cakes for cafes and coffee shops across the region.
Like many producers, her career has come out of a life-long passion, and began after a dramatic life incident.
“I had always wanted a tea room,” she explains. “Then in 2005 I was involved in an armed robbery in a bank. I was grabbed and held by the robbers. The experience left me with PTSD and deafness and tinnitus in my left ear.
“After this I decided that if you have a dream you must do all you can to achieve it, as you never know what’s going to happen. I saw an empty shop and went for it. My first shop opened on December 17, 2007.”
Ceri and her team make the kind of cakes most of us can only dream of. On the counter they have cloud-soft Victoria sponges, so light they melt in the mouth, alongside dreamy lemon drizzles, indulgent chocolate brownies and quite possibly the best scones in the world.
“Our cakes change daily, I am fortunate enough to be able to bake whatever I want, so I can try new recipes, or something I have a personal hankering for,” explains Ceri.
“Our general menu stays the same really and cakes change on my whims, but we always try to be seasonal.”
A few years ago, Ceri unexectedly found out she was wheat intolerant, so she has developed a great range of free-from products.
“We specialise in Gluten free cakes,” she says. “As a wheat intolerant person, I was determined to make good quality cake using gluten free flours. People’s feedback tells us we have succeeded.”
Ceri’s beautiful vintage shop is her pride and joy.
“After my three fantastic children, I am most proud of my shop,” she says. “I love it when we are full of happy people enjoying their friends’ company over my cakes and having a fabulous time. I am incredibly proud that I created the space for them to do that.”
If we can’t get to the shop, where can we try Gorge’Us cakes?
“We supply a few other coffee shops in Liverpool and Wirral, Cheese and Company, 92° Coffee, Café Tabac, Cuppacoffee Liverpool, Maggie Mays community Café, Davenport’s Tearoom Northwich, Church Farm and Claremont Farm. We are pretty busy really!”
The Pimbleys have been working Claremont Farm for four generations, growing produce for restaurants across the region, as well as supplying it to the public in their own farm shop.
Andrew Pimbley explains: “People mainly know us for our asparagus and strawberries, as in season we can be found on menus and on shelves of restaurants and fine food outlets across the region, but we also grow a whole heap of other veg too like, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, four different types of cabbage, sprouts, pumpkins, potatoes and rhubarb – yes – rhubarb is a vegetable!
“We are also the last Pick Your Own Fruit Farm in Merseyside, so for six weeks of the year we open up the fields and let the public in to pick all our amazing fruit – four varieties of strawberries, raspberries, tayberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, green, red and golden gooseberries.”
As well as their own harvests, the Pimbleys also champion other local producers in their farm shop and cafe.
“We source all our other fruit and veg in the shop as locally and as seasonally as possible,” says Andrew. “Our favourite grower though has to be Mr Jones, the famous shorts with welly boot wearer from Hooton, who grows the fabulous Wirral Watercress and rocket – the only indoor watercress grower in the country.
“We also have the delicious Raby Free Range Woodland Eggs, just around the corner from us and you can definitely taste the difference. These are not only sold in the farm shop but are the only eggs we will use in the café.”
The popular café has grown this year and the new space is now open to the public.
“The new farm shop and café turned three in July this year and it was in July we finally finished the upstairs space,” says Andrew. “We want to run social groups in the mornings and then our take on afternoon tea and group bookings from 12-6pm.
“In the evenings we have a whole host of events planned from our own supper clubs to dine and demo nights, other restaurant take overs, film nights and we have a very special something up our sleeves to do with the music that we will be launching soon – basically anything to do with promoting good food, drink, music and culture, offering our local community something a little different.”
Andrew and his brother Guy are the fourth generation of the same family on the farm.
“The farm has been going since 1906, we are tenant farmers and have a 100 year or four generation lease,” he says. “Me and my brother are the last for it to automatically get passed down to, who knows what will happen after that?
“I have always worked on and off the farm since I was a kid, bunking off school to go help out with the potato harvest or just ride on the tractors. Every summer I would work seven days a week on the farm, I loved it!
“At 18 I went off and worked around the world on different farms, went to agricultural college and then after three years cattle ranching in Venezuela decided to come back and make a go of the farm – 13 years on I’m still here.”
If we can’t get to the farm to but Claremont produce, where can we get it?
“In town, the likes of Delifonseca, Matta’s, Liverpool Cheese Shop and Adam’s Apple stock our produce, further a field Eden’s in Chester, The Hollies Farm Shop and the Cheshire Smokehouse do too plus I deliver to about 20 restaurants in Liverpool and it’s distributed through Oliver Kay produce all over the region, so you can usually find it somewhere.
“Oh and don’t miss the whole baked cauliflower at Maray in Bold street, it’s to die for!”
The Chocolate Cellar
Bala Croman owns The Chocolate Cellar, and makes artisan chocolates for sale online, at farmers’ markets and through selected retailers.
It all began after she read the book Chocolat.
“I read the book and then saw the film and absolutely fell in love with the idea of chocolate making,” she says. “Truly inspired and obsessed, I found a company on the internet called Ecole Chocolat where I learnt about the history, the science and the magic of chocolate.
“Following on from friends’ requests I went along to Wirral Farmers’ Market and started selling my wares there.”
Rather than just selling chocolate, she provides a variety of services for serious chocoholics.
“We provide a chocolate service,” she explains. “Our favourite pastime is to experiment with flavours. These are best brought out with our unique truffles and bars – Our Rose and Chilli Chocolate bar has been very popular and is one of our award winning range.
“We have been asked to have a stall at Ness Gardens for Garden Party for the 70th anniversary of Gardeners’ Question Time. As a result we are currently working on a floral collection using edible flowers from Mrs B’s Edible Flowers, St Helen’s. My current favourite chocolate is our Black Sesame Truffle made with black sesame seed and milk chocolate.”
Bala has come a long way since reading that book.
“I am proud that I have managed to make my little dream come true,” she says. “I have been told that I have inspired others to also think differently and take different career paths – that makes me feel very humbled, worried, proud, delighted and I wish them lots and lots of success.
“I am honoured to have been awarded a number of awards – the latest being the Small Awards best multi-channel business. I am also delighted to be appointed a small business champion by the Small Business Saturday team and am really looking forward to 2nd December.”
Where can we buy products from The Chocolate Cellar?