Monday, 2 December 2013

Shropshire aka the New Cotswolds, Gets Down on it (unedited) - South Shropshire Journal 29/11/13

In the last couple of weeks or so my colleagues on our sister paper at the Shropshire Star have tapped into something that’s really going on in Shropshire. Glowing reviews of places that don’t put origami napkins in Paris goblets; that don’t stack chips jenga-style; that don’t give you a carvery where your husband went back for thirds and ‘plumped’ for a pint of Carling.

Guys, we’re getting funky! We’re totes doing dude food, we’re not taking reservations (a fad I find particularly galling); we’re actually going to some places where people who like eating like to go and eat.

Eat Up in Shrewsbury and Cicchetti in Ludlow have both been well met, and this columnist breathes a sigh of relief. It’s so tremendously fun as a small-town journo to write up top end restaurants where you get an inter-course freebie or to slam those who really could do without your interferences anyway. In Shropshire, there really is a thing going on.

Trends spread, and traditionally they hit this bit of the world a long time after it’s caught on everywhere else. We’re both blessed and plagued by geography. However, London is coming to the country, and I predict that within the next five to ten years we’ll be brinking on being the New Cotswolds.

It’s jolly easy to do the basics, to make the crowd happy, and it’s cheap and convenient too, and granted there’s room for it. It’s a lot more fun to take some risks. If I were a publican or an owner of a delicatessen I’d be thinking ahead. I’d have to be in the right place, like Ludlow or Bridgnorth, but I’d be watching those weekenders gaping at the low prices in estate agents’ windows who are gasping for a decent flat white and a pulled pork bap.

Being something of a gastronomic trailblazer I’ve been co-running a pop-up restaurant of my own for the last three years. We’re called the Marches Supper Society ( and along with Laura (formerly of Ludlow’s Green Café, defected to cheffing in Dorset) and Adam (most skillsome cook I know never to have gone pro, sells beautiful things at Black Bough on Market St, Ludlow) we’ve done okay. There’s a definite market for funky stuff like this.

Will, Me ( and horrid charity mo), Adam

In fact we did one yesterday at De Greys in Ludlow (big thanks to our chum Robbie Underhill, the gaffer), but obviously I've no idea how it went because I wrote this a week ago*. Laura couldn’t make it so Adam (pictured) and I roped in a bloke called Will Holland (pictured) who used to do a bit of cooking, racked up a Michelin star and what have you. I expect it went well. They normally do, these things. Will’s opening up a new place in Bridgnorth next year, and it’s bound to be brilliant.

Shropshire’s ready for cool, believe me. Watch this space: it’s going to get even better.

*Actually, it went jolly well!

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