The best of regional British food. This week: Newmarket
It is the usual story with the supermarkets. Among the many lines (and there can be thousands in a superstore), only one or two are specifically locally-sourced. There is no locally-caught fish, little meat (except sausages) and just a few sell locally-grown vegetables. Asda, however, sells cakes and “tray bakes” made by Wicked, Musk’s Newmarket sausages and Wicks Manor sausages from Maldon, Essex. Asda also sells a good chilli sauce called Horned Fox. Tesco sells packed Powters sausages and Musk’s “Original” sausages loose from the meat counter. Sainsbury’s stores in Haverhill, Coldhams Lane and Bury St Edmunds stock Powters sausages, Anya potatoes grown by Richard Mann in Woodbridge and Vivaldi salad potatoes from Swaffham. Morrisons’ Cambourne store stocks locally-grown onions and potatoes. Waitrose’s Newmarket store sells Stroll down the high street of this Suffolk market town and the sight of many of its diminutive inhabitants should leave you in no doubt that Newmarket is home to English horse-racing. But aspiring jockeys, who follow strict diets, don’t make a good food shopping town.
It is a mystery why such a sociable place has few, if any, decent places for eating out. With many of the world’s wealthiest people visiting the town, and often in celebration mood, you’d think a smart restaurateur might have opened a brasserie to suit all tastes. But in the absence of even gastropubs, owners, trainers and sheiks resort to downing chow mein in the Fountain restaurant.
Yet good food can be found. The town has no greengrocer, deli or artisan baker, but it does have butcher’s shops and, in the surrounding area, an outstanding farm shop, a cheese supplier and a few interesting producers who will deliver to your home.
Shopping for local food in supermarkets
some locally-grown produce plus Norfolk Herbs, Musk’s and Powters sausages and Hobson’s Choice beer. Budgens stores in Soham and Mildenhall stock foods made by members of “Tastes of Anglia”; look out for these products.
There are farmers’ markets in Lavenham, Needham Market and Beccles once a month. See www. farmersmarkets.net for dates.
Where to shop for food in the town
Square Deals, 13b Wellington Street, Newmarket, Suffolk (01638 560088) There has been a huge influx of immigrants into Newmarket to keep the racing industry going and Richard Gruszecki has opened a shop with an eclectic range. With good fruit and vegetables, spices and sauces from India, China, Thailand, Lithuania, the Middle East, the Philippines, Poland and Russia, an entire new cooking opportunity has opened up. Cooked meats, yogurts, smoked sausages, Polish and Lithuanian rye breads and dumplings are also available. Musk’s (01638 662626, www.musks.com) Musks started making sausages in 1884 and several Royal Warrants later the company is still thriving. It used to be a butcher’s shop on the High Street, specialising in sausages, but that has long gone. The sausages, which are sold at Tennant’s (see later listing), are now made just outside Newmarket. They remain superb, with local pork, natural bread, just the right amount of pepper and no preservatives or additives. You can also order online. Powters, Wellington Street, Newmarket, Suffolk (01638 662418, www.powters.co.uk) Powters also stocks a “Newmarket Sausage” and began making sausages around the same time as James Musk. A good, healthy rivalry exists between the two Newmarket butchers. Aside from the sausages, Powters sells well-hung Aberdeen Angus, Saltmarsh lamb and Gloucester Old Spot pork. The shop also stocks meat accredited by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, the excellent organisation that has done so much to protect Britain’s meat breeds. In addition, cooked meats, sausage rolls, bacons, hams and Suffolk chickens from Bury St Edmunds are available. Eric Tennant, 11 The Rookery, Newmarket, Suffolk (01638 661 530) “We are an old-fashioned, traditional butcher’s shop,” says Eric Tennant in his shop in the middle of Newmarket. Tennant comes highly recommended by numerous trainers’ wives and Newmarket residents. All of his meat is sourced locally in Suffolk. He’s also the sole stockist of Musk’s sausages (see earlier) in the town, since Musk’s closed its shop.
Shopping for food around Newmarket
Hamish Johnston Cheesemongers, (01728 621544) Hamish Johnston will be familiar to residents of Battersea, south-west London, where it has a retail outlet. It also has a wholesale outfit approximately 20 miles from Newmarket. “We’re very strong on farmhouse and artisan cheeses, often from tiny producers,” says coowner Mark Newman. The company has a large list of Suffolk cheeses, including Hawkstone (which makes amazing Cheshire-style cheeses), Buxlow Pagel and Suffolk Gold. Delivery is available for larger orders. Mail order, 020 7738 0741. La Hogue Farm Shop, Chippenham, Ely, Cambridgeshire (01638 751128, www.lahogue.co.uk) La Hogue is a revelation. This farm shop sells as much seasonal and local produce as possible and it is all superb quality. Look out for Norfolk cheeses, Suffolk chickens and wild rabbits. There are also classic frozen takeaways such as coq au vin and Italian-style meatballs. An eccentric wine shop behind the farm shop has regular tastings of European and locallyproduced English wines, which I found to be terrific value. Corney & Barrow, Belvoir House, High Street, Newmarket, Suffolk (01638 600 000, www. corneyandbarrow.com) It isn’t surprising that Newmarket can keep a top-end wine merchant going, especially when it comes to the finest French reds and Champagnes. Corney & Barrow’s staff are always knowledgeable and beautifully trained. There are tasting rooms on the premises and the company’s traditional approach makes wine-shopping an utter pleasure. The River Farm Smokery, Wilbraham Road, Bottisham Cambridgeshire (01223 812577) The River Farm Smokery is a hidden gem about 15 minutes’ drive from Newmarket. It is also the only wetfish shop between Cambridge and the coast. The smokery’s three kilns are used to smoke everything from haddock to ham; salt, olives and cheese. Speciality pastas and sauces are also sold there and the wet-fish shop stocks line caught mackerel and sustainable species of fish.
Cooking with locally-sourced food in Newmarket
To make the most of Musk’s and Poyters’ sausages, brush them with double cream and bake them for 30-45 minutes. The cream makes the outside of the sausages sticky and brown. Serve them with a mash made from potatoes and herbs from La Hogue farm shop.
Haddock from the River Farm Smokery can be packed into a shallow ovenproof dish with slices of Hawkestone “white Cheshire” cheese, a chopped clove of garlic and thinly-shredded, blanched spring greens. Dot with butter, cover with foil and bake.
For a richer dish, serve with a poached egg.
Link with tradition: Suffolk butcher Grant Powter with his own line of sausages and the family shop (left)