A look at local businesses in Frodsham
PUBLISHED: 15:18 15 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:17 15 January 2018
Rebekka O'Grady looks at businesses in Frodsham that have stood the test of time, and meets those hoping to have a bright future
The local restaurant
Vicki and Richard Nuttall couldn’t have dreamt of a better location for their own restaurant. Located on Frodsham’s Main Street, it’s a beautiful 17th century timber framed building that certainly catches the eye. However, it also happens to be next door to the couple’s home, and once housed Vicki’s great-grandfather’s, grandfather’s and then father’s butchers shop, H E Coward, which is still thriving today, just a few doors down.
‘There is such a heritage with this building for my family, so to be able to set up our dream restaurant back home, in this building, it’s amazing,’ said Vicki, who opened the doors of Restaurant Next Door in May 2017. The concept is a marriage of both her and Richard’s talents, the former a sommelier and the latter an accomplished chef.
‘It had always been what we wanted to do. After we met, we went travelling and we have been to some amazing places but it was great to be back home. Richard is from Warrington and my family has always been in Frodsham so it made sense to set up a base here. When the tenant of this building left, it just felt right to open the restaurant and it all kind of fell into place.’ Despite the fairytale ending, it’s been extremely hard work for the couple to get to this stage. There was a lot of work to be done to get the space right for a restaurant, which resulted in a stressful 18 months of renovation. However, their hard work has paid off and the reception from locals and visitors alike has been positive.
‘It’s been fab. We have had a lot of local support which we are really grateful for; we now have a lot of regulars as well as people coming from further afield. It’s been a really good start,’ said Vicki, who learnt about wines of the world at Define in Sandiway, (where they still buy their wines from) before joining the Michael Caines Restaurant group as a sommelier. It’s obvious their success lies in their individual talents of being experts in their fields, but also working together as a team.
‘It’s a joint effort from us both. Vicki’s interest is in wine and mine with food but we both taste everything together,’ said Richard, who started his career in the kitchen of London’s Petrus (now Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley) before moving on to The Savoy and establishments around the world. ‘We enjoy eating out as much as we do cooking so we’re a great team, always being inspired by something and each other.’
The couple try to change the menu on a weekly basis to ensure their dishes are making the most of seasonal availability: ‘It all depends on flavour profiles, the time of year, it’s all very seasonal. I find it important to use local ingredients, and we are very lucky in Cheshire to have some great producers and suppliers,’ said Richard. Of course they visit Vicki’s family for the meat and have a hands-on approach to the butchery.
‘We do the majority of prep ourselves in the kitchen. A lot of chefs and restaurants don’t practise it now but we want to keep some of the classic, old school ways of cooking. I was brought up with it so it comes naturally to me. I have been lucky with my education and learnt from some of the best chefs in the country. All their backgrounds were classic French, so I have instilled elements of that into great, British food. There are no trends here; just what we believe is right.’
One dish on the menu which is developing into something of a standout for customers is the dry aged fillet of beef, which changes its accompanying garnish as the menu changes. ‘There’s a history of fillet in French restaurant’s being one of the main dishes. At the moment I am serving ours with braised shin, so there are two different textures and people keep coming back for it,’ said Richard.
However his favourite thing to cook when not in his chef’s whites is a simple bacon sandwich. ‘There is a beauty and simplicity in a bacon sandwich. It’s all about the quality of the bacon and the bread, and if you have white bread use red sauce, brown bread use brown.’ www.restaurantnextdoor.co.uk
The local butcher
Go a few doors down and you’ll meet Vicki’s sister Elly Dedicoat at H E Coward. Since 1929, it has been in the family for five generations and is today run by Elly and her parents Sue and Rob Coward. ‘My dad can remember making sausages when he was 11, it’s been his whole life and he loves it,’ said Elly. ‘The other side of the business is the bakery, which mum started. The two of them met when she started to work there as a shop assistant; she said that she didn’t realise dating the boss would turn into 40 year of hard labour!’
The bakery side of the business is just as popular as its butchery counterpart. Sue Coward’s Homemade Pies are still a huge draw for customers, and Sue and her team continue to bake them fresh with a weekly production of 12,000 pies. Although Rob, who has been in the business since 1961, no longer practices butchery, he is still at the forefront maintaining service and overseeing things with Elly.
‘It’s a crucial element of how we work to keep things in the family. By that we mean that family isn’t just blood, it’s everyone who is a real part of our team. There are longstanding members of staff who have been here more than 20 years; others are members of families who have worked here before.’ Aside from a tight knit team, H E Coward put their continued success and longevity down to its traditional practices, but also modernising with the times. This has been recognised recently as they were named finalists in the Meat Trades Journal Butcher’s Shop of the Year awards.
‘The foundation of the business is sourcing quality meats which are then aged and butchered from whole carcasses on site. We are also keeping up with times and have introduced home deliveries and having a presence online. We are looking to the future as well as keeping up traditional practice. That’s what separates us from any supermarket and it’s really important to us.’ www.hecoward.co.uk
Wine and fine things
A family business that extends over three towns, Whitmore & White have been enjoying the success of their independent wine merchant and food hall venture since opening in Heswall in 2014. The shop in Frodsham followed in 2015 and one in West Kirby a year later, along with it a host of awards.
The Frodsham shop picked up Best Delicatessen at the Taste Cheshire Awards 2016 and 2017.
‘It was such a surprise to win for a second year. There’s so much competition so it’s a great achievement. We are always expanding our range to offer our customers new things,’ said deputy manager, Oscar Valencia. ‘We have a huge wine selection from all over the world, cheese and meats, everything from tea and coffee to pickles and pate, and a lot of gin! I like gin and the manager, Tom Scargill is a specialist in wine so between the two of us we have you covered.’
Whitmore & White launched their own small batch gin in August, meaning you can even buy your Friday night tipple locally: ‘In Frodsham, it’s great to be surrounded by so many independent businesses. It secures the high street. As long as you shop local, that’s all that matters.’ www.whitmoreandwhite.co.uk/frodsham
Books and Brewing
From a history graduate to English teacher and finally brewer, Noah Torn has had an interesting career thus far. The founder of Chapter Brewing, based in Frodsham, has managed to encapsulate each of his three loves into one product – beer with a literary twist. ‘Each brew comes with a reading suggestion; something that inspired the beer, the style or the design,’ said Noah, who launched the business in December 2016. Since then, he has expanded into a range of 11 beers, including a collaboration with London brewery, Fourpure. ‘I didn’t want it to be a gimmick but wanted to have an element of fun. So it could be that a piece of literature has inspired me to create a certain beer, or that when I am brewing a beer it’s made me think of something. There have been a few poems, references to the bible, books and even a song.’
Examples range from PG Wodehouse to Charles Bukowski. Chapter Four I Said Doctor, a milk stout, is inspired by a lyric from the song of the same name by Harry Nilsson and appropriately flavoured with lime and coconut. Chapter Two Bread and Circuses, a pale ale, comes from a line in a poem by Latin author Juvenal, in his book Satire X.
‘That’s why instead of a food pairing on the label, I decided to write a description of the book. That way if people want to, they can see or read what has inspired the beer. We have close ties with Storyhouse in Chester as it links strongly with what they are doing.’ So how did Noah venture into the world of brewing? He started off in a home brewing club in Liverpool, where he met the founder of Mad Hatter Brewing, Gareth Matthews. ‘I had wanted to leave teaching for a while as it wasn’t for me. I kept asking Gaz for a job and he said I should set up on my own. When the opportunity for this site came up, it was too good to miss and it’s paying off.
‘I am starting to get a bit of traction now with bigger batches and a wider customer base – I’ve even sent a few kegs to Hong Kong and Belgium. I haven’t really had the time to think about it all, but the past year has been fun. I’d love to be able to get into more Cheshire pubs now.’ www.facebook.com/chapterbrewing
Fruit, veg and flowers
It’s not common to see thriving fruit and vegetable shops on local high streets today, but for over 40 years Hales of Frodsham has been the go-to place for locals. It was set up by Kenneth Hale and his brother, Clifford, but today it is run by Ken’s daughter, Carol Binder.
‘I’ve always been involved with the shop, working here since I was 11 years old. There is a real community feel around Frodsham, I get a lot of regulars – many of whom I went to school with!’
As well as the fruit and vegetable side, Carol expanded the business to include floristry, diversifying what Hales can offer: ‘It’s so important to keep local and buy local. Frodsham is a lovely place to live and work.’
Celebrating 75 years
In the run-up to their anniversary celebration, chairman of the Frodsham Players, Ian Lancaster had been delving into the 75 year history of the amateur dramatics group to bring their past to life.
‘I managed to track down the old minute books from the first couple of meetings, and found photographs of performances going back to the very first production all the way to the 1980s. With these I have updated the website and many people have been reconnecting with the society, remembering when they watched a performance or knew that a family member had participated.’
The Frodsham Players celebrated their milestone with a party at the Forest hills Hotel, Frodsham, where they toasted the past and the future. The group first formed in 1942, where founder John Herbet Bu’lock and other members would meet to read plays. It wasn’t until a few months later when he suggested they actually perform what they were reading, and their debut production was a collection of three one act plays: Chin Chin, But My Dear and The Ghost in the Garden.
‘I’ve tried to find the manuscripts for these performances but we know nothing about them, sadly. From that first production, the Players have never really looked back,’ said Ian, who became chair in 2016. He reconnected with amateur dramatics in 2014 after a 20 year gap.
‘We typically put on two to three productions per year. The record is seven productions back in 1943. There have been various venues around town but today we stage them at Frodsham Community Centre and St Laurence Church.’
The group has gone from strength-to-strength, staging plays by various authors including Shakespeare and George Orwell. In 2016 they staged their first open air production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which added a new dynamic to performances.
‘A real high point for me recently was becoming the first amateur group anywhere in the world to perform Goodnight Mister Tom. We had to declare the house full every night; the demand was so great we had to increase capacity four times.
‘It would be great to encourage new members to join us so that we can carry on for another 75 years. We’re a very friendly group and even if you don’t want to act there are other roles behind the scenes. The more people, then the better.’