Locally sourced ingredients with a modern twist
The Comfy Duck, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire serves an ever-changing menu, boasting locally sourced ingredients with a modern twist. Chef Patron Steven Bennett talks to us about the importance of buying local and how to work with the ingredients that are on your doorstep.
With a 46 bedroom hotel and 100 seater restaurant, our customers expectations are high when it comes to the quality of food we serve. As a chef, it’s not only our responsibility to serve well cooked, delicious food, but to utilise sustainable and seasonal ingredients where possible. There are many factors that work against sourcing locally produced ingredients, but as chef’s, we need to lead the way for diners.
Although this way of dining is very much still at the top of the trend table, there’s still a huge naivety from a consumer point of view when it comes to the food that’s served to them. Some restaurants will happily serve strawberries and asparagus in December, and completely out of season. It’s important that the restaurant industry take lead and holds responsibility for the ingredients that are used to create the dishes we serve.
In any fine dining restaurant, consistency is key and it all starts with the ingredients. To maintain consistency with our dishes, ironically this means changing the menu on a 3-4 weekly basis. Whilst key dishes, including a selection of steaks and fish and chips stay on the menu all year round, these are ingredients that we know our suppliers can continue to provide, being close to both the sea and rural surroundings.
The rest of the menu is designed around the ingredients that are available to us from our suppliers only 2-3 days before launching the new menus. Our speciality fruit and vegetables are grown by our independent supplier Coven Garden only 6 miles down the road and whom we sit down with at the beginning of each year and plan the seeding list and schedule. Meats are sourced from local butchers, and we feature a lot of game during the autumn. We even dry-age our steaks in house for added flavour. Everything from the cream and meats, through to the vegetables and even coffee is sourced from Lincolnshire and surrounding areas.
As a kitchen we’ve had to take more steps to enable transparency in our supply chain, including making our own seasonings, butter and ice creams, and will feature seasonal flavours that are available to us at the time of designing the menu. Our kitchen garden is home to an abundance of fruits, vegetables and edible flowers, and a local forager helps us make the most of what’s in the woodland and fields around the hotel and restaurant.
The downside to all of this, is not being able to always guarantee consistency with the supply, and because many of the ingredients come from speciality producers there’s a significant difference when it comes to price. This ultimately has an effect on our customers and it is our responsibility to educate our dinners.
As a business, we take many steps to tell the story around each dish of food that’s served. Our menus include a local map, pin pointing exactly where ingredients come from and names suppliers. Our front of house team is fully trained with each new menu that’s launched, learning and understanding where the ingredients come from and their seasonality. We host meet the supplier days, and even encourage diners to take a wonder around our kitchen garden, so they can see the work that goes into producing every element on their plate.
Last year we even launched an initiative to encourage diners to bring in an excess fruit, vegetables and herbs from their gardens in exchange for vouchers to dine in the restaurant based on their current market value. When batches are small, we introduce these onto our specials menu which changes regularly.
Without question, the most important aspect to serving locally sourced, seasonal ingredients is strong and long term relationships with all of our suppliers who are vital in the success of the restaurant.
By Steven Bennett