I was delighted to attend the Producers’ Dinner, a fringe event organised by Grub Club Cambridge for Eat Cambridge 2015. It was held on 22 May 2015 at Fitzbillies and included a talk by the iconic restaurant’s owner Tim Hayward.
Grub Club Cambridge is run by Vhari Russell (The Food Marketing Expert, providing marketing and retailing support for food and drink businesses) and Kelly Molson (Rubber Cheese, a design agency working with the food, drink and hospitality sectors). It is a networking club based in Cambridge for food and drink professionals and their aim is to put producers, retailers, buyers and businesses together in order to build relationships. And they do it at some mighty fine places. As the Producers’ Dinner was part of Eat Cambridge, it was open to anyone with an interest in good food and drink who wanted to feast on Fitzbillies’ tantalising menu.
The event was very well attended. Fitzbillies had a full house with three very long tables all occupied by fellow food and drink enthusiasts.
We were given a glass of English sparkling wine by Neil Irvine of Nyetimber. It was a great way to start the evening and I was seriously impressed with the Classic Cuvée.
These are exciting times indeed for English sparkling wines as the climate in Southern England is perfect for their production. Nyetimber’s vineyards are located in Hampshire and West Sussex and they were the very first producer to craft wines made exclusively from three Champagne grapes: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Whilst we socialised, glass in hand, Andrew and Annabel of Sedgwick’s Charcuterie circulated a delicious board of their artisan cured meats from their Cambridgeshire smallholding. I fell a little bit in love with their honey cured lomo, hazelnut salami and wild venison chorizo! I hear very good things about their beer sticks so keep an eye out for them.
With our appetites well and truly whet, it was time to find our seats and eagerly await Fitzbillies’ menu offerings. We were warmly welcomed by Kelly Molson on behalf of Grub Club Cambridge.
Fitzbillies’ three-course menu included vegetarian options, marked as (v). The mouth-watering list was as follows:
- Home-smoked salmon, pomegranate and watercress salad, soda bread croutons
- Grapefruit, chicory and spring onion salad (v)
- Fitzbillies porter’s pie, potato fondants and seasonal veggies
- Spring veggie pie (v)
- Selection of macarons with tea or coffee
I had the smoked salmon starter, which was very fresh. Tim Hayward told us later that Fitzbillies smoke the salmon in a smoker they created themselves and that the secret in its flavour is Chelsea bun syrup! Might as well maximise on what Fitzbillies are originally famous for… the Chelsea bun!
The porter’s pie was deliciously filling. It was served with potatoes and vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage and the gravy was so very succulent. The pie’s original shape is due to their use of an old Victorian pie press. No generic pies at Fitzbillies! They are developing a take-away pie that you can eat on the go without the mess. Stay tuned.
For dessert, we were served delightful and colourful macarons on 3-tiered stands. We enjoyed them with our choice of coffee or tea.
Tim Hayward gave an interesting and animated talk on Fitzbillies’ journey and what they hope to accomplish for the restaurant, which consists of prominently featuring quality, locally sourced products for a simple, yet delicious menu. We had a sneak peek at the dinner menu.
I particularly enjoyed Tim’s stories of his time as a line cook in the US and the dream of immigrant families opening up diners and succeeding. This resonated with me in a big way as I am from a family of Italian immigrants and my father, along with my uncle, owned his own successful Jewish delicatessen in Montreal for over 45 years. From an early age I understood the hard work and sacrifice in running a restaurant and Tim certainly had the knowledge and experience to share on this occasion.
There were many people in attendance and I wish I could have spoken to them all. I had the pleasure of interacting with the following producers and food professionals:
Gail of Kandula Tea. If you’ve been following my social media feeds, you will know that I am a huge fan of these teas from Sri Lanka.
Rebecca of Glebe Farm Foods, producers of gluten free oats and oat flakes, cake mixes, flours, beers and ciders.
Laura of Canesmith & Co. She launched her gourmet sweets for grown ups the very next day at Eat Cambridge. Exciting!
Gerla of Cambridge Food Tour where you can explore Cambridge through the eyes of a foodie.
Claire of Breckland Orchard, producer of sparkling soft drinks (Posh Pop).
Pata Negra Spanish Food, local importer and supplier of fine Spanish food. I had the opportunity to speak with Claire in Spanish… and French!
Cambridge Champagne Company, exclusive UK suppliers of Champagne Dominique Boulard. I met a lovely lady (and fellow Canadian) who made me aware of this company.
If you were at the Producers’ Dinner too, please feel free to share your company info and website in the comments below.
The evening ended with Provenance Kitchen handing out goodie bags filled with breakfast for the next day… a delicious cereal milk ‘set cream” with strawberry compote and granola. Provenance Kitchen serve restaurant quality food from their original Airstream and take over unique locations for seasonal feasts.
Grub Club Cambridge gave us tote bags to take home, which included a packet of seeds labelled “Grow your food business with Grub Club Cambridge”. Very fitting!
Thank you, Kelly and Vhari of Grub Club Cambridge, Tim Hayward and the Fitzbillies team who did such a wonderful job making sure we were fed and watered, as well as all of the fabulous producers that help make Cambridge a real food and drink delight.
Grub Club Cambridge invited me to attend the Producers’ Dinner at Fitzbillies so the food and drink were complimentary. Grub Club Cambridge and Fitzbillies were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my own experience and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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