3 of the best delicatessens in Essex

PUBLISHED: 11:27 28 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:05 28 April 2020

Abigail's Delicatessen

Abigail's Delicatessen

Archant

If you’re looking to buy something really rather special as a foodie treat, then look no further than your local deli. Essex delis are a real jewel in the cookery crown and having one or two amazing ingredients in your cupboard store can really make the difference to your cooking. Here are a few to try | Words: Stephanie Mackentyre

Wright’s Delicatessen, Frinton-on-Sea

Ben Wright began being a deli owner when his father purchased the shop premises across the road from his butchery.

‘That was the catalyst,’ says Ben. ‘Up until then we used to have a few deli products in the butchers. However, since we took over the shop 11 years ago, we’ve expanded from there.’

The deli now works hand in hand with the butchery and Ben sources all the fresh meat for his pies and pastries from there.

‘We try to keep it as traditional as possible, producing homemade pies here on the premises.’ Whether its Lancashire hotpot, cottage pie or shepherds pie, they are all made by Ben and his three staff members in the deli each morning and either sold freshly made or frozen and ready to take away and bake at home.

‘Our most popular pies would be our steak and kidney and steak and ale. Customers say they are “two sitting pies” as you can’t eat them all in one go!’

The meat comes from the butchers, straight into the pot and its cooked for two or three hours making it mouth-wateringly tender. Ben also makes his own pasties, sausage rolls and Scotch eggs.

‘At my dad’s butchery they make their own hams which we sell; honey roast, smoked or unsmoked, and they are really popular too.’

As well as pastries there are chutneys, sauces, farm fresh eggs and a range of artisan cheeses.

‘I enjoy sourcing the more obscure cheeses. Customers love our Suffolk Gold, Black Bomber, Applewood Cheddar and also our Vignotte cheese from the Champagne-Ardenne region of Normandy in France.

‘If you love your cheeses, just come in and ask for it and I’m happy to find it. We work with Tastes of Suffolk for some local produce and we concentrate on bringing the best quality and the best prices for our customers, so we scour the UK and beyond for our products.

‘At the end of the year we are flat out as we sell literally 160 to 170 individual hampers. They go really well and are extremely popular.’

Abigail’s Delicatessen, Ingatestone

Sometimes a deli can be the catalyst for a range of spin-off businesses.

Abigail’s Delicatessen celebrated 10 years in Ingatestone last October. Owners Phil and Abigail Stacey run the stores together. Phil takes up the story: ‘It seems to have been non-stop since we first started.

‘We opened our second business, Abigail’s Lifestyle, in 2012, which was extended and refurbished last year as well. Our outside catering arm to our business has been doubling every year as well with great success.

‘We restored a Mark I 1972 Ford Transit and built Brian, our wood-fired pizza van. That’s been phenomenally busy at our weddings, private functions and festivals.

‘We are also in the process of developing the kitchen and bar at Baddow Park House where we are sole caterers (opening May 2020). We are also planning plenty of charity events this year for Kids Inspire, and our first cheese and wine tasting night was last month.’

Phil is still very focussed when it comes to the foodstuffs he’s selling in the deli. ‘Since the end of last year we have become more focused on eating healthily, but without the pressure of fad or restrictive diets.

‘Instead we carefully choose ingredients that may cost more but are instead, used more sparingly, to intensify flavours or add more satisfying textures. Seggiano is one of my top companies to deal with and offers some of the highest quality ingredients available on the market.

‘Their organic extra virgin olive oil and bronze drawn pastas make it easy to throw together a quick meal, but they have the aesthetic edge to make a wonderful gift too. The family who run the business are forever innovating while keeping true to their ethos of using wonderful ingredients in their traditional manners, from artisan makers and producers.

‘As well as Seggiano we are spending perhaps more time to carefully choose where our meat is sourced and research the inextricable link between animal husbandry and arable farming.

‘Last year we visited Maple Farm across the border in Suffolk. We were shown around their farm and it was a real eye opener. We saw what can be achieved with the highest possible animal standards combined with organic farming to repair the eco-systems and soil that intensive farming has damaged.

‘We spend more on meat, their lamb is to die for, but instead make it go so much further by using recipes and ingredients that promote this, and also, as parents of a two-year-old boy, it’s a great chance to show them best cooking practices from a young age.’

Milly’s Deli & Cafe, Leigh-on-Sea

Clever purchasing can often be the key to making a success of a business.

Founder Ben Forrest and his partner Laura Bain had been in catering for a number of years before realising a dream.

‘Opening a deli was a long-held dream of ours. We put our money into the business and named it after our only daughter at the time.’

Established for 12 years, they have been rewarded for their hard work with a loyal customer base. The couple learnt the hard way about the importance of clever purchasing.

‘Just because we like a product doesn’t necessarily mean our customers are going to like it,’ explains Ben.

Now though, they have the formula just right with a fine range of home-baked hams and salads, which the couple prepare on the premises each day.

‘We also have cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairies, which is great to go with our chilli jam from the South Devon Chilli Farm. Brindisa is a Spanish wholesaler and you can find their delights at Milly’s, plus Monmouth coffee which is roasted in Bermondsey in London.’

They also sell a delicious chutney which comes all the way from the Isle of Bute in Scotland. They source pies from right here in the county using Essex Larders pies from Pyes Farm.

‘They do a range of really nice baked products which our customers enjoy. We are prepared to give anything a go to be honest. If it sells, it sells, and if it doesn’t, we won’t get it in again. We try to be different and have a real sense of uniqueness.’

So this month, liven up your pantry or give the gift of fine ingredients with a visit to at least one of these lovely local delis. 

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