The Caterer
Jacobs Media Group is honoured to be the recipient of the 2020 Queen's Award for Enterprise.

Table Talk

30 November 2006

Contortionists up in arms over village pub closure

You may have read the heart-warming tale in Caterer last week about the owners of a quiet Lincolnshire village pub that began cooking school meals after a visit from Jamie Oliver. So successful was the experiment that the King's Head in Theddlethorpe has now shut its doors and the couple are feeding the local schoolchildren full-time.

But scratch the surface of this rural idyll and a slightly uglier picture emerges. It appears the locals are up in arms about the boozer's demise. "They're worried it's wiped 20% off their house prices," said ex-landlord Phil Cross. He revealed he was forced to close because of poor trade, having warned villagers to "use it or lose it". Cross doesn't mince his words and claims they have since spread false rumours about the pub going bankrupt. "It's a strange village, and the locals are the saddest bunch of people I've ever seen," he said, before colourfully adding: "Their heads are shoved so far up their own arseholes that they can see their shoelaces." Sounds like cooking was not the only thing he learnt from Jamie.

Talk about giving a dog a bad name

And the vicious rumours are not limited to Lincolnshire. Aroma restaurant in Braintree, Essex, has recently been forced to act after a spate of "dog meat" slurs. It's reacting to what it calls "a vicious whispering campaign making false claims that the restaurant serves dog meat and is about to be closed by the health authorities". Bizarrely, similar claims have been made about Aroma sites in Basildon and Stevenage in recent years. Aroma boss Colin Wong - yes, his real name - originally thought "a crank" was behind the campaign but is apparently now convinced that it's a jealous business rival pursuing a midmarket Italian restaurant turf war. He's also put up five grand for anyone who fingers the culprit - cleary in the hope that it's an offer someone can't refuse. Will the cash be enough to tempt a close chum or pal of the culprit to come forward?

Kitchen showdowns are repeating on us

Who can forget last year's unrelenting TV spectacular that was The Great British Menu? It saw culinary egos clash and the BBC's Jenny Bond reach new heights of inane patter. Well, guess what? The BBC has decided to do it all over again in 2007. We hear that socially forthcoming Bluebird exec chef Mark Broadbent will slug it out with Marcus Wareing in round one. And what is the occasion next year? Apparently, it's some sort of cook-off dinner between the French and the British. Now where on earth will they find a media-hungry French chef who's prepared to do anything to get on telly?

Some letters may be edited for reasons of insanity

Caterer occasionally gets some strange post, but something disturbing arrived last week that could be straight out of the film Seven. The outside of the envelope was covered in manic scrawls that included the phrases: "Minted tea and Dundee cakes", "Who is she? Find out what is her special food", and "Bras for 2 pants, briefs". Odder still were the contents. A Tesco leaflet, an advert for a poetry reading session and a pamphlet from Southwark cathedral that bore the message: "Join us, 1, 2, 3." Is there anyone out there who can piece these sinister clues together and make sense of the message? We can't afford a five grand reward, unfortunately.

By Tom Bill

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