Not widely known as a culinary capital in the North East, Middlesbrough’s food scene is however more enticing than a curry and its famous delicacy, the parmo.
Recently there’s been a stirring in the backstreets, of enthusiastic young artisans setting up independent cafes and craft breweries.
It started along a town centre terrace called Baker Street close to the university, Mima art gallery and shopping centre.
Its popularity has acted as a catalyst for Middlesbrough Council to put its economic energies into the creation of an artisan food hub that it hopes will regenerate an unloved town centre area and create a real destination for food lovers.
Building is underway and it should all start happening at the end of March, hopefully also capitalising on the crowds who are predicted for the Tour de Yorkshire’s ride-off from the town on May 1.
For now though it’s a case of tip-toeing through the rubble as each of the Bedford Street properties are transformed and renovated to house the eight food business that have signed up for the hub.
Among them are Peter and Sarah Walker with their two-week old daughter Anna.
They will open The Curing House, a sociable eating place where charcuterie will take centre stage.
Peter is mad on meat. A broken ankle led to the decision to quit his job as a plater in heavy industry and peruse his dream of delving into the world of charcuterie.
He had been home-smoking and curing meat, poultry and fish as a hobby and the pair spent a great deal of time devouring the sights and sounds of great restaurants, famers’ markets and places like London’s foodie destinations, Borough and Maltby Street markets.
“I planned to start a mobile business – to go to farmers’ markets and that kind of thing selling home-smoked duck! Then we became aware of the Bedford Street development and it took on a different scale”, says Peter.
Sarah adds, “I work for the Local Enterprise Partnership – Peter is the entrepreneurial risk-taker and I act as the risk manager!
“We have both eaten our way around the world and think the concept of The Curing House is something different”.
They will offer charcuterie platters and a place where people can pop in anytime of the day for a snack and glass of wine. They’ve also got a chef on board who will be using Curing House products as the basis for an a-la-carte offering.
Says Peter, “We’re sourcing meats from suppliers who are at Borough Market as well as importing the best meats and cheeses from small-scale artisan producers we can find and we’re always looking for new suppliers.”
In total there will be eight artisan food outlets in Bedford Street. These are: The Curing House, Bedford St Coffee House, The Nuthatch, Songbird Bakery, Barbarossa Pizza Kitchen, The Chairman, Roast and Mohujos.
Rounton Coffee’s Bedford Street Coffee House will be its first named outlet.
The roastery is based in Rounton, North Yorkshire and has a growing customer base for its ethically-sourced single estate coffee.
Dave Burton has joined the Rounton team and explains:
“It’s somewhere to showcase what we do in our roastery. This is somewhere people can come to have genuine speciality coffee. We will have house blends and guest coffees for people to try.”
For those with a sweet tooth, the Songbird Bakery will bring a touch of the capital’s cupcake culture to Bedford Street.
Shelley Tyreman lived in London and did her research at the likes of Hummingbird and Primrose bakeries before teaming up with baking buddy Claire Philpott to the live the sweet cupcakery dream.
“The teahouse and vintage cake thing has been around for a while but we plan to offer something a bit more sophisticated and stylish”, says Shelley.
“We’ll have exposed brick walls, some upcycled furniture and big haberdashery drawers inside.
“Middlesbrough really needs a place like this – there is definitely a feeling that ‘if you build it, people will come’, she says.
Claire adds; “We will be doing seasonal flavours for cakes and hope there will be a real ‘wow’ when people come in. Our business has been growing – we do cupcakes for Wynyard Hall and can create cakes for every occasion for customers.”
The Bedford Street and Baker Street food hub will also be home to The Orange Pip market which promises to be more than a conventional farmers’ market says Nicky Peacock.
She is the creative brain behind the monthly Orange Pip market which will launch on May 27.
“I’ve travelled to markets everywhere – from London to Brooklyn and what we plan here is something perhaps more edgy than a farmers’ market. We plan on having live music, outside seating areas and make is a real destination where people can stay for a few hours and soak up the atmosphere.
“I am a Boro girl and know the vibrant scene here – we will be about provenance and a ‘field to plate’ culture and I have been cherry-picking from the best farmers’ and continental markets across the area to make Orange Pip something special, it’s very exciting.
“Seasonal food is a given but in terms of entertainment we really want to make it a game-changer for Middlesbrough with music and outdoor film nights, to create a really good place to hang out.”
Michelle McPhee believes the Bedford Street development and Orange Pip market will be a huge and daring economic ‘step-change’ for Middlesbrough.
She is project manager for the council’s Economic Growth Team.
“When we say step-change, it is about completely transforming the town centre to make this area a real destination.
“We can’t compete with out of town retail so we are investing in an area that had been full of empty buildings.
“Working with property company, Jomast we are bringing the Bedford Street properties back to life, offering low rent and rates to keep start-up costs to a minimum. It is regeneration aimed at economic growth in our town.
“We deliberately decided to focus on food and beverage businesses and the improvement of the area as a way of driving business into the town centre.
“There will be arched entrances to the streets and market, new paving and seating areas. It is all about regeneration, raising aspirations and improving what the town centre has to offer.”