Helping you to get the most out of our region

Local food: Meet your butcher

5th November 2020

This area is blessed with a flourishing group of traditional butcher shops serving up incredible beef, tasty lamb, succulent pork, delicious poultry and even the odd squirrel! Deborah Pennell visits a selection of them

Hambleton Farms

Hambleton Farms has butchery shops in both Lincolnshire and Northampton, and in August 2019 they moved their Oakham butchery and deli into the impressive new Farm Shop at Gates Garden Centre. This provided much-needed extra space for the business whilst adding a great local source of meat, and a deli counter for the farm shop. And the collaboration is proving a huge success. All lamb and beef served from the counters, and used in Hambletons ready-prepared meals, is raised on the Gates farm at Cold Overton, and pork is sourced locally. Game arrives from Keythorpe Game, when in season; traditionally, this is pheasant, partridge and venison, but with highly underrated squirrel on the menu from time to time! The butchery counters also house a vast array of deli products, ‘meal solutions’ (ready-prepared meat options such as kebabs, marinated meats, en croûtes and stir fries), and wonderful frozen pies, all created in their prep kitchens in Oakham. Meat from the butchery and the full range of Farm Shop products are available for local delivery.

Simon Cunningham is the Hambleton Farms Manager and Head Butcher at Gates Farm Shop. He is a self-taught butcher, who learnt his trade after starting a Saturday job with his local butcher at only 14 years old. He went on to work for a well-known supermarket chain, but, feeling disillusioned with the larger retailer, decided to go back to his routes of local butchery. After a stint at Farndon Fields, he moved to Hambleton Farms butchery in Oakham, and now heads up the team at Gates Farm Shop.

Asked what Simon’s favourite meat is, and how he would prepare and serve it, he was quick with his reply: ‘slow-cooked shoulder fillets of lamb with mint, rosemary and garlic’. A delicious recommendation from an experienced butcher, who clearly loves his profession.

Hambleton Farms at Gates Garden Centre, Somerby Road, Cold Overton, Oakham, Rutland LE15 7QB, 01664 454309, gatesfarmshop.co.uk

Simpsons

A Lincolnshire-based group of butchers’ shops established in 2001, when Gary Simpson opened his first shop in Heckington at the tender age of 21. In the last few years Gary has opened a further five shops, with our most local shop, Simpsons at The Stamford Garden Centre, opening in 2014. This butchery offers a wide range of locally sourced meat and many deli products, and is open seven days a week.

With awards such as UK Butchers Shop of the Year in 2015 and 2017 for his Heckington store, and the honour of being chosen to represent Great Britain in The World Butchers’ Challenge in Queensland, Australia, in 2016, Gary Simpson has established himself as one of the leading butchers in the area. A team of highly skilled and knowledgeable butchers work in all his outlets. Over recent months Simpsons’ online store has expanded rapidly and offers a good alternative for those less able to access the shops. 

Simpsons at The Stamford Garden Centre, Casterton Road, Stamford PE9 4BB, 01780 757499, gsimpsonbutchers.co.uk

Seven Wells Family Butchers 

Based in the centre of Oundle, this traditional butcher’s shop was taken over by the Knight family in 2004. Named after the farm on which their delicious beef is reared, Seven Wells is a focal point for local shoppers who relish high-quality produce with provenance. Lamb comes in from a farm in Fotheringhay, while pork and poultry are also supplied locally. Needless to say, this butchers has a big local following. The counters are stuffed full of traditional cuts of meat with a friendly, knowledgeable team of butchers ready to serve and offer advice. 

Owner Sally Knight says, ‘I think we are seeing now, more than ever, the importance of buying local and supporting our hardworking livestock farmers. British beef is some of the best beef in the world, and our cattle are reared two miles down the road, grazed locally and fed a home-grown diet with a high standard of welfare, which reflects in the end product. We are proud to deliver a true farm-to-fork experience.’

An efficient delivery service is available, with orders taken over the telephone or by email. With Christmas just around the corner Seven Wells will again be offering traditional, locally reared turkeys, geese and cockerels – all by a pre-order system, with an option for collection or delivery.

Chris Jackson is the Shop Manager at Seven Wells Family Butchers. Chris’s butchery career started as a Saturday lad in a local butchers at the age of 14 years old, and he has mostly worked in and around the Oundle area ever since. His Saturday job turned into a full-time one, with a day release to college until he was 18 years old. He became a manager at 20, worked for a large supermarket chain, and then at Johnsons butchers for just over 12 years. When the Knight family took over from K Johnson in Oundle, Chris was keen to move into the role of shop manager, and he has now been managing the butchery for the family for 10 years. 

Asked what Chris’s favourite cut of meat is, he replied: ‘It would have to be belly of pork, slow roasted or cooked on the barbecue.’ 

Seven Wells Family Butcher, 8 West Street, Oundle, PE8 4EF  01832 273522, sevenwells.co.uk

Farndon Fields Farm Shop

The Farndon Fields butchery, an important part of the Farm Shop offering, was opened in 2005 and then upgraded in 2018, to include dry-aging fridges. All meat is sourced locally: Charolais beef from Michael Squires farm at Ashley; South Devon beef from Richard Wright’s farm at Tugby; lamb from Michael Skinner in Theddingworth; and pork from Farndon Fields’ home-reared Tamworth pigs, when available. Additional Packington free-range pork and free-range chickens are also stocked. Meat arrives on site as whole carcasses, and a team of skilled butchers work together to break them down, creating the more common cuts, as well as sausages, burgers and other ready-prepared meal options. Beef rib and T-bone joints are all labelled by breed and date and spend 28 days in the dry-aging cabinet – giving the customer the chance to choose their perfect cut. The dry-aging process creates an intense flavour and makes the meat incredibly tender. This is a product that the butchers at Farndon Fields highly recommend. 

Farndon Fields Farm Shop, Farndon Road, Market Harborough LE16 9NP, 01858 464838, farndonfields.co.uk

Grasmere Farm

With a collection of traditional butchers’ shops and a presence at many Farmers Markets in the local area, this popular, family-run business goes from strength to strength. All the pork available on their counters is home reared, with poultry, beef and lamb being sourced from a trusted network of local farms, resulting in a high-quality product with provenance. The Grasmere operation is headed up by Stuart Stables, whose family have farmed in South Lincolnshire since 1969. Stuart says: ‘our experienced team of butchers are passionate about quality and provide Grasmere customers with expertly prepared cuts of meat with complete traceability.’

More recently, their excellent online business, and the option of click and collect from the shops, has seen a big increase in orders. 

Grasmere Farm: Stamford Shop, 34 High Street, Stamford PE9 2BB, 01780 765563, grasmere-farm.co.uk

Nelsons

Nelsons group of butchers use meat sourced directly from nearby farms or through the local market. The farms are accredited as ‘Farm Assured’, guaranteeing the highest standards of animal husbandry. All shops are manned by experienced, skilled butchers and showcase an impressive array of meat and some deli products. Their award-winning, authentic Melton Mowbray Pork Pies and Lincolnshire sausages are best sellers. 

Kris Moore, the present owner of Nelsons Butchers, has been a butcher for over 20 years, starting out as a Saturday lad at John Ross & Son Butcher in Market Harborough. Kris went on to join the Royal Anglian Regiment and served for 9 years. After leaving the army, Kris returned to butchery and purchased John Ross & Son in Market Harborough, later followed by Nelsons Butchers and then Trendalls of Oundle. These butchers now work together to provide the local area with top-quality meat, award-winning pies and a plethora of sausages! In October 2020 Nelsons Butchers launched a brand-new website with all their products now available online. 

Chris Sismore, Manager of Nelsons Butchers, Red Lion Square, Stamford, started as a Saturday lad with Nelsons at 15 years old and now manages the original Nelsons shop in Red Lion Square. Asked about his favourite cut of meat and how he would prepare and cook it, he replied: ‘Rib of beef as a traditional Sunday roast. Season with a little salt and pepper, place in the oven at 180­°C and roast for 20 minutes per 1lb of meat for a delicious medium-rare finish.’ It is wonderful to be able to purchase this cut of meat again, and what a treat it is!  

Shops included in the Nelsons group:

• Nelsons, 37 Broad Street, Stamford PE9 1PB, 01780 763418 

• Nelsons, 8 Red Lion Square, Stamford PE9 2AJ, 01780 762344 

• Nelsons, 26 High Street, Oakham LE15 6AL, 01572 722518 

• Nelsons, 14 High Street East, Uppingham LE15 9PZ, 01572 823331 

All online at: nelsonsbutchers.co.uk

Plus:

• John Ross & Son Market Hall, St Mary’s Place, Market Harborough LE16 7DR, 07930 664535 

• Trendalls of Oundle, 22 Market Place, Oundle PE8 4BQ, 01832 273503 

Northfield Farm

This farm on the Leicestershire/Rutland border enjoys national acclaim thanks to its stand at London’s Borough Market, and we really are fortunate to have it in our region. They have regular stalls at the markets in Oakham and Uppingham, and, in the days when food festivals were held locally, they were hugely popular for their excellent burgers and hot dogs. Northfield Farm was first accredited as a butcher by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in 1997 as a tribute to the quality of their produce and the principles according to which their stock is bred and reared. The Farm Shop opened the same year, supplied mostly with meat from their own fields. Northfield say: ‘We believe passionately that if farming and specialist food production are to survive, the producer and consumer must strive together to ensure traceability and excellence.’ All their burgers and sausages are made on the farm, they cure and cook their own salt beef, and dry cure their own bacon; they can even make sausage flavours to order. They supply game in season, much of which has been shot on and around Northfield Farm. They also supply free-range geese and Bronze Turkeys for the festive season. Deli products and foodie gifts are also sold in the shop. Northfield have an excellent online offering, too, including meat boxes and their own brand of ready-prepared meals. 

Northfield Farm Shop, Whissendine Lane, Cold Overton, Leics LE15 7QF, 01664 474271, northfieldfarm.com