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Village Food & Drink

Cultivating a sweet sensation

Posted on February 15 2010 at 5:10:28 0 comments

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Sally Oldaker meets the chef bringing a world of experience to the restaurant at Little Heath Garden Centre.

The restaurant at Little Heath Garden Centre is already one of the most popular attractions for visitors, who enjoy sampling the traditional meals and snacks after browsing the rest of the store.  And now there’s even more reason to pop in – the restaurant has been modernised to give a more open feel, and a brand new range of foodie delights promises to tempt all tastebuds.

As well as classic favourites like cottage pie, liver and bacon casserole and traditional sandwiches, head chef and restaurant supervisor Stephanie Morrison plans to introduce some more unusual options such as Mediterranean-style dishes, fruit smoothies and paninis with exotic fillings.

However, the emphasis remains firmly on tasty homemade food, all freshly cooked on the premises and using local produce wherever possible.

“We’re not planning to turn it into an upmarket bistro!” Stephanie confirms. “Customers will always be able to enjoy the usual items like fresh soups and chunky bread, but we’ll be offering new ideas on the specials board to see which ones people like best.”

Those with a sweet tooth will also be thrilled to learn that Stephanie, who previously ran her own delicatessen and private catering business, is an expert at creating confectionery treats as well as savoury delights. She has introduced a small selection of handmade chocolates – including brandy truffles and ginger pieces coated in edible gold – which are sure to prove a big hit, especially with Mother’s Day and Easter around the corner. It’s even possible to order a box made of chocolate, which can be filled with truffles or a miniature cake.

“There will always be a chocolate cake or torte available, and I’ve created some chocolate gift packs for special occasions,” says Stephanie. “Of course, Little Heath has a wide range of chinaware in its gift section, so if a customer was buying a plate or bowl as a present, they could choose some chocolates or a special cake to put on it and we can gift wrap it for them.”

Cakes are another of Stephanie’s talents, including wedding cakes, novelty items and of course chocolate flavoured versions. Her portfolio is full of beautiful and unusual designs, from flower-covered cakes to iced caricatures of the recipient. She has won awards for her sugar work and sculpting with chocolate (and even margarine!)

Stephanie is happy to pass her skills on to others, holding demonstrations for customers to watch her decorating chocolates or cakes, and giving advice on all cookery matters. In fact, the restaurant will host a series of talks this year, combining plant care or flower arranging with food ideas and a chance to meet new friends over coffee.

“So many people are put off buying fresh herbs because they don’t know what to do with them – but at Little Heath they can find out how to grow them and how to use them in cookery!” Stephanie points out.

She is also planning to hold themed evenings (e.g. Italian Night) and to start a Pudding Club – the range of hot desserts has been expanded recently, and clients can already sign up for a loyalty card with which they can buy five puds and get the sixth free. A similar scheme applies to coffee.

The restaurant is available for private bookings in the evenings, while Sunday lunch is especially popular so booking a table is advisable. And if you enjoy the food at Little Heath so much that you’d like to take it home, Stephanie will create dishes for you to take away.

She can also cater for buffets and dinner parties, having plenty of experience from her prestigious career – she was sous chef at Michael Caine’s restaurant, pastry chef at Richard Branson’s hotel, and worked for a London catering firm whose clients included Elton John and the Royal Family.

She won Restaurant of the Year for Lincolnshire, has featured in the Good Food Guide twice, and won praise from Egon Ronay who said her lemon tart was the best he’d ever tasted!

Stephanie also ran the tea room at Jane Asher’s Cake Shop & Tea Rooms, renowned as the place to get novelty cakes – Fergie was a regular customer and commissioned the christening cake for Princess Eugenie, while Kate Bush and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa were also on the client list.

Whilst working in Australia, Stephanie helped to make a life-size cake replica of the Queen for a Royal visit. She has travelled extensively and uses global influences in her dishes, including her speciality, Moroccan lamb casserole.

Stephanie is keen to hear customer feedback and gauge interest in the talks and demonstrations, so if you are interested, pop into the restaurant and sample some of the treats while you’re there!

And don’t forget to look around the rest of Little Heath too – great gift items include hand-painted glassware, cupcake-themed kitchen items and fashion jewellery, while the start of spring is the ideal time to give your garden a makeover.

Littleheath Lane,
Lickey End, Bromsgrove
Tel: 01527 878174 or 832728

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