Match Made in Sheffield: Butcher & Catch and Locksley Gin
The owners of Sir Robin of Locksley Gin and Butcher & Catch talk us through their collaborative Food Fest event, the versatility of gin and how the worlds of gin, meat and seafood will collide at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival.
Most people love a gin, don’t they? Over the last 10 years, the British have well and truly got stuck into it. Rhubarb, raspberry or pink – distilleries across the UK have upped their game in terms of interesting and intriguing flavours.
One Sheffield distillery, Sir Robin of Locksley Gin based in the Portland Works building close to the city centre, was launched in 2014 by John Cherry and wife Cynthia King. “When we launched back in 2014, there was nothing else like it on the market,” Cynthia tells us. “The people of Sheffield have been amazing – they won’t settle for mediocrity, but they absolutely want to support local companies too!”
The ethos of working with local companies and producers extends to other business owners in the city too. Locksley Gin’s ingredients include dandelion hand-picked in Yorkshire and, if you haven’t spotted yet, is named after a certain locally-born folklore legend. Working with Locksley Gin at this year’s Food Festival is Butcher & Catch, a superb seafood and meat restaurant in Broomhill, whose main ethos is working passionately with local suppliers. “It’s not just important to the ethos; it is THE ethos behind Butcher & Catch,” says owner Liam Ridge. “The minute we’re not passionate about using local ingredients is the time we’ll hang up our aprons. We feel the produce on our doorstep in Sheffield and Yorkshire is some of the best in the world.”
With both businesses sharing such a passion for working alongside local producers, it’s only natural that Sir Robin of Locksley Gin and Butcher & Catch have gravitated towards each other. Stocking Locksley Gin in the restaurant is one thing, but hosting events and combining the two elements is one step further, and something they will be showcasing at this year’s Sheffield Food Festival.
“We try to have a food and drink pairing event every month at Butcher & Catch,” says Liam. “We found that the appetite for food and gin pairings was growing and John and Cynthia at Locksley are very engaging and open to the challenge of the pairings – so it’s a naturally evolving relationship.”
So how do you go about pairing gin with Butcher & Catch’s menu? Liam tells us: “The pairings are two fold really. Firstly we often look at how we can incorporate the gin itself into a dish, and that could be something natural such as macerating, curing or preserving ingredients with gin, to create something like a gin-cured sea trout. Secondly is to challenge the senses by picking out the component ingredients within the gin making process that work really well with different foods, which could come in the form of combining juniper with lamb, or grapefruit with hake. Gin is a very versatile ingredient to pair with food, and the chefs get very excited about combining the two.”
Pairing gin with food isn’t actually very difficult, explains Cynthia. “Seafood works particularly well with gin. Gin-cured salmon often be found in a traditional Swedish Christmas feast. I think gin is actually quite easy to pair with food. You can pick out key botanicals and find food with complimentary or contrasting flavours. Our newest product, Real Raspberry and Cardamom, is great with a curry as cardamom is quite a common ingredient in Indian cooking.”
In terms of the event itself, it will be taking place at the Demo Theatre Kitchen on the Friday night of the Food Festival. “The event is essentially to showcase the very best of the locally-produced, world class ingredients that we have on our doorstep,” says Liam. “We’re very well known for using locally-produced food throughout our menus, but the fact that we have such an array of amazing beer and spirits produced in our city walls needs to be celebrated too. This event will pair the outstanding food of our region with the superb gin that Locksley produce.”
Cynthia says that attendees can expect to learn a little bit about the history of gin too. “Butcher & Catch will be offering four courses, whilst we’ll be presenting three different drinks. Throughout the evening we will talk about the history of gin, the distillation process, gin classifications, and obviously a bit about our company and products.”
Of course, the community-feel of the Sheffield Food Festival, and Sheffield in general, means that this event won’t be the only one on the radar. “I love just walking around and seeing what stalls are there,” says Cynthia.
For Liam, it’s a huge event. “The whole feel of the event is amazing, and in my opinion it’s one of, if not the best, food festivals in the country. The idea of a huge celebration of food and drink that sprawls Sheffield city centre itself, benefiting businesses and the public alike, rather than stuck away in a random field somewhere is amazing. I love the carnival feel, the smell of the food vendors and the sound of people having a fantastic time!”
For Butcher & Catch, these events are a continuation of a successful first 18 months in the city. “Broomhill and the surrounding areas have a really nice community feel, and we’re very grateful for the support we’ve had since we’ve been open. I think the fact that we have regular evolving seasonal menus keeps it interesting for our guests. The hospitality industry is challenging and ever-evolving, but we love being part of it and seeing new, independent local businesses thriving in this competitive market. It’s a very exciting and interesting time to be in the restaurant trade!”
And for Locksley Gin, it’s a case of building on a hugely loyal customer base. “The people of Sheffield won’t settle for mediocrity. I think being local sells the first bottle, but you have to back that up with quality. We always put time into the development of our products and we won’t put just anything into a Locksley bottle. I think we are a brand that people trust.”
Having everyone’s appetite whetted for gin and food pairing events, this could be something that we see more of in the city post-Sheffield Food Festival. Liam tells us: “The Food Festival event will be our third event in direct partnership with Locksley, and our sixth gin event in 12 months, so I’d definitely say the appetite is there for more similar events!”
Cynthia is convinced. “I’m sure you will see more of these events! You’ll also be seeing us launch our new Gin School soon! I think that’s what we are currently most excited about at Locksley Gin.”
Catch Liam Ridge from Butcher & Catch and Cynthia King from Sir Robin of Locksley Gin at the Demo Theatre Kitchen on Friday night. Head over to sheffieldfoodfestival.co.uk for ticket info.