Is this café one of Suffolk’s best-kept secrets?
- Credit: Steve Larder
Bardwell. Population circa 700. The village near Bury St Edmunds is by no means large...but there’s plenty going on.
Award-winning bakery Wooster’s has its headquarters here.
And a brand-new café and restaurant (officially launched just three weeks before lockdown) in a sports clubhouse costing around £650,000, has just opened, attracting between 100 and 150 diners every Saturday night!
The Grumpy Goat is the fruition of hard graft by local volunteers and fundraisers, and has truly become a destination – pointing, says Bardwell Cricket Club chairman Steve Larder, to the future of village sports facilities, which will have to work harder than ever before to keep money flowing in.
“When I became chairman in 2007 the club had an old potting shed on the playing field,” says Stephen of the journey to open the eatery. “We added the football element, and in came kids football and adult football, so a couple of years ago we started to put the money together to build a new sports pavilion, all under the auspices of Bardwell Sports and Community Club.”
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Securing grants, including £100,000 from the English Cricket Board, £10,000 from the Football Association, and £50,000 from Sport England, the dream was realised – the doors opening on February 28, 2020.
“And then lockdown hit. We’d built a fantastic bar and club room, state-of-the-art changing rooms, a cellar and a kitchen. We managed to do a few meals, and offered takeaways in lockdown which had a huge amount of support from locals. Then we opened when we could, outside in April, with a marquee filled with picnic tables and heaters. We were full every single Saturday night.
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“We decided to open on Fridays too, and were getting over 100 people in. We just thought, this is silly, we’re here, but we’re not open during the week. So we’ve now expanded what we’re doing. We’re open six days a week as a bar, five days as a coffee shop and as a restaurant on Friday and Saturday night.”
This growth and success is down to the quality and freshness of food says Steve – all made from scratch using local produce, including bread from Wooster’s and meat from the butcher at Thurston. Then there’s the fact The Grumpy Goat was named West Suffolk CAMRA’s Pub of the Month for April and May. There are four real ales and four real ciders on tap.
“The whole Grumpy Goat name comes from the fact we got a lot of feedback that people didn’t think they could come here – they thought it was for members only. Giving the business a brand and independence lets everyone know it’s inclusive. Anyone’s welcome and it’s amazing how many people are visiting what they call ‘The Goat’ now. It’s taken off.”
As a café, The Grumpy Goat is open from 9.30am to 3pm from Wednesday to Sunday, serving all-day breakfasts, brunches, lunch and cake.
And dinner is available from 5pm to 9pm, with food a cut above what you might expect from a sports club restaurant.
“All the burgers are homemade with freshly ground beef. We season them and, because they’re fresh, they can be served medium rare. Those come on a brioche bun. And there are different versions, like the Mexican burger, a blue cheese burger, one with pulled pork, and a homemade vegan burger with lentils and wild mushrooms in a panko crust.
“Our Southern fried chicken is the Grumpy Goat version of KFC. We use Diaper Poultry from Haughley for that and also make a Buffalo-style chicken. People love our amazing fish and chips too because it is completely fresh. We don’t take anything frozen. We buy 25 pieces of fish from Direct Seafoods in Colchester every week and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”
“It’s such a unique offering for us and we have lots of comments from visiting teams who want to do something similar. Around 95% of club income is from memberships, subs and over the bar, and by creating this extra stream of income we’ve taken a huge amount of pressure off. It’s fantastic that so many people are coming in and enjoying what we’re doing here. We’ve even got some weddings booked!”
Follow The Grumpy Goat Bardwell on Facebook and Instagram. A website is due to be launched soon.
What’s on the menu?
BBQ Steak Burger – with barbecue sauce, fresh coleslaw, smoked streaky bacon, pepperjack cheese and tempura jalapenos
Halloumi Burger – with portobello mushroom, baby gem, red onion, tomato and garlic aioli
Southern Fried Chicken Strips – fresh chicken breast marinated for 24 hours in Southern-style buttermilk
Garlic and Chorizo Loaded Fries
Cookies and Cream Chocolate Brownie – served with chantilly cream