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The Larder

March 2010

HE found it under the floorboards. A three inch clear glass bottle bearing the Boots logo. The shop closed in the 1960s but the bottle is clearly Victorian.
And he’s added it to a small collection that sits just inside the restaurant.
On the wall above is an original shop sign.
“I think more can be made of the history,” says Ewan McFarlane, who took over ownership of The Larder in December, following three years as its head chef.
“There should at least be a blue plaque on the wall outside saying that this was the very first Boots shop.
“We’re trying to set up a link with Boots to get some of their stuff in here. The archivist said she’d get us copies of the original plans to display.”
The Larder is on the first floor of the Grade II Listed building which once housed Jesse’s first shop.
He was born round the corner on Woolpack Lane in 1850. His father, John, ran a shop in Goosegate selling his mother’s herbal remedies to the sick and needy who lived in the overcrowded streets nearby.
Ten years’ later his father died, leaving his wife Mary to run the business. Jesse left school at 13 to help run the shop and eight years later, in 1871, he opened a new, larger shop a few doors down, now home to The Larder.
It’s bright, due to the floor to ceiling windows, original dark wood floors, dark leather seating, chandeliers and cream and mint green walls broken by curious paintings of farm animals.
“People do sometimes comment on the fact that you’re looking at the paintings of what you’re eating,” laughs Ewan, 32.
“But we inherited them. That said, I quite like them. I think they’ll stay.”
The food is British, modern and traditional. Steak, pork, fish, beetroot, mushroom, cheese... there’s a Shepherd’s Pie but that’s lentil, for the sandal-wearing lot.
“Outside gastropubs, it’s hard to find British dishes done well,” says Ewan, who grew up in Lady Bay.
Current dishes include fried sprats with lemon and caper mayonnaise, goose breast with creamed parley root and balsamic baby onions and old-fashioned favourites such as suet dumplings and Eton Mess.
Most of the ingredients are locally sourced, including Cropwell Bishop stilton, Beedham's chorizo from Sherwood butcher Johnny Pustzai.
Steak is a speciality.
“When I first took over the kitchen I realised that about a quarter of all our customers would order steak. At the time the only one we offered was sirloin, which is a superb cut, but expensive. Around the start of 2008, beef prices went through the roof so we had to look really carefully at what we were doing.
“I'd always been interested in how in other countries they seemed to get so much more out of the animal, so started researching and applying French style techniques to British beef. The result is getting away from pre-portioned steaks to offer some truly fantastic cuts that nobody else seems to bother with.”
He learnt his trade at Antonio Carluccio’s flagship Neal Street restaurant in London and The Sanctuary in Radcliffe-on-Trent.
The Larder is the first time he’s put his name above the door.
“There’s more paperwork but my role as chef hasn’t changed. Although I am doing an 80-hour-week these days.”
Only one day out of the seven does he get to spend with his 21 month old twins.
“But when an opportunity like this comes along you have to take it.”
Apart from embracing the Boots heritage, he hasn’t any plans for changing the way The Larder operates.
“I think what we do works very well. We’ve been a word-of-mouth find for a while but this year it’s really taken off.”

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