As part of our series exploring the British Food stories of some of our borrowers for British Food Fortnight, we spoke to Shaun Donnelly, Managing Director of Bishopwearmouth Co-operative Garden Centre and Tea Room in Sunderland.
The co-op provides employment and voluntary opportunities for adults with disabilities in catering and horticulture and we were proud to support them in 2018 with a loan to buy a Victorian lodge house – this is now the home of The Lodge Tea Room.
‘The Tea Room is incredibly popular. We’re open seven days a week, serving breakfast from 9am until 11.30, light lunches, our famous pies and quiches, as well as a fantastic, seasonally varying, selection of homemade cakes and sweet treats. We’ve a huge range of teas and coffees, with options for vegan and other diets too, and our Sunday roasts are incredibly popular. And we have a few doggie options for our canine friends! We’re right next to the Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, which is the biggest cemetery in Europe. It’s a beautiful, Gothic cemetery and it’s really popular with dog walkers, so we have a space where dogs and their owners can rest their weary feet and refresh themselves, alongside a pet-free space for those who might be allergic.
People love that we are using this old building, they love the setting. The Lodge has a beautiful walled garden and people tell us how much they love to sit there, soaking up the atmosphere. We know that people love our work supporting people with disabilities and of course, they also love our food!
We’re really proud to work with fantastic local suppliers. We work with a dairyman and a butcher based within a mile of us – our milk, cream and a lot of our meat is very local. Our popular cheese scones are made with Yorkshire cheese, and our bread is all made in the north east too. It’s really important to us to support local business and provide local products – we have great food here in the north east and we want to celebrate and enjoy it.
If people are visiting us throughout British Food Fortnight, the one thing I’d recommend they try is our Afternoon Tea. I can’t tell you what will be in it as it changes with the seasons and what we have made each day. There will always be a mix of savoury and sweet, with your hot drink of choice – you might find a slice of freshly baked quiche nestled alongside a finger sandwich or two, with a mini cheesecake or individual mini trifle, or a piece of homemade shortbread. And there will always be a cream scone, plain or fruited – it wouldn’t be afternoon tea without it! We’re planning our Christmas menu now and really excited about the treats we’re going to be offering.”