Since settling in the Cotswold’s Ben has spent a number of years working with Bob Parkinson at MADE BY BOB in Cirencester and The Swan in Southrop.
Cotswold Life review
This café/restaurant and delicatessen opened in March and people have been queuing for tables since day one.
“Since the first day, we haven’t done less than 60 people for lunch and 100 on Saturdays and Sundays,” grins owner James ‘Bob’ Parkinson. Not bad for a new place that doesn’t take bookings.
Parkinson is no stranger to the area as he used to be the head chef at celebrated gastropub The Swan at Southrop.
Before that he worked in London at Sir Terence Conran’s famous Bibendum restaurant (where he was trained by Simon Hopkinson) and at Nahm with Australian chef David Thompson.
But like many chefs his age, he wanted to spend more time with his three young children and wife so took time out before deciding what he wanted to do next.
And then the opportunity came up to take a flagship unit in the redeveloped Corn Hall, next to the King’s Head hotel in the centre of Cirencester. For Parkinson, it was the perfect opportunity to bring a touch of London to the market town.
“Cirencester was crying out for something like this,” says Parkinson. “The idea was to provide a relaxed meeting place where people can enjoy fantastic food and drink throughout the day, from breakfast and mid-morning coffee through to lunch and afternoon tea.
“We open from 7.30am because we’re here making the bread and pastry so we may as well have the doors open and people can come in for coffee and croissants. It’s a good mix of business people, builders and shoppers.”
The menu at Made By Bob changes daily and the food is seasonal and as locally sourced as possible. When it’s not local, it invariably comes from Italy.
Everything is made on site in the huge open kitchen that dominates the room.
“I’ve always wanted a deli of my own,” says Parkinson. “Part of this was about a lifestyle change so I could spend more time with my family, but at the moment I’m working harder than ever. We’ve been hit hard since the day we opened, but eventually, I’d like to take more of a back seat here and perhaps open more Made By Bobs in places like Bath or Bristol.”
Occupying what was the kitchen of the King’s Head hotel, Made By Mob makes good use of its original features. There are original wooden beams and exposed brick walls (painted a clotted cream colour), arched windows and a huge fireplace which now doubles up as a wine display.
The black shelving around the edges of the dining area are packed with top quality products – wine, bags of pasta, tins of Illy coffee and a number of Made By Bob products, including sauces and dressings.
Around the open kitchen are a number of high stools enabling customers to watch Parkinson and his chef Ben Round (another former Bibendum boy) at close quarters.
At the far end is a well-stocked larder of artisan products from Italy – baskets of artichokes, bags of fava beans, trugs of vine tomatoes – and an impressive chill cabinet selling everything from aged Parmesan and Italian charcuterie to pots of red wine jus and stocks, all with the distinctive Made By Bob label (a picture of a dark blue butcher’s apron).
There is an undeniable London vibe to this food-lover’s emporium and it’s something Parkinson is well aware of.
“Everybody says that when they come here, they forget they are in Cirencester. It just feels like London. It has that buzz.”
But it’s not just the atmosphere. The food is also unlike anything else being served in the town. This is top drawer London restaurant food: bresaola with pecorino, watercress, almonds and sherry vinegar; roast rump of lamb with crushed potatoes, roast tomato, field mushrooms and salsa verde; braised cuttlefish and chorizo with chick peas, pimento and saffron; white peach bavarois with caramelised almonds. Simple stuff, done brilliantly well.
Says Parkinson: “We use as much local produce as we can, but you have to go where the quality is and I have an amazing guy called Stefano Chessa of Villa Nova, a London-based supplier who gets the very best Sardinian produce.
“I think people really appreciate the quality of the ingredients we have here and the feedback so far has been amazing. People seem to love it.
“We don’t get a break because we go straight into lunch and when lunch finishes at 3pm, it’s straight into afternoon tea. We don’t open in the evening, but we might open early evenings at some point, just to do tapas-style food and wine.
“I hope to expand the deli side and we are also building up the outside catering side of the business. We have a lot of bookings for weddings already and we’re taking bookings every day for outside catering which is quite scary.
“The long-term plan is that we will also do the food in the hotel next door when it reopens.”
Made By Bob, Unit 6, The Corn Hall, 26 Market Place, Cirencester.
Tel: 01285 641 818.