AWARD-WINNING restaurateur Bill Oldfield has launched a range of ready meals which he is aiming to sell nationally and put a taste of the North East on the map.
Oldfield has created nine different meals, which are initially being sold from Fenwick in Newcastle and from his restaurant, Oldfields Eating House in Durham.
The frozen meals, including slow- cooked shin beef casserole, rabbit and black pudding casserole and pan haggerty, are made to exactly the same recipes as those served in the restaurant. Oldfield said: “It came about because we had a number of customers who liked the basic meals we did in the restaurant and asked if they could have them at home.
“We do a lot of British cookery; they are very traditional meals.
“We have been experimenting with the ready meals for the best part of a year. We were originally looking at chilled meals and we tested the concept at farmers’ markets.”
Supermarket-ready meals have shelf lives of up to 14 days and Oldfield did not want to go down the route of pumping the meals full of preservatives, so he decided to freeze them instead.
Negotiations with Fenwick resulted in an invitation to launch the range at the store and Oldfield said feedback so far has been positive, including two emails from customers who plan to visit the Durham restaurant after buying the ready meals.
He said: “The sales are more than the minimum we were wishing for.
“We are quite ambitious. We’re not looking at this just being a regional brand.
“We are looking at taking it to a national level and promoting the North East.”
Initial plans to market the range to a wider audience include selling online with overnight delivery. Oldfield hopes the diversification will create around a dozen jobs in the next three years.
The premium ready meals, which Oldfield said are “not cheap but are cheaper than most takeaways”, adhere to his ethos of using regionally sourced ingredients wherever possible.
“Local food is something we’ve championed for years,” he said.
“We even rear some of our own animals and we deal directly with farmers and abattoirs. These things are important to us.
“The same care and the same attention to quality local ingredients go into our new frozen range as in the dish you will get in the restaurant.”