When award-winning chef Justin Kett and his wife Kairi opened the doors to Fork Kitchen & Deli in Hadleigh in November 2020, little did they know that two days later the country would be plunged back into lockdown.
It was undoubtedly difficult. Establishing their stand with a whole new concept, a whole new company, only to have such uncertainty in front of them.
Fast forward to now, and the couple’s business is booming. Walk past any day and the tantalizing aromas of freshly baked Scotch eggs, cakes, preserves, sauces and pickles billow out the door as the hardworking team of chefs in the open kitchen prepare products to fill counters and shelves.
And now you’ll also spot tables and chairs, as Fork enters what Justin calls phase two. It’s time, he says, to raise the bar.
Daily from 8.30am (soon earlier), Fork is now open with an all day menu of breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes that show off the best of Suffolk and demonstrate the delight of many items which you can buy in the store.
It’s been a long time coming, Justin said.
“The period of confinement was strange. At the time, we made sure that the shop was spaced out because everyone was rightly afraid and respected each other. We were limited in what we could do and weren’t able to open our private dining room or masterclasses until last March.
“In February, it was time to review what we are doing. We moved all of our products to one side, put six tables inside, licensed four tables outside, and since then we haven’t looked back. It was fantastic.
Fork’s new dining hall surely offers one of the best vantage points in town for people-watching, through the huge storefront.
It is already quickly gaining regulars. And Justin and Kairi welcome you, whether they want to watch the world go by with a coffee and a slice of cake or pastry from the counter, or enjoy a heartier meal with a glass of wine.
“Our coffee comes from Paddy and Scott’s. We use different beans than they have in their stores. We want to be a little different and we are experimenting with coffees of the week and coffees of the month.
If you’re just peckish, choose one of Fork’s ever-popular Scotch Eggs or Sausage Rolls with your drink. “People also love our Bakewell pie, which sells so well, and our cookies, pancakes and brownies. We also just tried cheesejacks, with pumpkin seeds. We sell so many cakes!
The main menu changes every few weeks and “you can have a bacon roll at 3 or 9 am, it’s really up to you,” says Justin, adding that they’re as flexible as possible. If you don’t see what you want on the menu, just ask, if they can make it, they will.
“One of my favorite things on the menu is the rarebit – you don’t see that much these days. It features smoked haddock from Pinney, Mr Bees beer, Suffolk Gold and Leicester red cheese, and sourdough from Harvey & Co. It’s pretty much an all-Suffolk dish.
“At the moment we also have asparagus from our egg supplier down the street, with his eggs, spiced up with a little pecorino and rapeseed. It’s just perfect.
“Another dish I like is beans cooked in tomato sauce, then sliced chorizo with shallots and parsley, cooked together and finished with barbecue sauce. We put a fried duck egg on top, then an olive oil vinaigrette with capers and pickles. It’s really very nice. We don’t add any chilli, all the spiciness comes from the slow cooking of the chorizo.
“We really wanted to offer something a bit unique. And I think we do.
Other dishes include Fork Granola with Cherry Compote and Mint Yogurt, Pinney’s Smoked Salmon with Scrambled Egg and Lemon Oil, Fork Mushroom with Garlic Sourdough and Raclette Cheese, and a selection of meats and of cheeses with summer tomato salad, chutney and their own lavosh bread.
“It’s off the charts,” Justin says of the lavosh. “People can’t get enough. We almost can’t keep doing it!
To help with service both in the cafe and for private functions, the couple have brought in Harry Hobson-Barnes, whom Justin says customers love.
What’s next for Fork Phase Two?
“We really want to do pop-up parties,” adds Justin. “It’s just a matter of incorporating them into the private functions that we have on our agenda. I see us doing things like chef’s table nights where people can see the food being cooked and served in front of them.
“And maybe we’ll do parties like Fork in France, or Fork in Italy. I have two very talented chefs and I also want to show what they can do, and get them talking with customers and engaging with them.
Fork’s series of masterclasses for 2022 is already well underway – some sell out in less than half an hour.
Later in the year, Fruits of Suffolk Summer (August 4), Preserving and Jamming (August 25), Italy (September 29) and Suffolk Game (October 27).
“They’re great fun,” Justin says. “We have 14 theater style seats upstairs. Once people arrive, we have coffee and cake and chat a bit, then we give them a packet with all the dishes we’re going to prepare – it’s between five and eight depending on the theme.
“Then I start cooking everything in front of them. Everything is made from scratch – there is no Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier”. They get to try any dish I make, and then the group sits down for a two-course lunch with a glass of wine.
“It’s amazing. Some people know each other, some don’t, but bonds and relationships are formed around the table, which is just great.
How does it feel to be where they are now, compared to just over a year ago?
“It’s amazing,” Kairi said. “Whenever we are busy, I smile. I like to be busy, and it’s a different feeling when it’s home.
“It’s so gratifying to know that we’re doing it too,” adds Justin. “It was hard work, but it was definitely worth it. The last few weeks have made me feel “yes, we’re good at what we do” and we’re trying to focus on that.
Fork is open Monday through Saturday, and tables are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. Find out more about private dinners or masterclasses at hadleighfork.co.uk