Jack Rabbits - Derby's 'foodie' hotspot

PUBLISHED: 14:37 29 November 2010 | UPDATED: 18:14 20 February 2013

Jack Rabbits - Derby's 'foodie' hotspot

Jack Rabbits - Derby's 'foodie' hotspot

Amber Locke meets Amelia Horne of Jack Rabbits – the Derby 'foodie' hotspot that's become the talk of the town

If I worked in Derby city centre a trip to Jack Rabbits Kitchen would almost certainly become a daily pilgrimage for me. Walking into the Queen Street shop in the Cathedral Quarter you are met not only with bright cheery smiles and friendly chat from the staff but also the wonderful, comforting smell of something very delicious cooking on the Aga in the shopIn fact, if ever there was a shop that could be said to reach out and give you a welcoming hug, this is it!

Opened 18 months ago by entrepreneur Amelia Horne, Jack Rabbits has become a bit of a local foodie destination, not only for a tasty home cooked lunchtime snack (the freshly made sausage rolls are particularly good and sell-out fast!) but also for anyone who wants high quality, ready-made dishes to take away and eat at home. Jack Rabbits strap line is: Cant cook wont cook well cook! which sums up the shops offering perfectly; real food for busy people who enjoy eating but dont have either the time, patience or inclination to cook themselves.

The menu covers a wide selection of lovingly prepared and Aga-cooked dishes which are ideal to take home for supper after a work-frazzled day, for an instant dinner party, for filling up your freezer or for a special occasion or treat and as you buy dishes by the weight of the food you can get exactly the portion size you require, enabling you to mix and match dishes for the whole family, without a scrap of wastage. What a brilliant idea!

The only difficulty is in deciding which dishes to choose as the tempting range spans pies, lasagnas, stroganoffs, casseroles, goulashes, meatballs, curries, pot roasts, gratins, chillis, tarts, side dishes plus a range of seasonal dishes, daily specials and lunchtime snacks. There are also home-made cakes and desserts, chutneys and pickles. Amelia and her team will even provide bespoke food for parties, celebrations and corporate functions.

Amelia has no formal training as a chef and in fact spent the previous 10 years of her career, prior to opening Jack Rabbits, working in the financial services industry. However, her passion outside work had always been food and after identifying a gap in the market she decided (against the advice of virtually all her family and friends!) to go for it. and launched her innovative food concept in April 2009. The decision was a good one and the business became almost an instant success and has since attracted an ever-growing, fanatical following of delighted customers.

Although it was such a good idea, on meeting super-enthusiastic Amelia its easy to see why Jack Rabbits has been so successful. I think even an ice to Eskimos initiative would be a winner should she decide to instigate one! Talking ten-to-the-dozen and with down-to-earth good humour she positively bubbles over with ideas and inspiration. Likewise her staff obviously genuinely adore what they do. They are not only skilled in the kitchen but are also incredibly knowledgeable about food in general and keen to impart advice on any ingredient and cooking, should you ask.

Amelia specifically recruited her five staff from outside the industry with the only pre-requisite being that they were like-minded and with an absolute passion for good food. As unconventional as all this may be for a start-up catering business, the formula certainly works: Jack Rabbits was voted joint Best Newcomer in the 2009 Derby Food and Drink awards earlier this year and Amelia received the Small Business of the Year award in the East Midlands Women of Worth Awards, which celebrate the achievements of entrepreneurial women in the region. Its latest achievement is the award of Best Customer Service in the Derby Food Awards 2010. Impressive accolades indeed!

The business is based on sound ethical principles and when Amelia opened her shop she wanted the ingredients she used to be available to her customers, too. So rather than buying direct from trade suppliers she actively supports high quality local retailers. Her meat comes from Barry Fitch the butcher in Little Eaton, fruit and vegetables are from Ted the greengrocer in Derbys indoor market and cheese and dairy products are from The Fresh Box (the online home delivery service that sells groceries sourced from local producers throughout the East Midlands). Amelia also wanted her recipes to be accessible to her customers so in characteristic gung-ho spirit she set to and wrote and produced a cookbook called Forty Nine. The book gives seven weeks (49 days) worth of easy to cook, family-friendly recipes and recommends readers to forward plan meals, shop wisely, buy seasonally and minimise wastage. It also encourages you to experiment with ingredients and not to get too bothered if you havent got the exact requirements to hand and to improvise instead. The recipes are simple, easy-to-follow and with this by your side you will have an indispensable guide to creating healthy and delicious suppers for at least seven weeks.

As part of Jack Rabbits ethical trading policy part of the profits goes to charity; specifically to building a Jack Rabbits kitchen for a school in Kenya which Amelia and her team are planning to visit in the New Year. Closer to home she is planning to roll out a healthy eating programme to local schools.

Never one to stand still, Amelia has also branched out into demonstrating and does regular cookery sessions for the Aga showroom in Derby and demonstrated at the Chatsworth Country Fair. Jack Rabbits will be providing the main food offering at the Fabulous Places Christmas Market at the Round House in Derby in November and with the success of the shop in Derby, Amelia is looking to roll-out the concept nationally and has already identified several key towns.

Jack Rabbits is undoubtedly a unique and appealing concept and if youre in the area or passing by, I thoroughly recommend you to pop in. You can be guaranteed a cheery chat and a freshly cooked culinary delight. This together with the nose-tingling enticement and the promise of a brief warm respite from the inclement weather, provides the kind of comforting winter therapy we all need at times. Go see for yourself!

For more details call: 01332 349966 or visit: www.jackrabbitskitchen.co.uk

At the ready - Four more ready meal suppliers around the county

Peak Feast: The Workshop, Moor Lane, Youlgreave, is a specialist vegetarian bakery that makes cakes of all flavours and tasty vegetarian and vegan savouries including a whole range of vegetarian and gluten free ready meals. Tel: 01629 630000

The Original Farmers Market Shop: 3 Market Street, Bakewell Tel: 01629 815814 www.the farmers marketshop.co.uk Stocks joint owner Carolyns own range of ready meals that include gluten free recipes.

Maycocks Family Butchers: Lea Shaw Road, Holloway, Matlock, DE4 5AT Telephone: 01629 534333 Maycocks sells home produced pies, quiches, cakes, jams, chutneys and ready meals ranging from liver and onions through curries to duck in plum sauce.

Just out of the county but happy to deliver to your door is Cooking Made Simple, a delicious range of Italian inspired chilled meals. After producing chilled ready meals for their shop in Loughborough for over 10 years, the company now offers a delivery service. Meals are prepared to order in small batches. Tel: 0800 028 2998 www.chilledmeals.co.uk

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