A Chat with The Staithe Smokehouse
Published: Monday 30th Mar 2020
Written by: Isobel Taylor
Norfolk is full of small, independent businesses who are preserving local traditions in innovative ways to bring them to a 21st century audience. The Staithe Smokehouse in Brancaster Staithe is an independent business doing just this. Making use of the fresh seafood available on the Norfolk Coast, the smokehouse smokes a range of fish from salmon, haddock, scallops and prawns, selling them at its on site shop and also to local pubs and restaurants. We caught up with Phil Hartshorne, owner of the Staithe Smokehouse, to talk about how he turned his hobby into a business, why the size of the fish and even the weather has to be managed carefully when smoking and why he loves being a business owner in Norfolk.
What is your role at the Staithe Smokehouse?
I am the owner and fish Smoker at Staithe Smokehouse. The original smokehouse was founded many years ago by Paul Letzer who then passed the smokehouse through his family. I recently took over and now run the business as well as smoke the fish.
How did the idea for the smokehouse come about?
I had enjoyed food smoking at home, just as a hobby. A random conversation with Simon Letzer, whose family owned the smokehouse turned into us buying the business as Simon followed his passion for fishing to Scotland. From here we have kept the artisan and traditional style of smoking fish and grown the business. We have a shop open to the public, attend markets and supply many pubs and restaurants around Norfolk.
While we remain dedicated to the traditional method of smoking fish we have expanded the range of seafood we now smoke. Products range from salmon, haddock, kippers, scallops, prawns, mackerel and make our own homemade smoked salmon mousse.
What makes the Staithe Smokehouse unique?
I worked at the White Horse Pub for 10 years as a barman, so I love customer service. My wife is the Head Chef there so we have a passion for fantastic food.
I enjoy a challenge and each smoke is never the same. I have to watch the weather, the size of the fish, the oak sawdust mix, even down to each smokehouse smoking a little different. We don't use any chemicals or dyes with our fish. Just time and patience.
What’s your favourite meal to cook up using one of your products?
Favourite meal to cook up with our products - that's a hard one. I think our kiln roasted hot smoked salmon. Scrambled goose eggs. Asparagus. Hollandaise sauce. Perfect.
What do you love about owning a business in Norfolk?
I love the amount of small businesses in Norfolk and how people support each other. It's funny how many people find out about that special little shop/supplier and then we become theirs. They follow our social media, buy our goods and tell all their friends about this wonderful county of Norfolk.
There are so many opportunities to start a small business in Norfolk. It's fantastic how much we do help each other. As well as the shop, I also supply a lot of local businesses. The White Horse, Brancaster Staithe, The Hoste Arms, Thornham Deli, Duck Inn at Stanhoe just to name a few. I love seeing our name on local menus and to know that people are enjoying our smoked fish after being cooked and prepared by some outstanding chefs. For those who don’t want to cook themselves on their holiday but want to try some of our smoked fish I really recommend heading to one of these restaurants for a taster!
When you are not at work what do you enjoy doing in Norfolk?
In our down time, we enjoy meals out, markets and beaches. We love to go out in search of inspiration for our fish and my wife for her dishes. We eat at some great places like Chequers at Thornham, Neptune at Old Hunstanton and the Gunton Arms at Thorpe Market.
If you are looking to explore our fine county, we love Creake Abbey market and Kings Lynn Saturday farmers market and Brancaster beach is great for walking and relaxing - not too far away from the smokehouse shop might I add!
If you would like to try some of Phil’s smoked fish and seafood you can visit the shop at Brancaster Staithe or enjoy his brand new delivery service. If you want to explore more of this part of Norfolk, take a look at our amazing range of properties on the Royal Norfolk Coast.