RATTLESNAKE IS the latest addition to the menu at Bourne's in New Romney, Kent. That's because the owner, Dave Bourne, likes to offer his customers a little something different every now and again.
He already sells quite a lot of kangaroo, ostrich and is now moving on to wild boar, camel, wildebeest, impala and the afore-mentioned rattlesnake. The truth is that his son, Andrew, will shortly be opening a butcher-cum-deli down the road in Burmarsh and Dave, who is helping with the enterprise, is keen for it to offer more than just 'everyday' meat. "We want to get away from the standard butcher fare and offer something a little different, which is where the rattlesnake comes in. I can get it for £58/kilo but it's also available in 100g packs for £5.89 so we'll start with a few of them." The new shop, which will simply be called Bourne's, will have its own gamekeeper who will shoot all the deer, rabbit and pigeon.
Dave has been a butcher all his life, starting out as a butcher boy in a Saturday job while still at school. He worked for one firm for 20 years before starting his own business in New Romney in 1986. Five years ago, Sainsbury's opened a store nearby but Dave has never worried about it as competition. "I can cope with Sainsbury's quite well by providing a service. If anything, its opening helped us because we offer good quality meat and a good service." His ethos is simple: whatever the customer wants, they get. "If we haven't got it in, we get it in the next day. We cut it for them, dice it for them, do anything they want."
The shop's best seller is local Romney Marsh lamb. "We've got two farmers we use," says Dave, "and the lamb comes direct from them. Romney Marsh is a breed that's been crossed with a lot of other sheep. It's very hardy and, because the sheep graze on a salt marsh, it has a very distinctive flavour." Another local delicacy is the Looker's Pie - a Romney Marsh version of a Cornish pasty. "They're very popular in local pubs. The pies are sourced locally from a company called Sussex Pies."
Although lamb is the best seller, beef is also very popular. This is sourced from Natural Farms in Bodiam: "We've used them for years because they're so reliable and the beef is really good," says Dave.
With summer fast approaching, barbecues are big business for the shop and sausages are extremely popular. Employee Mandy Smith makes all the sausages - 12 varieties in the winter and up to 25 in the summer. "If it's a summer, they really sell well for barbecues. I have to look in my crystal ball on a Wednesday or Thursday to see if it's going to be a hot weekend to cope with demand." And demand comes from all around. Dave has regular customers from as far away as Ashford, some 15 miles away, and Maidstone, about 30 miles away and further afield in Brighton. Service is definitely something Dave excels at. Customers are so comfortable with him and his staff, they think nothing of bringing in their recipe books, pointing to a list of ingredients and say, "I need some of this". "We get people coming in saying, "I'm having a dinner party. What can you suggest?" One lady wanted lamb so we did her a crown of lamb made up of two best ends with a French trim and told her how to cook it."
Something that's really delighting Dave is the younger customers he's been attracting to the shop. "Over the past six months or so, we've had a lot of youngsters coming in, saying they usually get their meat at the supermarket but are fed up with it and want to try something different. They ask how to cook things and go off quite happy. I'm happy too, serving a new generation of customers."
Store name: Bourne's Butchers
Trading hours: 8am-1pm - Mondays; 7.30am-5pm Tuesday-Friday 7.30am-4pm Saturday
Staff: 4 full-time; 2 part-time plus one delivery driver
Turnover: £6,000-7,000 a week in-shop, plus catering accounts
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