Steve Lomas is the owner of Deben Inns, a highly successful chain of historic pubs in Suffolk including the famous Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill. He talks to us about “His Suffolk”
Have you always lived in Suffolk?
My parents came here from London in 1972 and took on The Plough in Sutton, Nr Woodbridge. This was my childhood home; much of my time was spent on or around the River Deben and my father kept a boat at Ramsholt. My parents continued to run The Plough for 19 years building a thriving business which was renowned for great food. They are known as pioneers of pub food in the area, the locals told them back in the 70s “Food in pubs? That will never work”!! Father told me he started with a sandwich toaster & a table top fryer! It’s a bit different these days!
What do you love about Suffolk?
It’s a wonderful county and I think sometimes we become complacent about its qualities. From the coast to the rivers, the wonderful forestry to the charming market towns, but most appealing is the rural nature to which we hold onto whilst still having good links to the city and airports etc. I count myself as lucky to live here!
What’s your favourite pub in the county?
The Butt & Oyster at Pin Mill, but I may be slightly biased! There are so many though, Suffolk is so photogenic.
I understand there is a new addition to the Deben Inns family
Yes after an extensive refurbishment we have just opened the Swan at Westerfield. It’s a great little pub in a good location and I’m really looking forward to the next few months as we re-establish the pub in the village.
Do you think we should eat local and support local independent retailers?
I believe we should use the best of the local produce available where possible however I believe that it is for the independent businesses to be competitive and go out and win the trade, just because you’re local it doesn’t mean you are entitled to custom, it has to be won. Council planners also have a role to play when it comes to the growth of out of town superstores & retail parks. I am not advocating that this should stop but it should be recognised that they need to be more proactive in encouraging small business back into towns with free parking and business rate relief. There are many entrepreneurial people in our area and these should be encouraged by the reduction of red tape and tax incentives to promote and enable small local business to thrive within our communities and generally help to keep tax, profits and wages to be spent within the area.
Where do you like to walk?
I have two dogs which we exercise in and around Waldringfield; there are some beautiful riverside routes. I have a holiday home in Aldeburgh in which we can get away from it all and love nothing more than the odd weekend away spent walking the marshes, cycling to Thorpeness and generally relaxing along the front, whatever the weather. I spend some leisure time on the Rivers Deben and Orwell but this usually tends to involve a trip to a pub or restaurant.
Have you got any hobbies?
I regularly play tennis with a group at David Lloyd in Ipswich and very much enjoy game shooting during the season. There are many well run and challenging pheasant and partridge shoots within Suffolk, it’s also a great way to see some of the less travelled parts of the county.
Where do you eat out (apart from your pubs) and have you got any recommendations?
I regularly eat out; it is an important part of my job! My current favourite place to eat has to be The Anchor in Woodbridge. Relaxed, informal and always good. Mariners on the waterfront in Ipswich and The Salthouse Hotel come a close second and third.
What do you eat at home?
My wife is a wonderful cook, I am so spoilt, and her pasta concoctions are my favourite. As a family, my sons and I are always encouraging her to cook for us and most grateful when she does.
If you were to show people Suffolk who’d never been here before where would you go?
On the River Deben or Orwell, a splendid way to enjoy our county followed by a trip to Orford and Aldeburgh.