Thrings Eats…at Proudfoot & Co., Winchester

Thrings eats at proud foot and co

In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, Annie Hodjat from the law firm Thrings talks to a café owner who is foraging his way to a more sustainable future

In his café in the heart of Winchester, Eoghan Proudfoot has glass-fronted cupboards crammed full of jars of seeds, roots, dried flowers and herbs.

From these, he makes non-alcoholic cream sodas, cocktails and more, to delight his ‘bold and curious’ customers.

The recipes may seem exotic, but Eoghan explains: “The magic of this place partly comes from the discovery that everything in it is foraged from close to home. People can’t believe it when we tell them the ingredients are mostly grown within 10 minutes of the shop.”

Eoghan, who was born in Ireland and grew up in America, took a left turn from a conventional career path to launch his business, which also produces sustainable food such as cobnut butter and fennel biscuits.

“I always describe this as my early mid-life crisis,” says Eoghan, 34. “I was in finance before and I did the whole ‘get the right degree, go to the right school, the right job’ – and then just realised I hated it.

“My grandmother, who was English, ran a hotel in Wales and used to forage, so I grew up on all sorts of stuff we don't really eat any more. I had that memory of British food as a kid in the back of my head when I came back here and I realised how much we've lost.”

Proudfoot & Co. opened two weeks before lockdown – a move Eoghan says ‘really stress-tested the business,’ but had its upsides.

“People were stuck inside, and forced to look at places closer to home, and realised there is food that is exotic and different right on their doorstep. Opening people's eyes to that has been really fulfilling to me.”

The drinks are fun and often frothy, but Eoghan’s intent and messages are serious – he wants to lead a movement to mend what he describes as ‘our broken food systems’.

“We are so disconnected from our food nowadays – people don't want to buy fish with the heads on, they want everything vacuum-packed, cellophaned, and it’s applicable on so many levels,” he says.

 “Just take seafood as an example. We harvest cuttlefish, octopus, eels, all these amazing oily fish, and we ship them all to northern Europe in exchange for farmed salmon riddled with lice and pumped full of antibiotics. What are we doing?”

As well as running the café, Eoghan runs workshops and collaborates with local farmers with the aim of creating sustainable supply chains for traditional English produce such as damsons, mulberry trees, medlars and cobnuts.

“Change will be driven from a very promising groundswell of small producers,” he says. “We know it can happen. It’s a tall mountain to climb, but it’s possible."


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