New stall will make pea lovers go mushy inside
THE mushy pea might be Nottingham's unofficial city dish, but in recent years it's been a treat reserved for Goose Fair or the Christmas markets.
But now, like a pea-shaped phoenix rising from the minty ashes, the mushy pea will once again have a full-time home in Nottingham.
The Robin Hood Traditional Mushy Peas stall is the brainchild of Norman Packer. When he began looking into it, he was surprised to hear that the city's last full-time mushy pea stall had closed several years ago.
"I had no idea there was no mushy pea stall," he said.
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The move follows controversy at this year's Goose Fair when the mushy pea stall's traditional bowl of mint sauce and ladle was replaced by shop-bought mint sauce out of a squirty bottle.
A Facebook campaign group was set up in protest.
In keeping with the Robin Hood theme, Mr Packer's brought on board Tim Pollard.
Tim's the official Robin Hood of Nottingham Castle and Castle Rock Brewery – and he's also happy to do freelance Robin Hooding. He'll work at the mushy pea stall once a week doing ... well, doing what, exactly?
"I'm not allowed to serve food, as I don't have my Level 2 food hygiene licence," he said. "But I can promote food."
And he's willing to promote it any way he can. Including puns.
"I like the fact that they're opening on Christmas – the time of peas on earth and goodwill towards man," he said. "I hope they make a mint."
The mushy pea stall will go into the recently-refurbished food court area in the city-owned indoor market, in Victoria Centre.
In the past year, the city has tried to promote the area as a diverse food market – fishmongers and butchers have been joined by businesses such as Nkono, a lunch counter serving traditional food from Cameroon and other African countries.
The food court is about half full now, although several more spots have new businesses in the works.
Mr Packer believes his stall could help attract more attention to the entire market – and he's received positive feedback from the city council.
"They think it will encourage people to come back in," he said.
His wife, city councillor and former Lady Mayoress Jeannie Packer, said the research they did before deciding to open the business revealed they were on to a winner.
They canvassed and interviewed about 700 people, and the message was clear: bring back the pea.
She said: "It's all the comments: 'I remember going there with my father and I'd like to take my kids there.'"
From next week, they can. Mr Packer plans to open on Wednesday at 11am.