Here comes Bob
11 February 2015
"Bob tells me about his plans to knock down the shed to make space for a pizza oven, barbecue and al fresco dining terrace"
We take a look inside the rural Cotswold home of chef and entrepreneur Bob Parkinson (and discover that wife Ali does all the cooking!) with LAURA ROWE
There aren’t many places in the Cotswolds that these weary feet haven’t trudged over – between schooldays and heydays, I’ve covered most patches – but it was in a remote, hitherto unknown corner on the fringes of Coln St Aldwyns that we finally stumbled upon Bob Parkinson’s golden stone home.
Driving along a particularly crispy gravel driveway – it seems to get frostier here than in most parts, thanks to its delicious isolation – we eventually arrive at the house. It’s an end cottage, surrounded by corn fields, with a catering truck outside and a brace of pheasants hanging by the doorway. It’s not hard to guess that a chef lives here.
You know Bob – he’s one of the pioneers of Cirencester’s recent renaissance. He opened his eponymous eatery and deli, Made by Bob, in the old Corn Hall development six years ago, and his stripped-back cooking – locking in on good quality ingredients and moreish flavour combinations – have made his a name to drop far beyond the county boundaries. Bob, along with sons Jonty and Archie, welcome us into the house, taking us through to the back, and the open-plan kitchen and dining room.
Wife Ali, who works front of house at the restaurant and does all the cooking at home, is busy making homemade waffles, while dogs Teddy and Buster jostle for space on the massive black leather sofa that sits at the end of the room, looking out across the seemingly endless bucolic vista.
It’s a homely space – properly lived in – and where the family seem to spend most of their time.
“We’ve been here for seven years, but we used to rent the cottage a few doors down,” explains Bob, as he adjusts the Sony music system and sits down at the big family table, sipping a coffee as he does so. “I like it because it’s not too horsey here! That, and the views when spring arrives. If friends come around we can never get them in the lounge – the kitchen is where it’s at.”
Floor-to-ceiling windows look out across the rolling Coln Valley, and the relaxed garden space. There are trees for the kids to climb, and Bob tells me about his plans to knock down the shed to make space for a pizza oven, barbecue and al fresco dining terrace.
Back in the kitchen, I take a look around. There’s a big gas range cooker – “I tried, but I just can’t do induction,” explains Bob – and a central island/breakfast bar where people can sit around and watch the master at work. There’s a stack of books, too, hinting at some of the greats Bob counts as former colleagues – David Thompson (“he changed the way I cook; my palate and my techniques”), Alastair Little, Simon Hopkinson.
We start talking about the business, which celebrates its birthday in March and, after an expansion two years in, is going from strength to strength.
“We now open in the evenings, too, on Thursdays and Fridays,” says Bob, originally a Cheltenham boy. “Our outside catering is doing really well, and we’re thinking about opening for Sunday brunches now, too.”
There are themed nights as well (the next, on 27 February, will focus on Thai cuisine), and there are plans for the popular deli range (Bob currently has 18 own-branded products) to be on “someone else’s shelf” too. I pry a bit further, and hear about bigger plans yet.
“I’d love to do another Made By Bob back in Cheltenham,” he says, “perhaps with my mum (retailer Sue Parkinson). This year is all about stepping back and working on the business, and not just in it.”
Photography by CHRISTINA WEST