The brainchild of Adam Marshall and Sandy Pate, a couple of farmers from the Scottish Borders, Oink opened just in time for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August and has already garnered column inches in the New York Times. It’s not hard to see why. Only one other shop in the UK, in York, is thought to specialise in hog roast. If Oink becomes a success, who’s to say it won’t crop up in supermarket or c-store food to go offers throughout the country? Or emulate the success of hot pasty retailers such as the West Cornwall Pasty Company?
The concept is nothing if not ambitious and it’s a natural if novel extension of Marshall and Pate’s existing interests. While some farmers responded to the numerous crises in farming by offering quad biking on their land and others conceded defeat and sold up to developers, Marshall and Pate always saw their future in food.
In 2000, they opened a farm shop, Reiver Country Farms, in Reston, Berwickshire – 50 miles to the east of Edinburgh. It rapidly become a firm fixture in the local community thanks to its on-site bakery and pork sourced from Marshall’s farm, and beef and lamb from Pate’s.
But in 2002, Marshall and Pate decided to diversify further by selling meat – including hog roast – at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market. The hog roast proved enough of a success for the business partners to have a go at selling it in a city centre takeaway.
“If we hadn’t tried, we’d have always been wondering,” says Pate. Retailing at £3.75, the hog roast is served on a bun with a choice of garnishes. Crackling is available for an extra 50p. The outlet, which also features limited seating, also serves coffee and soft drinks. With two floors available above the ground floor shop, there’s potential for Oink to move upwards by converting the first floor into an additional seating area.
“I would think if there’s any move forward it would probably be on the Oink front,” says Pate. “Edinburgh’s big enough – if this one works, there is potential for possibly another two or three sites,” he says.
It’s still early days for Oink, and Marshall and Pate are by no means blind to the current economic climate. But both are confiden that the diversity of their commercial interests will be see them through. (As well as owning two butchers shops in Berwick-upon-Tweed, the partners also hire out hog-roasting equipment for catering purposes). As far as Oink goes, it’s too early to say how well it’s is doing, but, reveals Pate, the pair are already considering extending the food offer beyond hog roasts.
If the concept does take off, there’s no reason to think it couldn’t become a national success one day. Whether it ever replaces the Cornish pasty in the nation’s affections, however, remains to be seen.