Food in Focus: Merv’s Kitchen at the Swan in the Rushes

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As well as producing great beer, one of the things we pride ourselves on at Castle Rock is our diverse and quality-led food menus.

While it’s true many of our pubs have their own thriving kitchens serving up freshly cooked dishes in-house; we also have a couple showcasing local chefs. For example, thanks to Paaji’s, you can enjoy authentic Indian street food while supping your favourite beers at the Kean’s Head.

More recently, the ever-popular Merv’s Kitchen has arrived at the Swan and the Rushes. Following a long history in the catering business, Mervin Ramsamy finally established his own venture, Merv’s Kitchen, in 2016.

We caught up with Mervin recently to dig deeper into how he got into the world of food, his passion, and what to expect from the Merv’s Kitchen menu now he’s set up shop at the Swan. Check out the interview below…

If you haven’t been already, go and find out what you’ve been missing! Merv’s menu is served daily from midday. And, for when you’re feeling extra hungry, there’s all-you-can-eat ribs on Friday evenings and all-you-can-eat-wings every Saturday night.

Meet Merv

What’s the story behind Merv’s? When did you start and why?

The story of Merv’s is very simple, it’s a blend of passion, loyalty and sacrifice. I have spent 23 years in the food and beverage industry, starting at the Hotel School of Mauritius, my country of origin. I studied there for over two years while doing work experience in as many places as possible. One of the most valuable was my placement at a company called Domain Les Pailles. I found so many great mentors here, who helped guide me on the right path to where I am now. After graduating, I worked in Supervisor and Front of House roles across reputable venues in Mauritius, eventually moving on to Dublin. It was here that I started to develop my skills and knowledge of the food and beverage industry, working as a Kitchen Manager, General Manager and Business Development Manager. I finally settled in the UK in 2014.

This then led me to creating the Merv’s Kitchen concept, which I started in 2016 in Leicester with my previous employer. I have always been a big fan of homemade American cuisine, from grilled meat to slow-cooked classics over 15-16 hours. From the initial idea, it was developed on a daily basis, with the help of a very competent team around me. I was really lucky to have great relationships and support from the suppliers I have known for years now, which helped me a huge amount in starting my new business.

In October 2022, we decided to expand the concept to Loughborough. The reason we wanted to continue and evolve is very simple: because of our loyal customers, who have been supporting us for years.

Where did your interest in food come from? Has it always been a passion?

I have always been passionate about food, even as a Front Of House 23 years ago. But I have always wanted to open my own restaurant.

I knew that before doing this, the key is understanding all aspects of the business, not just food, and making sure that your team believe in it as much as you do. Since starting Merv’s Kitchen in 2016, it has been an exciting journey and evolution.

What is your connection to Loughborough? Have you had a good response from the people here?

Funnily enough, I don’t have any connection with Loughborough other than it being a nearby town with a definite market for what we offer at Merv’s Kitchen. It was this, paired with great feedback I’d had from locals and the team at the Swan in the Rushes that made it an obvious decision!

I didn’t think twice and so far we’ve been overwhelmed with the feedback (which is incredibly important to us). And we’re still doing everything we can to improve and offer the best service possible.

The delivery platforms have been the biggest surprise with a very good turnover on a weekly basis. I think it’s down to the fantastic student presence here in Loughborough and we’re pleased to have a several loyal customers who have already hit over 10 orders with us!

Tell us a bit about your food offering and highlights from your menu.

I’m really passionate about BBQ food. The menu is based on the classic American BBQ with burgers, bockwurst, loaded fries with our homemade cheesy sauce, cheesy bacon loaded fries, cheesy chili fries, and our homemade curry sauce.

The two most popular dishes are our signature ribs and wings… with a host of different sauce options. I can proudly say that the ribs are the best in town, the meat just falls off the bone! For the ribs you can choose from homemade Jack Daniel’s honey sauce, our house BBQ sauce and the sweet and hot dry rub. For the wings we have the JD honey sauce, peri peri, Slumdog (homemade curry sauce), Frank’s Buffalo or, if you’re feeling brave, the infamous Merv’s Special Hot Sauce, which is MEGA spicy! 🌶🌶🌶

We also cater for vegetarian and vegan diets (our homemade veg/vegan burgers are very popular) and all of our wings are gluten free!

Our next project is to bring some slow-cooked smokehouse items onto the menu, including brisket, pulled pork and some other BBQ classics.

How did you come to start your pop up at the Swan in the Rushes? How have you found your experience working with them?

When my previous employer in Leicester closed for business, our customers wanted to see the concept to continue into another venture. I was proud to have put a lot of energy into the business already, and I didn’t want it to stop.

My other two business partners Hardeep Rai and Kelvin Ramsamy were also keen to carry things on. So, we started looking for a venue. Someone put us in touch with Colin Wilde, MD at Castle Rock, who, we were told, owned a property in Leicester. Colin was supportive and happy with our initial proposal but during the wait period for the venue to become ready, we managed to find our own space in Leicester, where we decided to open our first permanent restaurant, Merv’s Café & Bar.

We stayed in touch with Colin and, a little further down the line, we enquired about taking over the kitchen at the Swain in the Rushes, who were looking for someone to bring something new to the table. On my first visit to Loughborough, I immediately liked what I saw and the kitchen was perfect.

The next moves were really smooth and we were in there really quickly with the help and support from Castle Rock and the staff and management at the Swan.

They hadn’t been serving food for a while, and the concept was quite a drastic change to traditional pub food, but we have already made amazing progress since starting. We’re also really pleased to be kicking off the year with Edith Perry as the new General Manager. Throughout our partnership, communication and working together has been collaborative and simple. It has been a pleasure to be working towards the same goal, both working hard to give the customers the best experience possible.

In terms of my team: there’s me, spending most of the time in the kitchen with the support of Ramona Cowling, my Supervisor who has been a massive help. She works really hard, alongside studying at University and definitely has the passion for food as well.

Let us know why you think we should check out Merv’s at the Swan in the Rushes

Everything on the menu has been tailored to food lovers, especially those passionate about American BBQ classics. All orders are cooked from fresh and using good quality ingredients. Items to look for are definitely the ribs and wings, the milkshakes are great too, especially for the hot weather coming soon. Also the loaded fries, decadent desserts… basically everything!

Any final words?

If you want to try fresh, homemade American food, give Merv’s a try. You won’t regret it! We always listen to customer feedback and are constantly on the path to improve our service wherever possible.

Find out more about the Swan in the Rushes and check out the full menu for Merv’s Kitchen here. 

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