Press release

Posted  by Andrew Lamber
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Local food and drink producers, who attracted thousands of people to North Shields at the weekend, have spoken about their very different inspirations.

For Dominike Couchinho, of Rural Country, it is the opportunity to introduce the meats, cheese and wine of his native Portugal to the North East.

Dominike Couchinho, a former architectural designer, said the Proper Food and Drink Festivals have helped him showcase his products.He moved to the North East in 2001 and has seen the range of food, drink and restaurants increase, especially in places like Tynemouth and Newcastle. Rural Country’s popularity has grown so much that in June Dominike was able to open a food boutique in the city.

“But I wouldn’t have been able to do this without people trying my food at festivals like this one,” he said.

By Jane Hall, 17 FEB 2017  "ChronicleLive"

The idea of traditional British food owes much to enterprising people from around the world who have made their homes here. What is ‘traditional’ British food? Yorkshire pudding and roast beef? Shepherd’s pie? Lancashire hotpot?It could just as easily be kedgeree, mulligatawny soup, Coronation chicken, chilli con carne, pizza and any pasta dish you care to mention.

DOMINIKE COUCHINHO, owner of Rural on Westgate Road, Newcastle, which specialises in Portuguese farmed products such as cured hams, cheeses and liquors.It was in 1999 that Dominike came to the UK from his home region of Beiras in Portugal.

An architect by trade, a year later he moved to Newcastle from London for work and ended up staying after he “integrated into the region”.

Almost from the beginning he found himself importing Portuguese food and wine into the country both for himself and friends eager to get their hands on the real thing.

In May 2015 the 38-year-old decided to set up Rural, supplying traditional Portuguese foods through an online shop and at farmers’ markets and food festivals. Demand was so high that just over a year later he opened a stand-alone store on Newcastle’s Westgate Road.

From the start the shop has hit the ground running, customers lured in by Portugal’s lusty and robust cuisine which has been heavily influenced not just by its location but invasion and exploration.

Mediterranean, Moorish, New World, Asian and African ideas and elements have all been incorporated.

Dominike has seized on a gap in the market and done much to show people there’s more to Portuguese food and drink than sardines, salted cod (bacalhau), piri-piri chicken and port.

“You would usually have to go to Portugal to get many of the things I stock. But you can come to my shop and buy. There is a big demand as I know how to present everything and I can explain things properly.

“I appeal to people who enjoy travelling and are open to new ideas and trying new foods.”

He believes there will always be a market for imported wines and other ingredients, but is worried that his overheads will rise if there is no access to a single market – a cost that will have to be passed on to customers.

“I will need to sell my chorizo for more, wine will have to go up by 50p or a £1 a bottle, and that will make a huge difference. People may not be so inclined to buy.”