The Flying Goose has been a part of Beeston for 15 years, a stalwart of a Chilwell Road that has seen an incredible amount of change. We caught up with Hilary Cook to find out 15 facts to mark 15 years of serving some of the best food in Beeston. Have a gander…

  1. Hilary wasn’t always a café owner: she started out as a computer boffin: “I was a ‘computer operator’ at Bristol University, and moved on to be Operations Manager of all the operations system. This was between 1976 and 1984, when computers were room-sized boxes with lots of lights on.”
  2. She knocked about with some pre-fame musical geniuses: “While in Bristol I would finish work on a Friday and go to the Dugout (legendary Bristol club situated in caves) where Massive Attack and Tricky would be DJ-ing.”
  3. She’s not actually from Beeston, and a musical Zelig: “Sssshh! Yes, I’m from a place called Kinver in the West Midlands. I worked in a branch of Boots there, selling records, to, amongst others, Robert Plant and Roy Wood”.
  4. The Flying Goose was a happy accident: “I originally ran a stencilling and paint effect shop on Chilwell Road, where ‘Beest on Ink’ is now. People would come in and drink coffee and cake, and I realised that was a better market. I set up a gallery with a café,  thinking the food would be more of a side-project, but it proved so popular I moved into that.”
  5. Her Welsh Rarebit is legendary: “It’s a self-taught recipe, but it’s proved hugely popular.” What’s the secret? “It’s a secret. That’s the point of a secret, to be secret. But it does have a mix of good cheeses, mustard and spring onion. And love. The rest is secret.”
  6. BBC Radio 1 DJ Alice Levine worked there: “She worked Saturdays, and was great, sharp-witted, good fun and an all-round lovely person. It’s not a surprise she has had such success.”
  7. Buddhist Monks think it’s ace: “A monk called Lama Ngawang from The School of Great Compassion was constructing a complex sand mandala in Beeston Methodist Church. He’d drop by and have lunch, and we all accompanied him down to the Weir Field to complete the Mandala Ceremony.”
  8. Café Roya started there: “Roya would run a restaurant from The Flying Goose in the evenings, catering for 15 covers. It was phenomenally popular, so she took the leap and set up her own place on Wollaton Road which is doing very well. (It recently won  Best Vegetarian Restaurant at the UK Food Awards). I still make her ice-cream though.”
  9. It survived the tramworks: “It was a strange time, seeing the entire road dug-up and replaced with something new. We were right in the middle of it, but made the most: we set up a little pavement café, and people would venture in as they’d come to check out the works. It was a huge upheaval, but we weathered it ok.”
  10. Shane Meadows is a fan: “He was a regular for a while, when he’s not away filming. A few years ago we held an event in aid of Teenage Cancer Trust where people could drop in and meet him. We raised about £500, and he was lovely. His kids love cheese on toast: not the rarebit, but the simpler form.”
  11. As is Benjamin Zephaniah: “He was in Nottingham filming Celebrity Antiques Road Trip, and the production team rang me up as he was looking for good vegan food. We were busy, and I didn’t realise it was him, so told them I was totally full. He then turned up in a beautiful velvet suit and had lunch. We didn’t have any hot sauce – he loves really hot sauce – but he seemed to enjoy it”.
  12. It’s quite the home for poets: “We used to run a regular poetry event with (Beeston poetry legend) John Lucas, who would bring down some wonderful poets: David Belbin, John Harvey, Derek Buttress, Deirdre O’Byrne and many more. We were variously described as ‘Beeston’s Left Bank’ and ‘The Smallest Arts Venue in the East Midlands’.”
  13. It’s also a handy music venue: “We’ve had some great acts come by. The Wildflowers were a particular favourite: they’ve supported Robert Plant, played Glastonbury, so were a real catch. The night out we had with them later on…that was the most fun I’ve had on a weekend.”
  14. She’s not just a dab hand in the kitchen, but also behind a camera: “I’ve been making greeting cards from my photography for years, and sell them in Nottingham and Whitby, a place I love to visit.”
  15. It’s time to move on: “I’ve done fifteen years of this, and loved it. I’ve had some wonderful times, and met some lovely people, many who have become great friends. I’m close to retirement age so want to concentrate on other things, find new challenges. I’m hugely proud of The Flying Goose, and want it to live on, but with a fresh pair of hands and a new, innovative outlook.”