Moss & Co is a family-run business evolved from a love of hospitality. It was over 35 years ago that owner David Moss first had a nightclub in Colchester. He and his wife, Lisa, fell in love with Suffolk and the surrounding area and from there, the Moss & Co brand was launched in 2011 when they took over The Commodore in Oulton Broad. Samantha Mattocks finds out more about the deep-rooted passion for hospitality that has seen Moss & Co grow to a collection of seven unique places, all with one thing at heart – community.
“It was 20 years ago that we moved to Lowestoft,” says David as we meet at their landmark establishment, The Angel in Wangford. “Lisa and I took over the South Pier in Lowestoft and while we didn’t realise it then, that was the beginning of Moss & Co.”
The first pub that David ran in the area was the Duke’s Head on the Somerleyton Estate in Suffolk, but it wasn’t until the winter of 2011 that things truly took off for them as they took over the lease of The Commodore in Oulton Broad. “Following a huge investment and refurbishment, we opened the doors to The Commodore with a small team of 22 people,” says David. “That was the beginning of Moss & Co. We now employ over 150 people across seven sites at the height of summer.”
Indeed, Moss & Co are now the biggest independent hospitality company in Suffolk and the second biggest in East Anglia after Chestnut. While The Commodore has now gone back to being brewery owned, Moss & Co has continued to grow, now owning its first inland property away from the coastal shores, each unique.
The first of these, and where I meet David, is The Angel, a beautiful period property located in the peaceful town of Wangford, just ten minutes from Southwold. Moss & Co purchased The Angel in June 2019, and its purchase marked the first time David and his team had a property offering accommodation.
The Angel is a beautiful 18th century inn with oak beams, a wood burner for those winter months, a beer garden that is a perfect sun trap for summer days, and an intimate bar and separate restaurant area. Upstairs are seven en-suite rooms, offering all you could need and more. With its proximity to Southwold and the coast, The Angel is the perfect place to stay away from the crowds and enjoy delicious food, cooked by the kitchen team under Head Chef Sam Taylor and using the best local, seasonal ingredients. Daily specials complement the menu, with dishes including Korean BBQ chicken wings with polenta chips, peanut and coriander; roast cauliflower steak with risotto verde and dukkah; and passionfruit crème brûlée with coconut, almond, and pistachio biscotti.
Sunday roasts at The Angel are a must, as they are at all Moss & Co venues. The roast Bramfield sirloin with roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, seasonal greens, carrots, roasted parsnips, and gravy is incredibly popular. Other roasts include roast Blythburgh pork belly, or roast cauliflower with all the trimmings and vegan gravy. Dessert options include dark chocolate fondant with salted caramel and cherry yoghurt ice cream, seasonal fruit crumble with granola and vegan vanilla ice cream.
“The Angel remains an iconic property,” says David. “It is a beautiful old building, and we sympathetically restored it to its former glory. What we love most about The Angel is that it is at the heart of the local community, and very much part of it. It is very important to us that whenever we add a property to the Moss & Co group, it remains a hub for the community.”
Nowhere is this more evident than at The Queen’s Head at Thurlton, between Beccles and Loddon. The group’s first venture into Norfolk, The Queen’s Head opened in December 2021. Previously a community pub, it has truly stayed at the heart of Thurlton and the surrounding area.
“The Queen’s Head has so much potential, and we love that local groups still hold meetings inside the pub outside of service times,” says David. “During the Jubilee, we had barbeques in the lovely outdoor space we have here, that includes a wood-fired pizza oven, and we also got involved in the local fete. It is great to see everyone come together here, especially after the pandemic.”
Like all Moss & Co venues, The Queen’s Head does food – classics with a twist, such as pork belly or duck breast stir fry and ‘tipsy’ pineapple with basil, mango and chilli salsa.
“We love The Queen’s Head – it is such a vibrant place, and I am excited to see it grow over the coming months,” says David. “In so many places, the pub is the heart of the community, and never is that truer than the Queen’s Head. We have so much going on there, from quiz nights to live music. It is always great fun!”
If The Queen’s Head is where friends get together to enjoy loaded fries and a few drinks, then The Village Maid in Lound, between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft, is where people go to enjoy great food in picturesque surroundings. It was back in April 2016 that Moss & Co added The Village Maid to their collection. It is idyllic, with its wood burner and country pub feel as well as being surrounded by footpaths through the local countryside. The Village Maid has a food menu that has helped their reputation spread far and wide, and are a dog-friendly venue, although they recommend booking
if you plan to bring your dog with you to enjoy a beautiful walk, then a warming drink and something delicious to eat from their classic menu with tasty twists.
Dishes include a meze of roasted red pepper hummus, falafel, olives, baba ganoush, and tortilla crisps, which also happens to be vegan, and pan-fried hake fillet with hasselback potatoes, samphire, and roasted red pepper and tomato sauce with white tiger prawns.
“We pride ourselves on being able to cater for all diets,” says David. “We are very lucky in that our chefs are very inventive, and they have created a menu that is original and fresh for those on specific diets, such as vegan, vegetarian, gluten or dairy free. Your food is delicious food, done well and full of flavour.”
Moss & Co truly offers a diverse collection of places to appeal to everyone and last July, they opened The Harbour in Lowestoft. It is now the town’s iconic landmark pub for those who enjoy craft beers and cocktails.
“When we took over The Harbour, there was a lack of chefs in the industry, so we leased the restaurant out to another local icon, FUP Burger,” explains David. “Now, we have our own chefs offering lunch – people love nothing better than visiting us and enjoying fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce while watching the world go by – and then the evening crowd enjoy cocktails and a delicious FUP Burger.”
The team at The Harbour pride themselves on their cocktails being freshly made, not out of a bag or tin, and they serve over 50 different beers and ciders. As well as the stand-out burgers in the evening, including a vegan option, The Harbour’s own ‘dirty’ menu includes Southern fried chicken in a bucket with fries and slaw; cauliflower wings with skinny fries and garlic vegannaise; and a dirty dog – a hot dog sausage with pulled pork, cheese, onion, and skinny fries. They also offer wraps, including fish finger and tartare.
“We actually serve the Southern fried chicken in a bucket in all of our venues,” laughs David. “It is our bestseller and people of all ages love it!”
Adding to the youthful feel of The Harbour, they opened an upstairs nightclub last October. “It is called Mossy’s, after my first venture in Colchester all those years ago,” says David. “The team kept me in the dark over the name, pretending they were thinking of something else, then unveiled it as Mossy’s. It was pretty emotional, and really brought home to Lisa and me how we have gone full circle, going from those days in Essex to our life here in Suffolk and all that we have achieved.”
The first Suffolk step on that circle was when, in April 2014, David and Lisa purchased The Jolly Sailors in Pakefield. Located directly overlooking the beach, it has breath-taking views over the North Sea. With live music every weekend, The Jolly Sailors has a coastal vibe that is irresistible throughout the year.
The seaside location is reflected in the menu – prawn and smoked salmon salad with granary bread; catch of the day with hand-cut chips, mushy peas, and tartare sauce; and pan-fried salmon with chorizo potato cake, leek and cheddar cream sauce, and fine green beans.
As well as delicious desserts, The Jolly Sailors is also renowned for its breakfast offering. From baps to eggs on toast your way, they also do a full English for those filling up after an early morning walk on the beach – Suffolk sausages, back bacon, black pudding, grilled tomato, mushrooms, hash browns, baked beans, fried egg, and granary toast. The vegetation breakfast is also a winner, with vegetarian sausages taking the place of the meat elements. The ‘Jolly breakfasts’ are very popular, and it is easy to see why.
In May 2017, The Bell Inn at Carlton Colville was added to the Moss & Co collection, David tells me: “We love historic buildings, and we were delighted to add this 17th century country inn to our company. It is full of character, with its open fire, old beams, low ceilings, and huge garden. We added a covered canopy this year, that can seat up to 50 outside, and we have since hosted weddings there. It is a lovely space.”
This year, The Bell Inn hosted a beer festival with live music, helping turn this already popular inn into a destination spot. The lure of the food is also strong, with a wood-fired pizza oven going at the weekends. Regular offerings include smoked chicken and chorizo Scotch egg with Caesar dressing, chorizo oil, and chorizo crisp; grilled tofu with olive, vegan feta and sun-blush tomato orzo and crispy onions. For those looking for something sweet, desserts include plum, yuzu and miso semifreddo with ginger sponge, poached plums, and chocolate popping candy.
Provenance is something very important to David and Lisa. “Wherever possible, we source our ingredients from local producers and suppliers,” says David. “Not only are we supporting the local community, but we are also celebrating the best of Norfolk and Suffolk produce. We get as much as we can locally, from fish, meats, and vegetables to beers, wines, and spirits. We have so much that is delicious in East Anglia, and we take pleasure in putting that produce on our menus and sharing with our customers.
“Another big thing about Moss & Co is that we serve rotational ales and lagers across all our sites. We have great relationships with over 20 local breweries, and we enjoy sharing these locally produced drinks with our customers. We also have local gins, rum, some wines – it is good to celebrate the great produce of this region on our menus.”
“Of course, the focus is now on Christmas, and we are looking forward to celebrating this year’s festivities across our different properties. Each has its own style, something that we love, and having not been able to really ‘do’ Christmas since 2019, something close to normality would be great this year! We have just launched a new website, so check for the festive menus as they will be available soon. And with Christmas in mind, we are always looking for enthusiastic people to join our team. Just get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.”
I ask David what makes Moss & Co so special, and he replies: “We are an independent family-owned business. We love East Anglia and all it offers, especially with the variety through the different coastlines and the seasons. We have been running a range of pubs for over a decade now, each with its own unique style. No two are the same, but they all offer good food, good drink, and good vibes. People come to a Moss & Co venue for everything from a quiet pint reading the newspaper in front of the fire to a hen night in Mossy’s. I love that so many people from different walks of life have some of their best times with us – that is magical.”
- Find out more about Moss & Co at www.moss-co.com or follow the individual properties on Instagram.
- Head Chef at The Queen’s Head, Shaye Battrick, shares his recipe for steak and local ale pie
- Photography credits: Fixr Ltd – Joshua Cooper