Hopes that takeover at Copper Mapperley will restore 'good reputation'

A cafe that "went downhill" after it was taken over by a London-based pub company is back in local hands - and the new owner and head chef hope to restore the previously good reputation. Frozen food on a "boring generic menu" will be ditched and replaced by new Italian-inspired dishes - and old favourites such as teacakes, scones and jacket potatoes will return to Copper in Mapperley.

The Nottingham-based Great Northern Group sold the business to the RedCat Pub Company in 2022, following the pandemic. RedCat, founded by former Greene King boss Rodney Anand also took over Copper City and the Cross Keys in the city centre and Waterside Bar + Kitchen next to Trent Bridge, West Bridgford. Tom Browns Brasserie in Gunthorpe and the Prince Rupert in Newark were acquired at the same time.

However, in the case of Copper in Woodborough Road, it changed the business and the not for the better, said head chef Ricky Hough. "I came in 2023 and just before RedCat put their own menu in when it was still fresh - up until then it was still busy.

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"RedCat put their own menu out and it was generic and boring. The majority of the menu was frozen and most of it didn't gel together - you'd have scampi and chips and ham egg and chips then prawn and crayfish linguine and chicken katsu curry.

"A lot of the customers we had before didn't want to eat here any more. We lost a lot of customers. Before you'd have older people in having teacakes and scones and nice fresh full English breakfast, fresh hollandaise sauce on the florentines and Eggs Benedict but they tried to make a fusion that doesn't fit together. They introduced a lot of spicy breakfasts which older people don't want to eat so we lost the everyday customers through that. It's not very nice.

"Hopefully it will pick up again. We want to take it back to what it was before. I have just come back from Italy so part of the menu is inspiration from the holiday to Rome and Naples. There is a lot of authentic Italian food incorporated into the menu as well as grills and burgers. We are still serving to a wide range of people."

Customers will be able to order beans or eggs on toast and teacakes once again and, as well as a Full English, there will be the Belly Buster breakfast for the biggest appetites.

The lunchtime menu's small plates will be ditched. The sandwich menu is being tweaked - fafael and hummus is out but fish fingers remains with the addition of BLT and a club sarnies. New light lunches of salmon fillet with vegetables, a mini fish and chips, cheeseburger and chicken burger will be served. Chicken katsu curry and Singapore noodles with southern fried chicken have been given the heave-ho..

The evening menu will see a big change with the introduction of Italian dishes, beginning with starters of bruschetta and anti pasti and calamari. For the first time freshly cooked pizzas will be served. These include Siciliana with salami and chicken and white-based pizzas (with olive oil and garlic instead of tomato sauce) topped with four cheeses, or Boscaiola with mushrooms, sausage and 'nduja.

"There is nothing in Mapperley doing Italian food which is why I wanted to incorporate it," said Ricky. Pasta dishes include pappardelle ragu with pork sausages and porcini, orzo salmon and seafood linguine. The grills section features steak, lamb chops, a mixed grill and pork ribs, while burgers cover all bases with beef, chicken and vegan to choose from.

Ricky said his attempts to tell RedCat bosses it wasn't working fell on deaf ears. "It was more of a pub menu than a cafe. It's not really worked after multiple menus and me going back and forth multiple times with the company - they've not listened to me. I have been telling them for probably for a year they need to individually look at things like this or give me some freedom to do some specials but there has been no support at all."

One thing that won't be changing is the name Copper - although there will be a different logo. "Before it had a very good reputation, " said Ricky.

Copper will close on Monday June 10 so it can be spruced up with fresh paint, a good clean and the replacement of damaged chairs and worn out table tops. It will reopen on Tuesday June 11 at 9am with the new menu. Ricky said: "Now we have some flexibility with the food I am very optimistic that we can bring the business back.

"Hopefully we can get a seasonal menu as well so everything is frequently changing. We'll try and keep things that are popular and as soon as word gets out I'm sure the old regulars will come back."

New owner Bikash Sapkota has years of experience in the hospitality industry both in the south and Nottinghamshire and Derby. "I have been looking for a business in Mapperley for a long while - Mapperley will be the next hot town," he said.

"The food quality was not up to the standard and my objective is to serve quality food in the best manner. We will reintroduce freshness and focus more on customer service. The decor will be all nice, clean and tidy, a happy place to eat.

"I will be here at the start seven days a week. I will never let anyone go from this place without a smile on their face. Ricky is very energetic and has really supported me a lot. I like to work hard. Hopefully people in Mapperley will support us."

A review left three months ago echoed their sentiment. It said: "This place has gone downhill. The food menu is uninspiring, appears to be more like standard pub grub. Not how I remember it." But others were remained positive, describing the food as good.

Tom Browns Brasserie in Gunthorpe, a previously run family-business, has been put up for sale. In April it was reported that RedCat had posted a pre-tax loss of £31m for the 2023 financial year. Parts of the company went into administration, with a number of pubs forced to close. Copper City, in Market Street, still belongs to the company.

RedCat has been contacted by Nottinghamshire Live for a response.