The farm to table movement is having a moment. We’re more interested in where our food comes from than ever before – and restaurants have taken note.
Produce-led, seasonal menus are on the up, with many UK eateries favouring small-scale farming over big supply chains. Not only is this hugely beneficial to the environment, food that travels minimal distance tastes fresher and more flavoursome. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the UK’s best authentically farm to table restaurants, from self-sufficient farms in Cornwall to cosy bistros in Clapham.
28 Market Place, Somerset
Given its wealth of wonderful local produce, South Somerset has been surprisingly lacking in inspiring places to eat, stylish restaurants serving interesting, perfectly cooked food to tempt you away from the fireside on a frosty evening. Recently, however, that has changed. The latest very welcome newcomer, joining Number 1 Bruton and The Garden Café at The Newt, is 28 Market Place in Somerton. Located in sensitively restored listed buildings in the heart of this historic market town, the restaurant is the brainchild of Ben and Vanessa Crofton, whose pedigree includes Babington House, Soho Farmhouse and Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. Head chef, Dan Fletcher too brings a world of experience acquired in Michelin-starred restaurants here and abroad. The ethos is modern European rustic chic, reflected in the design of the two main dining rooms. Original flagstones, a wood-burning stove, dried flower garlands festooned across lime-washed walls and a ‘hanging garden’ of indoor evergreens deliver a light airy ambience that is also warm and inviting. The food is similarly clear, clean and unfussy, unpretentious but intriguing and totally delicious. It feels Italian in its respect for ingredients shining through dishes that appear simple but deliver massively on flavour. Seasonal produce sourced from local farms figure throughout, so in January winter vegetables – kale, squash, celeriac, leeks, roots, wild fungi – star alongside sustainable fish, organically reared meat and game. It’s very evident that the challenge of creating exciting dishes from whatever happens to be locally available on the day is one they relish.
A highlight of my meal was a silky smooth parmesan and shallot tart with smoked celeriac – sheer heaven on a plate. The medley of chopped chicken liver, chanterelles and pumpkin seeds that accompanied a succulent chicken breast was also a revelation. My partner pronounced the loin of venison – rare and juicy – one of the best things he had ever eaten. Alongside the restaurant is also a bakery offering homemade artisan breads and pastries and a wine shop carrying up to a 100 wines. ‘We hope,’ says Ben Crofton, ‘it becomes a place where you can have a quick coffee or pastry from the bakery in the morning, catch up over a few glasses of wine or spend an evening with family and friends in the restaurant.’ No reason at all why not. SC. 28marketplace.co.uk
The Newt in Somerset
After much anticipation The Newt hotel has opened its doors – and it’s already causing quite the stir amid the Somerset food scene. After two centuries under Hobhouse family ownership, the Hadspen House estate was taken over by South African billionaire Koos Bekker and his wife Karen Roos, the power players behind famed Cape Winelands vineyard, hotel and garden Babylonstoren. Over the past six years they’ve been transforming the Grade II listed property – comprised of 300 acres of rolling parkland – into a hotel, complete with a state-of-the-art cider mill and the largest orchard of standard apple trees planted in a century. The Botanical Rooms serve as the hotel’s main restaurant, offering a small plates-style seasonal menu of whole meats and vegetables sourced from the kitchen gardens. There’s also a glass-walled Garden Café overlooking the grounds, orchards and countryside, alongside a Cyder Bar serving apple juices and ciders pressed fresh on the estate. This April they’re launching The Great Garden Escape, a chance to experience the delights of The Newt on a day trip. You’ll travel from London Paddington to the hotel, where you’ll enjoy a tour of the gardens, seasonal workshops, lunch at the Garden Café, cider tastings and more. thenewtinsomerset.com
The Dairy, London
Located in Clapham’s trendy Old Town, The Dairy is a frontrunner in the seasonal eating sphere. Opened in 2013 by chef Robin Gill and his wife Sarah, the menu is incredibly produce-led – there’s even a rooftop kitchen garden growing herbs, alongside several beehives producing seasonal honey, a staple ingredient in The Dairy’s dishes. In the basement, Rob makes his own charcuterie, from pork and fennel salami to pancetta and coppa, while butter is house churned and presented on a pebble to each table along with fresh bread. This attention to detail is felt throughout the menu, which features an ever-changing selection of innovative dishes: think farm beetroot with pickled pear and hazelnut cream, Tagliatelle with Jerusalem artichoke and cavolo nero, and ‘Lady Hamilton’ pollock with farm leeks. Robin and Sarah have since opened two more restaurants: Counter Culture which is right next door, and Sorella, a short walk down the road, both with a similar set-up. They also recently opened a new restaurant in Nine Elms: Darby’s, an oyster bar, bakery and grill inspired by Robin’s jazz musician father, Earl ‘Darby’ Gill. thedairy.co.uk
Rogan & Co, The Lake District
Sister restaurant of the much-acclaimed L’Enclume, Rogan & Co gained its first Michelin star last year under the leadership of head chef Tom Barnes. As with all of Simon Rogan’s restaurants, most ingredients for the menu come from Simon’s own farm in the Cartmel Valley, alongside contributions from local Lake District artisan suppliers. ‘It’s a case of growing the perfect carrot rather than cooking it perfectly,’ says Simon. ‘The produce we’ve got gives us inspiration. It is the driving force and we’re not tampering with it. We’re taking an ingredient and cooking it simply to maximise the flavour.’
Rogan & Co has a more relaxed, neighbourhood feel than its better known sibling. Dishes include fresh cuts of meat alongside homegrown vegetables, such as Cartmel Valley pheasant with roasted parsnip and elderberry; aged short rib of beef with creamed potato and bone marrow; and roasted wild duck with Riesling cabbage and quince – their Sunday roast is particularly good. roganandco.co.uk
Daylesford Brompton Cross, London
Motivated by a desire to feed her children better, Lady Carole Bamford set out to turn her family’s farmland into a sustainable business. Little did she know, 40 years later Daylesford would stand as one of the most sustainable farms in the UK, supplying fresh, organic produce to restaurants across the country. Their most recent London venture, Brompton Cross, offers up a mixture of truly organic dishes using ingredients grown on the farm, from green pastured beef burgers to sourdough pizzas to brightly coloured salad bowls. To guarantee the freshest of food, produce is picked only when perfectly ripe, and taken straight to the chefs in the kitchen. A leader in the eco-friendly food movement, Daylesford Brompton Cross celebrates a zero-waste policy, ensuring packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable, and no food is thrown away. Any extra food is sent to The Felix Project, who go on to redistribute it to those in need around London, while straws are made from wheat stalks and customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable cups. Fitting, then, that the three-storey space is designed around a huge oak tree, which was saved by the Bamford family and transformed into a piece of natural art. daylesford.com
Born on a vineyard to two chefs, the Gladwin brothers were destined for the world of restaurants. Following a childhood of eating heartily and driving tractors on the family’s farm in Nutbourne, Sussex, the three boys went their separate ways – Richard became a restaurant manager and Oliver a chef, while the youngest, Gregory, remained true to his roots, working as a farmer.
Turns out, the manager-chef-farmer trio lends itself pretty well to the farm to fork culinary format. The brothers’ now have four restaurants under their belt, one being Rabbit: a cosy, rustic spot on the King’s Road. All food is based around their local and wild ethos, using sustainable livestock from the family’s Nutbourne farm, Ashurst Wood. The menu changes regularly, but dishes tend to come as small plates, perfect for a tapas-style sharing meal. You could be eating Sussex beef tartare with star anise pickled carrot, venison cigars with harissa and pickled mustard seeds or aged chorizo with labneh – whatever is on the cards for that day, you can guarantee it will be fresh, authentic and delicious. The Gladwins are industry leaders in the farm to table world – as Oliver tells us: ‘I can speak to a grower today and get the beetroots up to the restaurant tomorrow, they’ll be out of the ground in 20 minutes.’ Their other ventures are Nutbourne in Battersea, The Shed in Notting Hill, and the most recent: Sussex, in Soho. rabbit-restaurant.com
Soho Farmhouse, The Cotswolds
Popular with royals and A-listers alike, you’ll most likely have seen Soho Farmhouse pop up on your Instagram feed (just look out for the free-standing outdoor copper bathtubs). What was once a derelict farm has been transformed into an 100-acre fairytale estate, complete with timber cabins, a boating lake, spa and numerous restaurants: a picture-perfect countryside utopia. The farm deli offers local cheeses and homemade pickles which guests can enjoy from the comfort of their own cabins, while the restaurants serve a mixture of cuisines, all using organic and local ingredients. With its log fire and comfy sofas, the main barn is an idyllic dining spot, serving up dishes like Loch Duart salmon, Springfield brick chicken and cheeseburgers with homemade bacon alongside freshly grown vegetables. sohofarmhouse.com
Coombeshead Farm, Cornwall
It doesn’t get much more authentic than Coombeshead Farm. Set across 66 acres of Cornish countryside, Coombeshead is a self-sufficient entity, complete with a beautiful farm, guesthouse and restaurant, headed up by chefs Tom Adams and April Bloomfield. There’s also a wine cellar featuring vintages from Tom’s brother’s micro-vineyard in the South of France, a beehive, and a bakery run by Ben Glazer. Food is served in the feasting barn, which offers an ever-changing menu dependent on what’s growing and ready from the smokehouse and pickling rooms. For dinner, dishes could include fresh cheese and preserved courgette, onion broth & miso, pheasant sausage and elderberry, josterberry sorbet – everything produced on-site, of course. Come breakfast, guests can tuck into fresh eggs with griddled home-cured pork belly, bacon and sausage. Coombeshead is a true gem. coombesheadfarm.co.uk
Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge, London
When founder of London gastropub The Duke of Cambridge, Geetie Singh, married the man behind Riverford farm, Guy Watson, it was inevitable their businesses would soon follow suit. Located in London’s Islington, The Duke of Cambridge was Britain’s first organic pub, while Riverford in Devon – known for its organic vegetable box scheme – has been farming organic produce since 1987. Nowadays, chefs at The Duke are pleased to use Riverford’s fresh vegetables across their menu, meaning lots of delicious, fresh vegetarian options, from saffron and squash risotto to courgette gratin with black truffle. Food is of course seasonal, which in the summer means lots of asparagus, sprouting broccoli, fresh salads, spring risottos and fish. Riverford also has it’s own dining spot, Riverford Field Kitchen, where dishes feature vegetables and herbs picked from the farm, just metres from the restaurant. dukeorganic.co.uk
River Cottage, Axminster
Seasonal, nose-to-tail dining has been Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s mantra since opening River Cottage Canteen in Axminster all the way back in 2007. Since then his empire has expanded a great deal – there are now River Cottage restaurants dotted around the country, including their newest site at Bedfordshire’s Whipsnade Zoo. All use produce straight from the farm HQ, with particular focus on fresh vegetable dishes. Delicious food is a given. rivercottage.net
Heckfield Place, Hampshire
A Georgian family home rewoven into a luxury country hotel, Heckfield Place in Hampshire has its own biodynamic farm, providing fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, herbs and honey to its on-site restaurants. Culinary Director Skye Gyngell recently announced plans to open a new dining space there: The Sun House, a light-filled glasshouse serving dishes inspired by Heckfield-grown produce. This will join the hotel’s two other restaurants, Marle and Hearth – both glorious eateries centred around simplicity and seasonality. heckfieldplace.com