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The Flavour of Mystery

August 28, 2008

It is a mysterious taste, as it turns out, because only about 700 people in all of Great Britain have actually tasted anything like it. Good, fresh food, that is (maybe a tiny exaggeration).

The mystery began, as you may remember, when we booked a meal at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage HQ. The secret handshake survived the emailing, and as per instructions we walked with a map carefully memorised (but not eaten, lest it spoil the feast to come), and proceeded on foot down the darkening unsignposted country lane to the designated rendezvous point.

From there, with a group of fellow secret-handshakees, we were conveyed to the final destination by (relatively) unmarked stealth-tractor.

Out of the tractor and into the welcoming yurt (!) (arrayed with chilled Somerset apple brandy apéritifs and marvellous crab canapés) we hors d’oeuvred around the small cheery wood-burning stove warming the cool Devon evening. Then, suitably refreshed, we were welcomed to River Cottage proper. Once on the premises, we discovered, it was pretty much open slather. ‘Don’t disturb the Head Gardener, that’s his place over there, and don’t go into the room that’s been booked for the private function’ were our only real proscriptions. ‘Wander around the kitchen garden, visit the pigs, the geese (and they were delightfully friendly!), the ducks, the generator room, the kitchen, annoy the chefs, that’s what they’re here for!’ The place was ours. ‘Even look at the menu, if you want, before the meal starts!’ The veil of mystery had been whipped away to reveal…

We ate and drank (look here for some of the delicious beverages we imbibed) and yapped copiously in a converted barn, on two long trestles, about 15 to a side, couples across the table from one another, so every couple had four strangers to talk to. Once seated, there was a complimentary glass of English sparkling wine, and the head chef (Noni, Australian, gorgeous) made an appearance to commend the food to us, and tell us the names of the animals (and vegetables) that had given their lives that we might be sated. The bubbly, accompanied by a wild sea-bass ceviche (a bit bland for our taste) was, surprisingly, very good, and the names of the beasts, ‘pig’ and ‘lamb’, weren’t too off-puttingly personal.

— from James Rose(?)

So to the food, should you be interested – I liked the pig’s liver pâté. It had a rustic granularity, and lightness, lent to it by breadcrumbs, but Linda thought it should have been smoother [it’s pâté! pâté! (ed)] The fish soup was a winner. Hearty and fabulously full of stocky richness, well matched to the chorizo chunks swimming lustily back and forth across the bowl. The lamb was pretty damn good, but could have been, in an ideal world, a little bit more succulent (the poor little thing was sacrificed for us and was cooking for about 24 hours and still managed to be a teensy bit dry). The cheeses were a fine mix of assorted goat and cow varieties, with plenty of flavour, but all hard cheeses basically, some more variety in texture would have improved the plate hugely. Also, who knows how many hedgerows had to die to make that jelly? And so to the strawberry fool, what can you say? Fruity, sweet and creamy – quintessential dessert! [Linda didn’t like it at all].

So yes the food was good – not the greatest we’ve had, but close to the best we’ve had in Britain; and the fine, fine staff made the evening top stuff (if ever you read this lovely people you were wonderful – human and informed and all the right things) but the secret to the whole affair was the throwing together of a bunch of strangers, adding lovely tucker and lots of yummy beverages et viola! A top time was had by nearly all. Linda even got to sing along to Big Yellow Taxi with a lovely Cornish lass. What more can you ask for from an evening?

River Cottage rocks!

And we must tell you about the Chicken Out campaign soon.

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4 comments

  1. There’s no fool like a strawberry fool, I say.


  2. Them, and the fools that love them…


  3. found a nice recipe for you; Kat A Kat!

    http://www.despardes.com/food/Desi/katakat.html


  4. That katakat sounds delicious, if a little light on chilli (and kat!)



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