22nd March 2014
Supper Table Blog

On Wednesday night, a few of us from
Ashburton Chef Academy treated ourselves to an evening at my
favourite restaurant – Riverford Field Kitchen in Buckfastleigh,
near Totnes. This is run by the Watson family, who started the
Riverford organic vegetable box scheme. As we learnt from Guy Watson
himself, he started delivering just 30 boxes of vegetables a week,
now up to 40,000 boxes across the country – quite a feat. They also
have a couple of excellent shops, and I am a frequent visitor to
their farm shop just down the road from the field kitchen. I’m going
to miss it when I return to Worcestershire in June!

Riverford Field Kitchen doesn’t work
quite like your average restaurant, but this is part of its wonderful
charm. In fact, it’s almost like a supper club! Long wooden tables
fill the spacious and airy barn, and everyone, strangers and friends,
all sit together. On arrival you are offered a drink, perhaps a
local cider to go with your meal, and in the summer there is a pretty
terrace to sit and enjoy your aperitif before dinner ( I can
recommend the Prosecco…). There is a very relaxed feel to the
place which I love, definitely no starched tablecloths, strict dress
codes or stuffy waiters.
There is always a set menu of three
courses, with a strong emphasis on fresh and seasonable vegetables.
In fact, the meat served often feels like an accompaniment to all the
delicious veg offered – quite the reverse of typical restaurant
menus. But for those carnivores among you, please don’t be put off,
the vegetable dishes are quite capable of standing up on their own
two feet! Mr Supper Club is a simple meat and two veg man, with the
meat usually being the star of the show, but Riverford Field Kitchen
is his favourite place to eat.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Hoare (friend and fellow chef)
Last night was rather special, as we
also had the founder himself, Guy Watson, entertaining us between
courses with a bit of history about how he and his family started the
Riverford business. The diners were also encouraged to ask questions
(anonymously, if you were feeling shy) which added a lovely personal
feel to the evening. As a result we learnt Guy’s views on all sorts
of weird and wonderful topics – from whether storing apples for 6
months before eating was acceptable (yes, no problem) to discovering that if torrential rain and floods are going to happen at all, the first two months of the year are actually the best in terms of growing crops.  It turns out that Guy’s favourite vegetable, the Jerusalem artichoke, can sometimes be inexplicably unpopular – perhaps something to do with the flatulence effects? He also doesn’t have much time for “trendy” vegetables, and thinks we should all just eat good healthy veg, and not religiously follow fads for the latest “superfood”. He’s a very engaging speaker, both informative and funny.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Hoare
And of course, you will all be
wondering, what did we actually eat? Starter consisted of a
tempting selection of salads – roast parsnips & crispy kale;
shaved fennel, blue cheese & red onion; grilled asparagus with a
buttery dressing – served with homemade bread and a yummy beetroot
dip. Main course was roast chicken, beautifully aromatic red
cabbage, potato & mushroom gratin, roast carrots, chargrilled
leeks, surprisingly delicious braised chard, the list goes on! Eveything is incredibly tasty, yet so
simple. I had to stop myself from eating too much, so I could save a
little bit of room for pudding. Once the tables have been cleared,
each table is called up to the kitchen in turn to choose dessert.
There were several options including sticky date pudding, baked
chocolate mousse, lemon cheesecake and apple & cinnamon cake. I opted for a very enjoyable slice of
poached pear pavlova .

Photo courtesy of Charlie Hoare

Feeling very full at the end of a lovely evening, we waddled out past the chefs putting sourdough into baskets to prove for the next day.  By happy coincidence, it turned out that one of them was a graduate of Ashburton Chef Academy, and asked us to pass on his regards to our tutors. Maybe we need a restaurant like this in Worcestershire? Otherwise, if you find yourself in Devon for a holiday, I thoroughly recommend a meal at Riverford.

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