There’s little as satisfying as tucking into a hearty meal after a day playing outdoors at a countryside estate – it’s all the more rewarding when you know that every ingredient on your plate comes from close by, perhaps even the estate garden itself.
Farm-to-table dining is no longer just a trend and instead here to stay. I’m thrilled by this shift in mentality, long having championed local producers, whether in the culinary world or locally made handicrafts and jewelry. I knew that both Oddfellows locations use several nearby farms and dairies to supply their kitchens, and so starting there, I asked other UK Rebecca Recommends properties whom they rely on for the freshest, highest quality, most delicious local ingredients.
Oddfellows’ Creative Kitchens
Both Oddfellows Hotels are based in Cheshire, where some of the most fertile farming lands in England are based. Taking full advantage of the countryside’s bounty, the creative kitchen teams delight in using local producers and farms. At Oddfellows on the Park, Johnson Swarbrick of Preston supplies the seasonal game and poultry that chef Ian Moss is so fond of (poultry and duck are raised on the farm). They are a family business who believe in looking after their birds, with the apropos motto that “a happy bird is a tasty bird.” Hopewell Farm, just a couple of miles away from the hotel, provides delicious milk, yogurt and creamy farm butter. In nearby Stockport, R. Noone and Sons, in operation for more than three decades, delivers fresh produce of every taste, color and size. Lake District Farmers are the hidden gem of the region and have relationships with 50 enthusiastic farmers who have invested in a unique breeding program to produce the finest Herdwick Lamb, Herdwick Mutton and Native Breed Beef.
Over at Oddfellows Chester, the kitchen team relies on Perry’s Produce, a family-owned business where three generations of family work to run the business together – their long-term relationships with farmers in the local area allow Oddfellows access to the finest produce and open up the culinary possibilities. Oddfellows is on the border of Wales and the renowned Williams of Flint, purveyors of world-famous Welsh lamb and beef. Williams has recently celebrated its 80th year in business after starting out as a humble butcher shop in the 1930s in rural Wales. Knowing just where your dinner came from and how cared for the ingredients will make your meals at Oddfellows that much richer, from whipped goats cheese and heirloom tomatoes to Herefordshire beef sirloin.
Meet Tom of The Torridon
Overseeing two acres of fruit and vegetable garden, Tom is The Torridon’s head gardener. Must of the produce used at the resort’s 1887 Restaurant is provided by the garden and has been lovingly cared for year-round to ensure freshness. The garden blooms with crops of apples, blackberries, raspberries, potatoes and carrots, as well as a variety of other veggies depending on the season and a wide selection of herbs. The flowers guests see throughout the house – dahlias, crocuses, gladioli and tulips – are also grown in the garden.
The Torridon Farm makes its mark on the kitchen as well, keeping the menu in tune with the land and the seasons. Animals have long been raised at The Torridon and these days, the flocks include Highland cattle, chickens and Tamworth pigs. Guests tuck into Highland beef burgers, steak and ale pie, sirloin of beer or mixed plates of Tamworth pig, assured that every ingredient is hyperlocal.
The Torridon is also quick to mention that they sponsor beehives in Edinburgh and so get the freshest of honey, procure their smoked salmon from the Isle of Ewe Smokehouse and have their own Torridon gin, Arcturus. There’s no mystery as to the provenance of any food or drink item one might partake of at the resort, a satisfying and heartening feeling.
Hometown Tastes at Hartwell House
Stately Hartwell House, 40 miles into the countryside northwest of London, prides itself on utilizing the best of local meat, produce and other homegrown ingredients for its dining room. The house boasts a two AA Rosette main restaurant, where diners may be treated to braised ox cheek and cocotte potatoes, homemade burrata cheese and cold smoked wood pigeon with local berries. For this farm-fresh fare, the kitchen staff turns to the Aylesbury Duck Farm; Guy Bond in Whitchurch, with a clear passion for potatoes; Plestead Butchers Chinoor for Belgium blue cross cattle; Chiltern Brewing, which provides three ales that are used daily for bread-making; and a vast variety of in-house gardens and orchard fruits and vegetables overseen by Hartwell House Head Gardener Richard Jones. That burrata cheese we mentioned is made with local milk from Laceys and the house has recently started working with a local cheese from Nettlebed Creamery.
The Nare Stays Near
At The Nare – overlooking Carne Beach on the Roseland Peninsula – the staff is dedicated to buying Cornish whenever possible and supporting its local farming and fishing communities. They are proud to use a long list of nearby suppliers, from meat and fish to milk, cream and teas. An ever-changing menu in The Dining Room features hors d’oeuvre trolleys, flambés, seafood and homemade puddings, all of which are guaranteed to be as fresh as can be. Brian Etherington is one of their favorite meat purveyors, in particular Tregullow Ruby Red Beef, all grass fed and slowly grown and reared in small, free-moving herds. The Cornish ducks the kitchen staff uses are a unique Terras Duck breed, completely free-range and raised without any chemical interference. Colin Carter’s Eggs is family-run and has been involved in egg production for more than a century. Since 1948, Mathew Stevens’ family business has been one of the finest Cornish fishmongers, delivering quality and fantastic flavour with its fish from local coves, ports and markets in Cornwall. At tea time, partake of the delightful dairy products of Rodda’s – the family’s great-great-grandmother started making Cornish clotted cream in her farmhouse kitchen in 1890 and 120 years later, they’re still gently baking rich local cream until it’s thick, silky and “thoroughly dollapable.” It has actually been award Protected Designation of Origin status, like Champagne and Parma ham. And if you love bread as much as I do, and you’re a guest of The Nare, you’ll tear off hearty chunks of bread loaves from Martin’s Bakery in St. Austell, where this baking family has been supplying local households with traditionally made bread and cakes for more than 30 years (and have been baking for over 150 years). They still firmly believe that the old-fashioned method of baking bread, with the help of quality ingredients and handed-down recipes, makes for the crispiest crust and distinctive flavor for which they are known. The list of local purveyors of produce, meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and more runs long at The Nare. They’re happy to provide insight into just where your meal is coming from, so just ask!