Last Sunday we finally visited somewhere that’s been hovering at the top of our must-do list for ages: The Ethicurean, a seasonal and sustainable restaurant located a few miles south of Bristol in the rolling foothills of the Mendips.
Set in an Edwardian glasshouse within the walls of the Barley Wood Kitchen Garden, it’s run by hunter and mixologist Jack Adair-Bevan, Mexican-born Paûla Zarate and self-taught chefs Matthew and Iain Pennington. Its website states that it’s ‘founded on a sense of place’ – a neat way of encapsulating its connection to the land around it. The food is almost entirely local, and every plate brims with home-grown veg, foraged herbs, and meat and cheeses from nearby community farms.
Our lunch was delicious: a zingy salad of cucumber, ewe’s curd and edible flowers, tender beef with wild garlic and charred leeks, and ‘Somerset affogato’ (honeycomb ice cream served with espresso). And the drinks were just as good: local cider, well-chosen wine, and cocktails whipped up from homemade vermouth, fruit gins and apple juice.
But what I loved most was the atmosphere. The vibe is informal, the staff friendly and laid-back, and the décor charmingly ramshackle (mismatched chairs, bunches of dried herbs hanging from beams, windows lined with jars of pickles and preserves). It’s all wonderfully conducive to long, lazy meals, and we lingered at our table for hours watching sunshine and shadows flit across the hills beyond.
When we finally managed to haul ourselves off our chairs, we spent a very happy hour pottering around the garden outside. I felt a bit like I’d stepped into the pages of The Secret Garden as we meandered past blossom-covered fruit trees, newly tended beds and red-brick walls criss-crossed with vines, with bees buzzing in and out of the flowers around us.
I can’t wait to return later in the year to see how the garden and the food change with the passing seasons. And I’ve bought a copy of The Ethicurean’s cookbook so I can try some of the dishes at home – watch this space to see how I get on…
Photography by Abi Dare