As you may know at the beginning of July, I visited Dorset with some of my best friends, Amy, Katie and Grace. We were lucky enough to be invited to River Cottage HQ in Axminster which is a short journey from the Jurassic coast where we were staying. As a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s famous Channel 4 cooking show I was so excited to visit the famous river cottage where the series was filmed from 1999-2002.
When we arrived in the car park we were greeted by the most stunning views of Axminster it was worth spending a moment to take it all in and get a few scenic photos. We were then picked up by a tractor trailer to take us down to the farm along with the other dinner guests. It was a unique and bumpy way to start Sunday lunch on the farm.
Spending the day at River Cottage HQ
Once we got down to the farm it was very surreal as we took in the famous surroundings. We got shown to a deck where we were presented with a brandy cider, which I must add was dangerously delicious. As we sipped our drinks on deck chairs we were introduced to the farm by a lovely host who told us all about River Cottage and the many different events they hold on the grounds. I would defiantly recommend checking out the various cooking courses and dining events they offer there.
Next we were allowed to relax and explore the breath-taking backdrop of River Cottage grounds before dinner was served. We saw staff picking fresh flowers and vegetables from the allotment which was taken into the kitchen to be prepared for our dinner. It’s great to see how the chefs use all of the fresh produce home grown on the farm. We were lucky enough to spend some time discovering the amazing flowerbeds, visiting the friendly animals and observed the vegan cookery school taking place from the courtyard area.
The Kitchen Garden at River Cottage HQ
After all of our exploring of River Cottage gardens we had built up an appetite and by this time very excited to see what was on the menu. We had to consult the seating plan on the wall when we arrived to find out where we were sitting (this is for dietary and allergy reasons). The dining area was open plan and had of two long parallel benches which meant we were sitting with the other guests and it had a lovely leisurely lunch feel.
A host then came and talked us through the menu, explaining each course, why the ingredients were chosen and put together and how each ingredient was going to be cooked and served. It was really interesting to find out a bit more about what we were about to eat and how it had been cooked and prepared. The host shared just enough detail to have us waiting in anticipation for dinner to be served.
We started off with the most delicious focaccia bread with oil, it was so moreish we couldn’t stop eating it when they came round with the basket. The starter was ricotta cheese with a little gem lettuce which had been cooked on the BBQ outside, braised onions, pumpkin seeds and beetroot cooked in three different ways. The starter was so colourful and looked almost too good to eat as it was served with an edible flower. The service was very efficient and the staff ensured everyone had plenty of drinks and even recommended drinks that would complement the menu.
The main course was pork belly and braised shoulder served with carrot and star-anise puree, kimchi broccoli, roast potatoes and pickled turnips. Having a group with some dietary requirements I was really impressed with the alternative options. When making the booking the staff took into account all dietary requirements and on the day my vegetarian friend was served fresh Pollock instead of the pork main course.
To finish Lemon polenta cake served with freshly picked rhubarb and summer berries and whipped cream. The desert was light and fresh and ended the Sunday lunch perfectly. The afternoon was finished off with tea, coffee and homemade sweets before heading back to the car park on the tractor trailer with our bellies full of food and ready for a Sunday afternoon nap.
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