Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Restaurant review - Fallowfields, near Oxford

Sometimes, having a blog really has its advantages! Last Saturday I was invited by EnergyPR to attend a blogger's lunch, where the PR ladies could pick the brains of bloggers to find out what we really want from PR companies. It turned out to be great fun and very interesting, and I met lots of lovely people who I hope to stay in touch with.

Happy free-range chooks

But best of all was that it took place in a gorgeous country house hotel in the Oxfordshire countryside, where we were thoroughly spoilt, and I had such a great time that I want to tell you all about it. But before I start I have to apologise for the awful iPhone photos, as my camera decided to die...

Our lovely host, tempting us with sweeties

Fallowfields is owned by Anthony Lloyd and his wife Peta, and over a number of years they have added a (very sympathetic) extension, built up a kitchen garden (lovingly tended by a very dedicated 87 year old gardener), orchard and farm filled with lovely beasties. Earlier this year, they took on a new chef with an impressive pedigree, Shaun Dickinson, who has worked at Le Manoir, Per Se in New York, and l'Ortolan, and Fallowfields is his first ever restaurant not to have at least one Michelin star. Together with Shaun and maitre d' and expert sommelier Benjamin Petit, Anthony hopes to turn Fallowfields into a culinary force to be reckoned with.


A guided tour around the grounds and farm would suggest that they are already on their way. The kitchen garden provides seasonal fruit and vegetables for the restaurant. Most of the meat comes from the farm - rare and unusual breeds such as Dexter cattle and Tamworth pigs (Anthony is currently mourning the death of his boar Thriller earlier this month, whom he adored), as well as quail and chickens. What doesn't come from the farm is shot or hunted locally. During the tour, Anthony's passion for his hotel, his land and especially for his animals is evident.
The kitchen garden

After brushing the mud from the old wellies and guzzling a glass of champagne with some tasty canapés, it's time for lunch, and this is where Shaun gets to show us what a chef with a Michelin background is really capable of. It was amazing, honestly the best meal I've had for ages. And it was all local - even the walnuts and figs came from Fallowfields' own kitchen garden.

Yummy home made bread

Jerusalem artichoke velouté with truffle creme fraiche

Venison with mash, roasted beetroot, chocolate tuile & sauce

Yoghurty palette cleanser with cinnamony strawberry jam

Honeycomb cheesecake with candied walnuts, figs, walnut ice cream

After lunch, Shaun treated us to a cookery demonstration where he prepared quail with fondant potatoes while telling us about how everything works in his kitchen (he's a big fan of sous vide, by the way). Finally we were treated to coffee with home made sweeties - chocolates and lime and elderflower jellies which were fabulous, but I wasn't brave enough to ask for the recipe. Perhaps if I ask nicely...

We were even given a goody bag with a little baby turnip which is far too cute to eat (can you keep a turnip as a pet?!), some yummy home made bread and a scotch egg which didn't last very long.

Fallowfields also has a falconry... what? Department? Section? They do falconry there. And you can stay over afterwards and spend the weekend exploring the lovely Oxfordshire countryside - I recommend a trip to Bicester village where you can get lots of lovely things for not very much money at all.

Thank you so much to Anthony and his staff for a fantastic afternoon, and to EnergyPR for inviting me along. I truly wish Fallowfields a very successful future, and this morning they were awarded two rosettes so it looks like they are well on their way!

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