I’m sure we’re all familiar with the River Cottage TV series, headed up by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and famous for championing seasonal, ethically produced food. There’s probably a River Cottage cookbook or two on your kitchen shelf. But have you ever visited River Cottage HQ itself? This week I got to do just that.
I joined the HIBS100 team for a fabulous day at River Cottage, exploring the wonderful ingredients they use in their food, learning some Christmas cooking tips, and enjoying an amazing winter feast. Given that I’m passionate about grow-your-own and the benefits of growing and cooking with fresh, seasonal ingredients, being able to witness first-hand how a top-notch kitchen does this was a bit of a dream come true for me.
Based at Park Farm in Axminster, River Cottage HQ is a foodie venue through and through. It’s home to the River Cottage Cookery School, which offers a wide range of cookery courses covering all ability levels, with an emphasis on local, seasonal produce. If letting someone else do the cooking is more your thing, you can also visit for a range of unique dining experiences, which combine fantastic food with the gorgeous backdrop of Park Farm.
On arrival at the car park, we were met by our transport to the farm.
What a fab way to start our visit! After a short, bouncy ride, we got our first glimpses of the venue and the local landscape.
River Cottage is situated in a little valley, and surrounded by completely unspoiled landscape. Other than the farm, there isn’t a building in sight; it’s really quite breathtaking, even on a damp winter afternoon.
I managed to have a quick wander around the grounds before it got dark, taking in the gorgeous walled kitchen garden and the lovely courtyard.
We then settled down for a talk from Andy, one of the River Cottage chefs, on how to give a Christmas roast the special treatment by brining it in advance. The passion that the chefs have for their ingredients was so apparent, and they really know their stuff.
Next it was time for a bit of blogger mingling and a chance to experience the yurt. How fab is this?
I could have curled up in there for a little pre-dinner snooze quite happily, but the call of the evening’s menu was too much to resist.
The feast began with the chefs introducing us to all the dishes and explaining a bit about the ingredients. And what a feast it was!
In between courses, we had the opportunity to sneak into the kitchen and watch the food being prepared. I’ve never been in a professional kitchen before, and it was fascinating to watch the experts at work.
All the food was beautifully presented, packed with flavour, and tasted divine. Quality organic produce and locally sourced ingredients underpin all the food at River Cottage, and the care taken in their selection shines through in the finished dishes.
After our feast we wobbled back to the tractor for our return ride to the car park, full, happy and glowing from an evening of great food and great company.
The River Cottage winter feast was a truly memorable experience. I’ve dreamed of visiting River Cottage HQ for years, so being able to get an insight into the ethos behind the food and sample the food itself was a real privilege. Thanks so much to HIBS100 and River Cottage for hosting us.