@gemmalhussey at @lilacfoodandwine
Food & Garden
Our Sustainable Food Guide To Devon & Dorset, UK
Well known as a popular retreat destination, the South West of the UK is also a host to some incredible talent and innovation when it comes to sustainable food. Being surrounded by rolling hills, woodland and thriving coasts, the South-West is undoubtedly a foodie’s dream. Our Creative Editor, Gemma grew up and is based on the East Devon, West Dorset border surrounded by nature and limitless creativity when it comes to local ingredients. In this editorial, Gemma shares her pick of the best sustainable restaurants, chefs and organic farms in the area, hoping to inspire anyone local or visiting to try out some of the best this area has to offer!
“I am so proud to call this area my home after having spent time living in London then moving back. I have such reverence for slow living and slow food, growing up being surrounded by nature and educated in this environment, realising that sustainable food is in abundance right back where I started is a blessing. I consistently feel so grateful for the incredible talent that resides here and the people that are putting their energy into doing things how they should be done – responsibly, sustainably, and of course with a touch of natural beauty.”
LILAC & Robin Wylde
Starting off with what is probably my favourite place to eat, drink and attend events locally, is the Lilac wine bar in Lyme Regis. Alongside Lilac is its sister restaurant Robin Wylde, located just a stone’s throw up the road. Both restaurants are designed to home a chic and intimate atmosphere and a place for visitors to find a sense of serenity and good food. Both restaurants present creatively curated menus of small dishes highlighting seasonal and locally sourced ingredients from the Devon and Dorset area as well a host of local & natural wines and their popular zero waste cocktails. Robin Wylde specialises in tasting menus celebrating the finest local produce. Lilac also offers seasonal workshops such as wreath making, as well as talks from local producers such as the up and coming bakers from @the_orangebakery and local mushroom expert @grownupmushrooms. I had to highlight both of these restaurants as they are special in their own way, however I highly suggest to visit Robin Wylde while you still can. Currently home to their delicious pop-up bakery, at the end of Summer 2023, after 4 years of touching the hearts of many via inspired dishes, they will be closing their doors to plan a new chapter. So if you have always wanted to visit or after reading now feel inspired to do-so, I highly suggest booking a table, you won’t regret it that’s for sure!
Behind the fabulous aforementioned restaurants is their creator, Harriet Mansell. In my opinion Harriet had to get separate recognition from her restaurants, as the creativity and innovation behind them. Harriet’s passion for wild food and desire to honour it evidently runs through the restaurants from the menus, to the wine, and sublime interior decor. Every so often you may get a chance to experience Harriet’s incredible creations no matter where you are, as she does pop-up events with various sustainable restaurants around the UK and increasingly abroad such as her up-coming collaboration with @lorto_restaurant at the Nordelaia eco-hotel in Italy. Another way to get a taste of what it’s like to relish working with local ingredients like Harriet does is to join one of her Devon/Dorset wild food walks, for those who love foraging, learning, and connecting with our natural world at the same time.
New to the South West sustainable food scene is Radix. Recently they worked with the @thepopup.kitchen to host monthly pop-up nights where you can sample one of their unique taster menus. All based around local and seasonal ingredients, each menu with a seasonal course creatively categorised into land, sea, farm and treat, Radix is no doubt one to experience. The incredible detail and thought that goes into Radix is what makes them special, from menus made out of biodegradable seed paper that you can plant as well as the post-dinner favours of tiny seed packets you can take home and plant in your garden too. Keep a look out on their socials for their next series of pop-ups.
The Oyster and Fish House
Founded by well-known chef Mark Hix, The Oyster and Fish House, previously known as HIX Oyster and Fish House, utilises the freshest local seafood you can find in the area, straight off the South West coast to create straightforward but delectable dishes. The perfect place to look out to sea and enjoy a special meal with good company every time. Mark and his team also offer tasting evenings and talks with special guests as well as bespoke group foraging experiences for a true taste of the local landscape.
Another local chef I wanted to bring attention to is Gill Meller. Also based in the West Dorset area, Gill is renowned for his slow approach to food and passion for outdoor cooking. He has written several books under those themes including ‘Gather’, ‘Root, Stem, Leaf, Flower’, and most recently ‘Outside: Cooking Outdoors – Recipes for the wild’. Gill has for many years worked closely with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and River Cottage, who I will mention next, and has in tandem developed concepts around cooking that bring us back to the senses and nature which is truly what food is all about. Though his instagram he shares snippets of his work and what its like to make the most of this beautiful part of the country in all it’s aspects from home gardening to outdoor cooking on the beach, a raw and aesthetic account of delicious and comforting dishes that I’m sure could be easily re-created at home.
Probably the most notable mention when it comes to food in the South West is River Cottage. Despite it’s fame River Cottage’s entire identity is again built around a farm-to-table approach to food. When a lot of the time we don’t know where our food comes from, River Cottage points us back to the source like all other restaurants and chefs in this editorial. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is of course the man behind the idea, as a big figure in British television and mainstream media, he has this wonderful platform on which he has the ability to drive the message of ethical and seasonal food through many of these channels he has open to the public. At the River Cottage HQ in Devon, there are endless ways to embrace better ways of eating including, attending one of their many events which include dining events, taking a course at their cookery school or staying in their stunning farmhouse.
The Pig At Combe
Relying heavily on the gorgeous Elizabethan architecture to entice those with good taste, The Pig at Combe is not only a stunning location set in Devon’s countryside with ravishing interiors, but like all other Pig Hotels is at it’s core an environmental operation to bring more from-the-source food to their guests. I love the quote on their website that states “There’s a saying in Devon that ‘if you stick your finger in the ground it will grow’”, this highlights the incredible soil quality of the area and the fact they recognise that and use it to the best of their ability through their walled kitchen garden that grows the produce used in their dishes. You will have to personally peruse the majesty that is The Pig At Combe via their website to discover all that they have to offer. In my opinion the most inspiring thing about the Pig in terms of sustainable food is their 25 mile menu. Showcasing dishes solely comprised of produce sourced within 25 miles of the hotel, many of which independent and small scale as well as organically certified!
In 2020 owners and couple Hugo and Olive moved from London as a family to take over Hugo’s parents B&B that is Glebe House. Having spent time in Italy and become inspired by agriturisimos, they had the perfect vision for Glebe House to utilise the surrounding flora and fauna, turning Glebe into an English agritourismo with a focus on food and art experiences. Agriturismos by nature provide accommodation, a place to eat and the most first hand experience you could have of what farm-to-table food really means, and Glebe House offers exactly that. A sweet Georgian guesthouse nestled into the landscape with soft but colourful eclectic interiors, and a farm-to-table restaurant to die for. Artisanal dishes with rich quality local and seasonal produce, as well as produce from their very own incredibly local vegetable garden, on-site bakery and ageing room. For a slow pace getaway in the Devonshire countryside, Glebe House is the place you’ll want to go. Don’t forget to follow them on instagram too add some beauty to your feed! @glebehousedevon.
I first discovered High Grange through our local farm shop @millersfarmshop (also a must-visit) at one of their Christmas market events. When I say their food is good, I mean insanely good. It’s the type of flavour explosion that you always wish for but don’t always get! I was so delighted to discover from their co-founder Sara, that they operate just down the road as an events space and wellness retreat. Boasting an indoor and outdoor woodland dining area for foodie events as well as private dining, and more recently their outbuilding for creative and wellness events from yoga, pilates and reiki to sound baths and breathwork as well as dried flower arranging to growing your own vegetables. To get an experiential and culinary taste of Devon, join one of their woodland feast nights or not to mention, their fire school classes ran by co-founder and chef Luke Mackay, husband to Sara.
Haye Farm is an organic and regenerative farm based in East Devon. Their goal is to make a positive difference to the land by farming in a way that increases biodiversity, nurtures the surrounding eco-system and provides for future generations. On their 90 acre farm they have a mix of pasture for beef, sheep, pigs and chickens as well as fruit and vegetable gardens, not to mention their own organic craft brewery @giltandflint. One of the many ways you can support this farm is by purchasing their produce through their online shop, as well as looking out for ‘Haye Farm’ on the menu when dining at local restaurants. They also have a beautiful farm cottage connected to their main farmhouse in which Arizona Muse, our iconic model and environmental activist famously stayed at in 2020.
Trill Farm are an organic market garden also based in East Devon not too far from Haye Farm. They sell their produce through a local veg box scheme as well as selling wholesale to businesses in neighbouring towns. The founders of Trill Farm have won awards for their commitment to organic principles, good soil management and cultivating biodiversity. They save organic seed from over 20 different varieties and grow commercially for the Real Seed Catalogue and Vital Seeds. They are also founding members of The Landworkers’ Alliance and helped to setup the UK Seed Sovereignty Programme. One way you can support Trill Farm is by looking out for produce and delicious fresh salad bags at local shops as well as ‘Trill Farm’ on menus at local cafés and restaurants. I can really say that Trill Farm salads are the best I have tasted, full of an array different organic seasonal leaves with unique textures and flavours!
Finally we have Springtail Farm, another local organic market garden, this time in West Dorset. Springtail Farm are dedicated to growing super delicious and nutritious vegetables whilst being considerate of the land they tend, which is a 1/2 acre lot on the 43 acre agroecological Fivepenny Farm in Wootton Fitzpaine. Food sovereignty and agroecology are at at the heart of what Springtail Farm do, whilst also being members of the Landworkers’ Alliance. They also implement a no-dig gardening technique in order to disturb the soil structure and soil biology as little as possible. You can find their vegetables and cut flowers at local markets, shops and restaurants as well as via their veg box scheme.
Other Notable Mentions:
@maslinbakery – my favourite organic micro-bakery who make incredible bread, pastries and cakes, based in East Devon selling via local shops! (the best Persian love cake and Pastéis de Natas around!)
@elbowfarm – local small scale no-dig farm in East Devon, produce found in local shops and online.
@the_edible _acre – local regenerative market garden in Dorset selling online.
@naturalbranscombe – sustainable farm in East Devon (selling award winning salad bags!) and co-founding member of In My Back Yard.
@inmybackyardco – East Devon’s hub for ethically and organically produced food via the Open Food Network, available to purchase for wholesale or individually. An incredible concept to allow shopping for sustainable food from independent producers.