River Cottage Valentine's feast

River Cottage Adventure – part 1

My Christmas pressie off Hubby had finally arrived. After me giving him an early Christmas pressie in the shape of Pig in a Day with Hugh F-W he returned the favour by taking me away for 4 nights to experience River Cottage, not once, but twice.

Saturday started with the obligatory trip to River Cottage Local Produce Store & Canteen. We arrived just as lunch service was starting and managed to grab a seat. The menu may be small with around 8 dishes, but the ingredients are seasonal and they are well priced. If I wasn’t dining at RCHQ later on I would have tried the fish & chips as it looked delicious, but instead had a hearty bowl of leek & potato soup with pumpkin seed & parsley pesto. The pesto transformed the dish from a delicious soup into an absolutely delicious soup. Hubby had faggots which impressed him as they had been made with the traditional caul fat. As we left there was a significant queue of people waiting for a table.

Saturday evening was the Valentines Feast at River Cottage HQ. It started when we pulled off the country lane into a car park. Everyone was huddling around a fire in an attempt to keep warm while waiting for the tractor trip down to RCHQ. RCHQ is very well hidden and you wouldn’t know it was there. Nestled in the valley below with minimal light pollution I just couldn’t see it.

Now before I go any further I apologise for the grainy quality of the pics. I was using our compact rather than SLR and the “available light” setting to avoid using flash. No food pics, I’m far too self conscious for that! All I can assure you was that the food looked fantastic.

The tractor & trailer arrived and we all squished onboard for the bumpy ride down to the farm. I can certainly understand why they don’t let you walk or drive down! At the bottom we were met by Peter, our host for the evening, who guided us to a lovely warm yurt where we were served a rhubarb Bellini and possibly the biggest oysters I’ve ever seen. I admit I chickened out of the oysters, but Hubby really enjoyed them.

We then walked to the barn and found our seats next to a lovely couple from Birmingham. This valentines event was unlike conventional Valentine events. Rather than separate tables for couples we were seated down two long wooden tables. There was a really great atmosphere in the barn. Not long after the next canape was brought out; a rough pâté of belly pork served on a small circular piece of toast. This was soon followed by seared paprika squid.

Once everyone had eaten their canapes Dan Stevens, Head Chef for the night, introduced the rest of the menu to us explaining where all the ingredients came from. I washed all of this beautiful food down with some Tayberry wine.

Roast wild sea bass fillet, artichoke & thyme risotto, crispy air dried ham with winter salad – I’d never eaten sea bass before Saturday and would now have to say it is one of my favourite fish. The risotto was made with spelt rather than traditional rice which gave it a lovely texture. I would love to make this dish again at home.

Crab bisque, sour dough and dressed crab – Probably my least favourite course as I do find crab a bit overpowering, but still a lovely dish. I especially liked the sour dough.

Seared saddle of organic Llyen Hogget, slow roast shoulder with celeriac puree and purple sprouting broccoli – I’ve been wanting to try hogget for a while so when it appeared on the Valentines menu I was really pleased. As a hogget is older than a lamb and younger than mutton it had a strong lamb taste, almost very slightly gamey. The saddle was cooked to perfection with a hint of pink and the shoulder just melted in my mouth. I would quite happily eat hogget again, just a shame it can be difficult to get hold of.

After the main course they brought out a bottle of Camel Valley Cornwall Brut for every couple. We weren’t expecting a bottle of bubbly at all so it was a nice surprise. The hardest bit for me was not drinking it all has Hubby was driving and I wanted to leave some for him once we got back to the hotel. It was very drinkable.

Salad of Sharpham brie, pear and beetroot
– Possibly the most interesting and my favourite course. The flavours, along with the digestive biscuits matched perfectly. The brie had been drizzled with a small amount of honey that really set the flavours off. Again another dish I would like to try and replicate at home.

Frozen meringue, orange and rhubarb parfait with ginger tuille – A refreshing end to the meal. I’m not usually a fan of rhubarb but this was delicious.

The evening ended about 11.30 with coffee and superb chocolates that were beautifully dark and just melted in my mouth. A perfect end to a perfect evening.

I would love to return to River Cottage again for an evening like this. It was a perfect place for me to try dishes I wouldn’t usually choose in a restaurant. I would highly recommend a trip to eat at River Cottage to anyone.

Click on for – part 2!

Post Author: Jules

Freelance food geek who's passionate about food education.

12 thoughts on “River Cottage Adventure – part 1

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