With the Field Kitchen firmly established on Devon’s foodie map, Guy Watson has created something of an institution at Riverford. Gordon Ramsay and Giles Coren have given it rave reviews, the company has won awards left, right and centre, yet Head Chef Rob Andrew and the team remain true to their roots, serving up armfuls of freshly picked vegetables from the fields surrounding the Kitchen on a daily basis.
Their idea is simple and appealing: take great produce, cook simply and share around a large table. The Field Kitchen is a spacious barn filled with wooden tables, an open kitchen at one end. A notice on the blackboard tells diners what is being sown and picked that week and, along with a tour of the fields, there’s every opportunity to gen up on what’s happening here.
There were six at our table. You quickly get to know your neighbours – passing platters of food around is a very sociable way to dine. You don’t have a choice of what to eat as it depends on what the kitchen has sourced that day (although, naturally, dietary needs are catered for).
Our first starter dish was beetroot, walnut and Ticklemore cheese salad with sourdough bread. The sweet beetroot had a hint of orange marinade, while the rocket had that just-pulled-from-the-ground flavour – you don’t get to eat veg this fresh every day! The smell of the food was wonderful too – green, herby, peppery – like opening the window on a summer morning. The second dish was asparagus in a light hollandaise sauce. A hint of lemon cleansed the palate and boosted the flavour of the tender vegetables.
Each dish could have featured on its own, but pulled together well as a meal. Our main was melt-in-the-mouth pork belly with a crispy crackling, served with potatoes steamed with bay, lemon and oregano. The carrots and spring onions cooked in crème fraîche won it for me, while Jeff enjoyed the greens – beans and cauliflower with a sharp hit of mustard and anchovy.
Diners do choose dessert: at the kitchen counter there’s a selection of home-baked puddings. My pear and almond tart was full of flavour, with plump slices of fruit, and served with one of the creamiest custards I’ve ever enjoyed. Jeff’s sticky toffee pudding had the intense, dark taste of toffee in a light sponge.
Rob is a clever chef, balancing flavour with top ingredients in a menu that changes every day. If these guys can’t get us eating more greens, no one can!
Advanced booking is required. Arrive for lunch from 12.30pm-1pm, Monday–Saturday, and from 12pm-12.30pm or 3.30pm-4pm on Sunday. Arrive 7.30pm-8pm for supper, which is served most evenings.