When people travel from all across the country for an event, it makes you realise that it must be a highly regarded place to be going. So this made me appreciate that I’m very lucky to have it right on my doorstep here in East Devon and on this occasion I was invited along for a visit. It’s safe to say that attending River Cottage HQ for a short cookery course and dinner event has been one of the highlights of my year.
This visit was with a group of self confessed food fans (foodies)! We were given an excellent lesson by Chef Andy all about preparing meat for Christmas – how to brine your turkey (I’m definitely going to try that this year), how to cure your own pork joints for roasting and how to make bresaola – a type of cured dried beef or venison which we sampled and was delicious.
The foodies were making copious notes and asking sensible questions, I figured I could look up the recipes later!
There is no love sincerer
than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw
Now I have been to visit River Cottage before (albeit only briefly a long time ago) and Hugh (first name terms!!) signed a book for me when the River Cottage Axminster Canteen first opened. Since then though the Park Farm HQ site has changed a lot – the cookery demonstration and dining area have been refurbished, a new cookery school added and there’s a lovely yurt with a log burner in it for those snug occasions when only a yurt will do.
There was time to have a good nose around the River Cottage grounds, the bits you see on the TV were fun to look at.
There’s a wonderful vegetable garden in front of the iconic farmhouse with two fantastic pizza ovens. Inside the house a “kitchen” where the filming for the TV show often takes place was a great spot for a photo and the other downstairs room had a lovely log burner fired up and if you are a small dinner party group you can dine in here.
The highlight of the visit was dinner. The focus is always on seasonal, local and fresh produce. We were first treated to a glass of lovely Kingston Black apple cider aperitif with goats cheese and honey bruschetta, leek and pork potato croquets and red onion and mussel canapés.
The food was prepared by the resident chefs as well as the trainees who are learning their trade at the chefs’ school. It did not disappoint – sumptuous ravioli starter, braised pork that fell apart and the most amazing crème brule for dessert.
Travel to River Cottage HQ is by tractor and trailer!
So in summary if you are looking for a fabulous experience either for yourself or as a great present then River Cottage is the ideal option. There are many cookery classes to choose from such as bread making or meat curing as well as day events on diverse topics like bee keeping and foraging. Of course there are also a range of dining experiences such as the River Cottage Festive Feast that we were treated to – I was a guest of River Cottage for this event (many thanks to Foodies 100).
You could club together with friends or family to buy vouchers which is what I did last year for a friend’s 40th. If the budget doesn’t quite stretch to the full experience then the Canteen in Axminster is also a great place for a meal or just tea and cake (yes great cake!). The River Cottage brand has also expanded to canteens in Plymouth and Bath as well. If you just want a nose around the Park Farm HQ then look out for their open days – annual Spring Fair and Summer Festivals are great value.
If you are travelling here then why not extend your visit to East Devon – explore the new Seaton Jurassic Centre or pop over the border to Lyme Regis in Dorset for a walk along the iconic Cobb and take in this beautiful region. Here’s a recent post with some views from Trinity Hill Nature Reserve from a walk just half a mile from River Cottage.
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