IF you go to Howards House at Teffont, have a quick look around the kitchen garden, and you may well spot chef Andy Britton in his kitchen whites among the lavish growth of green vegetables, salads and herbs.
The charming country house hotel’s reputation for locally sourced food is certainly enhanced by the arrival of the new head chef. He took over the kitchen from the hugely respected Nick Wentworth who had been there for many years and had made the restaurant as famous for its beautiful, locally-sourced food as the hotel is for its romantic ambience. (Howards House Hotel has been named Britain’s Most Romantic Hotel in the Good Hotel Guide;’s Cesar awards since 2010.)
Andy has brought a different feel to the airy dining room overlooking the gardens, which, even on a rather dull, wet, late spring day, are still a delight. He is more obviously outgoing, happy to meet guests and talk about the food.
Like Nick Wentworth, Andy puts provenance and seasonality at the heart of what he does. He is constantly discovering the variety and quality of food produced, grown and foraged in the woods, valleys, chalk downlands and streams of south Wiltshire, with the rich dairy area of the Blackmore Vale just over the hills and the outstanding seafood of the Jurassic coast only an hour or so away.
He had been looking for a change of direction, for the opportunities and independence which he could have in a family-owned business like Howards House. He works closely with manager and owner Simon Greenwood, to present a table which they describe as “essentially English, in tune with the seasons and in harmony with the best sustainable practices.”
The small kitchen team at Teffont is quite a change for a chef whose background is with much larger brigades. Andy honed his skills with Michelin star chefs Albert Roux and Michael Caines, and has worked at the Bishopstrow Hotel at Warminster, and at Bath’s Macdonald Bath Spa hotel.
At Howards House, Andy is involved with every aspect of the food served to hotel guests and lunch or dinner customers. Over the winter he worked closely with the gardeners to expand the range of produce – they are now growing six different varieties of carrot and unfamiliar but delicious vegetables such as purple tomatillos.
It’s easy to use words like “local” and “seasonal” as if they are automatically synonymous with quality, which of course they aren’t. Our lunch exemplified Andy’s approach to selecting the finest produce available, from the garden, the surrounding countryside and the seas around the West Country.
Seasonal amuse bouches were followed by seared south coast scallops with pea puree and an apple dressing, breast of wood pigeon with peas, beans and bacon, roast venison with gratin dauphinois, shallot puree, spring greens and a venison jus and chocolate oil and spring greens, Barkham Blue cheese with honeycomb, and desserts including a classic vanilla creme brulee.
The menu changes regularly – visit Howards House website for the latest selections. And look out for special events including a summer lunch with music on Saturday 16th June. Local folk duo Hummingbird will be accompanying a seasonal feast from the grill. The menu features hickory-smoked pork ribs, lemon and thyme marinated chicken thighs, garlic rosemary marinated sardines, chargrilled garden vegetables, and desserts including sweet cicely panna cotta and strawberry vacherin.
Visit www.howardshousehotel.co.uk for more information.
Pictured: Chef Andy Britton, Howards House Hotel, seasonal amuse bouches, roast venison with shallot puree and spring greens, and a perfect miniature fruit crumble.