The art of the kitchen garden

SCULPTURE by the Lakes is a uniquely beautiful sculpture park, set around lakes alongside the river Frome through Tincleton near Dorchester.

Home to sculptor Simon Gudgeon and his wife Monique, it is a perfect setting for Simon’s large sculptures, but with the opening shortly of the Barn Gallery, and a winter programme of talks and courses, is an all-round destination for art lovers and people who love peaceful gardens.

Now there is an added attraction with the addition of The Gallery Cafe specialising in seasonal and local produce, much of it grown in the cafe’s own kitchen garden. Visitors who decide they want to stay longer than originally planned can now order their own picnic from the cafe to enjoy in the grounds.

Classically trained Duncan Mackenzie Watts, the head chef at The Gallery Café, has been working as a chef for more than ten years. His menu for The Gallery Café is honest, simple and healthy food with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients, sourced where possible from the kitchen garden a few yards from the café.

Duncan has worked as a chef in Sydney, Australia, at a Michelin starred fish restaurant in Sweden, the Hive Beach Café near Bridport and more recently spent a week working in the kitchen at Lympstone Manor under Michelin starred chef Michael Caines.

There are two styles of lunch menu – traditional café choices such as sandwiches, toasties and omelettes and bistro style with three or four fresh, contemporary dishes created each day including one vegetarian, one fish and one meat.

Claire Pullinger, who is in charge of the kitchen garden, settled in Dorset after many years working in London, the USA and India, as a professional photographer and photography studio manager. Her interest in food and the ethics involved in its production led her to find out more about how she could grow her own, in a sustainable and ecologically sensitive way.  A course with Somerset-based “no-dig” guru Charles Dowding, and a year volunteering in his market garden, gave her the information and skills necessary to start her own vegetable garden.

She explains the benefits of no-dig gardening system: “The new kitchen garden was created in the autumn of 2017 with the purpose of growing seasonal vegetables, fruit and herbs for The Gallery Cafe. The no dig method not only saves time, as the usual deep cultivation methods are not applied, but also helps support the natural biodiversity of the soil allowing it to be conditioned without disturbing the all-important living organisms. By adding our home-made compost to the top of the beds, worms and other living organisms travel up, find food in the organic layer and take it into the soil, both adding nutrients and creating airways which are vital for plant growth.”

There is a chance to sample the delights of the cafe at the Dining at the Lakes supper club, on Saturday 13th October. Guests arrive at 6.30pm for a complimentary glass of Prosecco and canapés, and have time to wander around the lakes and gardens before sitting down to dinner at 7.15pm for a five course tasting menu.

Each month there is a different theme for the supper club – the October evening will celebrate the wonderful selection of autumnal produce that is available locally, along with fruit and vegetables from our own kitchen garden. The November supper club, on 3rd November, will have a vegan theme.

The Gallery Cafe is open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am – 5pm. For those visiting the cafe there is no entry fee and no need to visit the sculpture park. For more information visit www.sculpturebythelakes.co.uk/food

Pictured: Head chef Duncan Mackenzie Watts in the kitchen garden with gardener Claire Pullinger; Duncan in the cafe; and a wheelbarrow full of fresh produce from the kitchen garden.