IT probably isn’t sunny all the time at Wrington – it just seems like that to us. On the two occasions that we have had lunch at The Ethicurean restaurant in the Barley Wood Walled Garden, despite cold and wet weather before and after our visits, the sun has been shining and the peaceful valley near Bristol Airport has looked beautiful.
The first time we went to this award-winning restaurant was a spontaneous decision, en route from Taunton to a play in Bristol. We had read about The Ethicurean, understood its ethos and wanted to try the interesting sounding food. It was Spring, cold and bright. We sat outside at one of the rustic tables, enjoyed extraordinary food, almost all from the garden or surrounding countryside – and my partner even got sun-burned.
That first visit became part of the inspiration for new ventures, helping us to rediscover our joy in meeting new people, finding new artists and food producers and interesting projects and writing about them.
The second visit was planned, a treat to say goodbye and good riddance to a bad old year and to look forward to a better new one.
At our first Ethicurean lunch, the message on the menu was “Eat the seasons” – we had a West Country Cheddar and cider Welsh rabbit with a “gert salad,” Barley Wood nettle soup with Gorwydd Caerphilly and sourdough bread, followed by confit leg of Creedy Carver duck with dressed leaves and plum and chilli jam, and portobello mushroom and pear cider pearl barley with ewe’s cheese, chard and mushroom essence.
The flavour combinations were unusual and delicious and the food was served by friendly and well-informed staff, in a relaxed way that allowed us to enjoy the sunshine, the garden and the beautiful view. It was a welcome respite in a stressful period.
For our New Year visit, the slogan on the festive menu was “A Sense of Place.” It was too cold to eat outside – but several groups of cyclists and walkers had coffee or tea and cake at the outside tables before heading off, refreshed, on wheels or feet.
My partner had goat bacon, with burnt chicory (“surprising and quite delicious”), apple balsamic gel, jerk oil and clove and cinnamon pork crackling salt, followed by rib of aged Gloucester beef, with burnt onion puree, winter slaw and beer pickled mushrooms.
I opted for ham hock broth with poached egg, ruby chard and that uniquely tasty clove and cinnamon pork crackling salt (who knew salt could be so interesting?), followed by 12 hour pork belly (talk about melt-in-the-mouth!), with glazed parsnip, curly kale, pickled apple, mushroom and chipotle crackling salt (seriously, another special salt to savour!)
We didn’t have room for pudding, although sorely tempted by the Ethicurean toffee apple cake with cinnamon cream and toffee apple sauce, Montezuma chocolate and salt caramel brownie with salted chocolate ganache and jostaberry sauce or the platter of three West Country cheeses, crackers and seasonal pickles.
The Ethicurean is run by brothers Ian and Mat Pennington, who are the chefs, and friends Jack Adair Bevan, who shoots game for the restaurant and is the resident mixologist, and Paula Zarate, the business manager.
They say: “We give respect to the local produce … by using flavour combinations that have been partners for centuries. We look for ways to update and innovate historical recipes that highlight the bounteous nature of our land.”
Together – and with the support of gardeners Mark and Linda Cox – the quartet have created something which is truly special. In an era when words like “unique” and “awesome” are over-used to the point of losing their meaning, The Ethicurean is genuinely, deliciously different.
Booking is essential – telephone 01934 863713 or email email@example.com
For opening times, details of events and information about The Ethicurean Cookbook (already reviewed on this website), please visit www.theethicurean.com