The Tickled Pig, Wimborne

DSC_1498THE building that houses The Ticked Pig in Wimborne has been serving food for 65 years, and before that it was a shoemakers.

When Niki Barfoot was a child she used to go there with her grandmother and eat cream teas and Black Forest Gateau

Now she and husband Jez run their Cafe Deli Kitchen specialising in locally sourced – and much of it home grown – produce from the premises opposite the Tivoli, serving breakfast, coffee, lunch, tea and supper, seven days a week.

Until quite recently they concentrated on fine dining, but it wasn’t quite their thing.

SBjezandniki2 copyJez and Niki (pictured at the opening night of Screen Bites 2015) met in Wimborne, married and headed off to live in an Airstream caravan in South West France. It was there their first child was born, and there they discovered the joy of eating out, together, as a family. So it was a natural progression to shift the emphasis at The Tickled Pig to make it somewhere to pop in at any time of day, with or without the children.

The relaxed atmosphere in the restaurant doesn’t mean any relaxation in the standard of the food, which is prepared with flair and care using predominantly local ingredients. The Barfoots grow their own vegetables, are in partnership with Hydrophoria to grow micro herbs, and Jez is a keen home smoker, and he built his own smoker for the meats, fish and cheeses that are served in the deli and the restaurant.

They raise their Oxford Sandy and Black pigs at High Mead Farm, a therapeutic farm for those with learning and physical disabilities and mental health issues and a volunteering centre for all generations.

DSC_1480“Food is such a social thing,” says Niki, “and it is fun to see people coming in at all times of the day, meeting friends and enjoying food here, just like they do in France.”

If you like the wine or the food on the menu, it may be available in the well-stocked and colorful deli downstairs.

The restaurant, upstairs – and in the patio garden when the weather is kind – serves a wide variety of food both for lunch and dinner.

Starters include home-made bread and TOP Olives, mussels, and the succulent pigeon breast with a port reduction and the interesting addition of candied walnuts which I enjoyed.

DSC_1485My luncheon companion had soup of the day, Celeriac and Apple, and pronounced it smooth, fresh and perfectly balanced.

I thought a Tickled Pig Classic was a must for the main course and what a good choice I made. The Red Devon burger with home cured pancetta and smoked Red Cheddar (thanks Jez!), was accompanied by French fries that were the stuff of dreams.

DSC_1490And it didn’t stop there. I am a meringue connoisseur, and the hazelnut and cinnamon meringue, served with Chantilly cream and lightly poached rhubarb, was quite the best I have ever eaten, with substantial taste and chewiness and the vital insubstantiality of the outer layer.

DSC_1487My companion had the special for the main course, an individual venison pie with rosemary mash and greens,  full of rich autumn flavors and packed in a crisp and crumbling pastry case. For dessert she chose again from the specials board, lemon posset with lemon biscotti, a nice blend of old English and classic Italian, zingy and creamy.

Sample menus are posted on the website, along with lots of other interesting information about the philosophy, suppliers and deli stock.

Jez and his band of four chefs always keep an eye on what’s in season, and create menus to reflect the best in local produce. The Tickled Pig slogan is “taking food back to its roots” and that means everything from freshness and seasonality to the joy of eating – with family, friends, or just spoiling yourself in a friendly place.