SUMMER SUPPER CLUB
C Food, Camberwell, London
If your Sunday evenings tend to involve the sofa and a takeaway, ramp them up this summer with a trip to C Food. At this seasonal supperclub in South London, which runs every Sunday from the end of May to the end of August, diners share brightly coloured feasting tables beneath twinkling fairy lights in a secluded courtyard.
A souped-up version of creator Millie Cowie’s ultimate last supper, each event begins with live jazz from local musicians – and glasses of chilled Picpoul, pale Provencal rose or elderflower and basil G&Ts (or all three!) from a makeshift bar.
As the name suggests the culinary focus is on seafood. Slurp oysters, tackle heaps of fresh seafood brought to each table and mop up the likes of dressed Cromer crab, smoked mackerel pate and fresh mussels with heaps of crusty bread. In a nod to British summer traditions, each meal ends with an enormous bowl of strawberries and cream.
Until 11 September cfoodlondon.com
ULTIMATE GARDEN-CENTRE CAFÉ
Petersham Nurseries Café, Richmond, Surrey
Skye Gyngell first put this gorgeous greenhouse lunch spot on the map (it’s in an upmarket plant nursery and homewares store), and under chef Damian Clisby it’s a destination once again. His brightly seasonal, Italian-inspired dishes, such as nettle and ricotta ravioli with sweet marjoram, or wood-roasted monkfish with morels, Evesham asparagus, sea aster and wild garlic are spring on a plate.
Many ingredients come from Petersham itself, and, among others, you’ll find herbs, cherries and salsify growing along its walls. Supplementary produce comes from a tight-knit network of small producers such as Haye Farm, run by Harry Boglione, a son of Petersham’s founders. In summer, you can dine outside under a canopy of wisteria surrounded by roses. Starters from £6, mains £17; petershamnurseries.com
GORGEOUS PUB GARDEN
The Griffin Inn, Fletching, East Sussex
As Britain begins to warm-up, the two-acre garden at this rural dining-pub shines. Nicknamed ‘the Serengeti’, it enjoys sweeping views of the South Downs and, on summer weekends, includes its own BBQ kitchen (think whole Rye Bay sea bass or sticky, spicy pork ribs with various jazzy salads; from £11), and an outdoor bar where, as the sun sets, you can sip at a ‘Sussex Serengeti’ cocktail of homemade elderflower cordial, prosecco, mint and raspberries.
You can also eat from chef Matthew Starkey’s restaurant menu on the neat outdoor terrace. Expect dishes such as chilli- and fennel-rubbed duck breast, parmentier potatoes, chorizo, green beans and tomato jus. Restaurant starters from £6.50, mains from £13; thegriffininn.co.uk
Nancarrow Farm, nr. Truro, Cornwall
Each month this organic farm throws open its swanky barn for feast nights, when chef Ben Quinn (ex-Fifteen, Cornwall) gets busy in his outdoor kitchen. Ben loves open fires and elemental hardwood cooking, and his super-seasonal dishes – all served communally – might include oak-grilled lamb with wild garlic pesto, braised lentils, sweetheart cabbage and asparagus or a novel beef carpaccio (‘cooked dirty, on the embers’) with rosemary salt, horseradish and radishes.
All the meats are reared at Nancarrow, which also has a fecund kitchen garden. In April, guests will be able to tour the farm and possibly feed any new, orphaned spring lambs. Otherwise, expect live folk music and plenty of Nancarrow’s Barn Ale, brewed by the excellent Black Flag brewery. Next date 14 April, £35-a-head; nancarrowfarm.co.uk
CLASSIC COUNTRY HOUSE
Llansantffraed Court, nr. Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Surrounded by 20 acres of lawns and meadows carpeted in snowdrops each spring, this Grade-II mansion house (part of an ancient country seat, rebuilt in 1912), is a picture-postcard scene. Food nuts will be fascinated by the gorgeous, walled kitchen garden and glasshouse which is used mainly to grow neglected varieties of fruit and veg.
Guests can inspect, sniff and taste these ingredients before sitting down in the elegant Court restaurant (the two-course £15 lunch menu is a steal), where chef Mike Hendry pairs those freshly-harvested veggies with superb regional rare-breed meats. The big dishes here include a trio of venison with heritage carrots, candied beetroot and chocolate, and tenderloin and belly of pork with braised celery, apple and garden chard. To top this experience off, Llansantffraed serves a remarkable 200 wines by-the-glass. Starters from £7; mains from £20; llch.co.uk
URBAN ESCAPE PLAN
The Culpeper, London
There are scant opportunities to escape the concrete and grime in London, which makes the rooftop garden at this handsome Spitalfields boozer all the more precious. Its raised beds and greenhouse (which doubles as a private dining room), provide herbs, salad leaves, tomatoes and aubergines for chef Sandy Jarvis’s dishes, such as crispy lamb’s breast with green beans, salsa verde and new potatoes, or his home-grown salads with edible flowers.
In good weather you can eat on the roof, where, in summer, a wood-fired grill knocks out great plates of, say, garlicky Landaise chicken or sardines with grilled lettuce. Don’t miss the Culpeper’s herbal, seasonal cocktails or its classic rosemary Sazerac. Starters from £7, mains from £12; theculpeper.com
WORLD OF WINE & ROSES
The Leaping Hare, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
As well as its 12,000 vines, the Wyken Vineyard estate is home to wild flower meadows and a beautiful formal garden, which includes a dedicated rose garden patrolled by strutting peacocks (entrance £4). Guests can explore all of this before dinner in the Leaping Hare, a converted 14th-century barn where chef Simon Woodrow makes exemplary use of local ingredients, a significant number of which are grown or foraged on-site.
As well as producing wines such as dry, white bacchus (all available by-the-glass), Wyken is growing its own asparagus this year. It will be tossed in garlic butter and served classically, with a poached egg and hollandaise. Follow that with roast lamb, anna potatoes, seasonal vegetables and a wild garlic soubise. Starters from £6.65, mains from £13.95; wykenvineyards.co.uk
IDYLLIC RURAL HIDEAWAY
Old Downton Lodge, nr. Ludlow, Herefordshire
Not only are they found down narrow lanes deep in jaw-dropping countryside, but the buildings of Old Downton sit around a courtyard garden of herbs, tulips and daffodils – in riot in spring. These farm buildings may be steeped in history – for instance, the dining room’s peculiar triangular windows were air vents in what was a Norman grain store – but chef Karl Martin uses the natural bounty on his doorstep (meats from DW Wall in Ludlow; game from the Downton estate; endless foraged and kitchen garden ingredients), in a coolly contemporary way. olddowntonlodge.com
BLOSSOMING IN THE CITY
The Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh
Few take the local, seasonal ethos as seriously as Gardener’s Cottage chef-owners Dale Mailley and Edward Murray. They both make full use of the Scottish larder (particularly, in April, roe deer and wild sea trout) and have turned their corner of the Royal Terrace Gardens park into an inspirational gastro-allotment. They grow a hundred varieties of herbs, fruits and vegetables here, including such rarities as hyssop and the Peruvian tuber, yacon.
These ingredients are used in cordials, cocktails, the Cottage’s café-style lunches (dishes around £8) and in its no-choice evening menu, which is served at communal tables. April’s dishes may include wild garlic soup, poached egg and St George’s mushroom or heather-smoked trout with new potatoes and fermented turnip. Seven course dinner, £40; thegardenerscottage.co
SLICE OF THE GOOD LIFE
The Wellington Arms, Baughurst, Hampshire
If you have ever dreamed of moving to the country, raising chickens and living a life of bucolic simplicity, the Wellington Arms will leave you green-fingered with envy. This smart pub’s pretty gardens are a model of self-sufficiency. Its polytunnel, raised beds and rhubarb patch yield numerous ingredients from jerusalem artichokes to plums, and, naturally, the Welly keeps its own chickens and lambs.
Chef Jason King makes sharp, modish use of this produce. Any minute now, you’ll be able to tuck into purple sprouting broccoli with Dorset crab and a chilli, ginger and lemon dressing or an entirely home-grown dish of asparagus, poached egg, wild garlic pesto and sourdough crumbs. Weather permitting, eat outside on the top lawn. Starters from £6.50, mains from £14; thewellingtonarms.com
BACK TO NATURE
Gilpin Hotel, Windermere
This luxurious, family-owned Lake District hotel offers the best of everything: stunning views of the surrounding fells, 14 acres of wild flowering woodland, and exquisitely landscaped gardens. The Gilpin’s iconic, 100-year-old magnolia should be in full, glorious blossom as you arrive, and, as soon as the sun appears, guests will be able to take afternoon tea on the south-facing terrace (from £10.50). Fittingly, chef Hrishikesh Desai’s ambitious food is seriously seasonal.
Look out for his newest spring creation, a dish of braised lamb neck fillet and loin with textures of English asparagus, morels and a cumin-spiked sauce of the roasting juices. Alternatively, opt for a Gilpin favourite, chilli-glazed lobster with avocado mousse, mango chutney and caviar. Dinner, three courses, £58; thegilpin.co.uk
Three more outdoor spaces perfect for enjoying the fruits of spring
The Ethicurean, Somerset
Cocktail and food menus intrinsically connected to its land, and beautiful views over the famed Victorian kitchen garden.
The team even make their own vermouth from 20 botanicals grown here. theethicurean.com
The Deer Park Country House Hotel, Devon
For the first time in years, the walled kitchen garden at this boutique hotel is in full bloom, and its Georgian orangery has just opened in time for spring. Stay in the luxury tree house and look out for events featuring the front lawn’s clay pizza oven. deerparkcountryhotel.co.uk
Set within the grounds of a working farm, this award-winning and painfully stylish farm shop, café and cookery school has a market garden with vegetable beds, fruit orchards and more that you can explore. daylesford.com
By Tony Naylor
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