The anxious wait for Fay Maschler’s review in the Evening Standard is over. We think she sort of liked it and we’re happy with three stars – can’t remember anywhere getting five and even four is pretty rare! You can read her verdict here: let us know if you think it’s fair.
ViewLondon very positive:
I’m at the café as much as I can, although now we’re starting to film the Masterchef semi-finals. Still I’m down about three or four days a week.
My favourite dishes are the iman biyaldi, the quiches, pies and the puddings. Sadly none of my partners seem to like my saffron cauliflower, I will get my revenge. Poor Tim, the chef, is almost on his knees and said he’s never made so many pies in his life.
We are busier than we planned to be, so we’ve drafted in some talent, especially at the front. I’ve now been told off a couple of times by the assistant manager for getting in the way and messing the systems up. I can’t help it, I like joining in. He suggested I just chat to people instead and don’t do anything complex or professional looking.
I am looking forward to changing the look slightly at the front, we want to introduce more veg for sale and I think a few jars of tasty goodies would go down well. Spring is just around the corner, loads of great veg, hurry up Mr blue sky.
Lo and behold, as if the great Norse God’s lesser known counterpart has waved his fire-warmed marshmallow-toasting fork over the country, we start to remember what life was like before the Big Freeze.
As fun as it may have been while the sugar-coated landscapes lasted, it is a relief to get back to some perceived form of normality. Such temporal inconsistencies are something that we, at the farm, have to be able to adapt to and the last couple of weeks have been no exception. When Mother Nature has an off-day, or ten, the normal comfort foods and face-masks just won’t cut the mustard (seed). Respect, due diligence, and determination (plus a few shovels) saw us through and I am happy to report we are thankfully, waving (albeit still with mittens on) from the other side.
The plants that usually grow tall and strong above the ground (delicate purple sprouting broccoli, deep, flavoursome cavalo nero and kale) were the major casualties. However, all have now pulled their socks up and are no longer M.I.A. Those that are cosily tucked in beneath the soil were nigh-on impossible to be stirred from their slumber. However, with the warming air and healing rain, we are well on the way to another year of fabulous produce creating delicious menus. A silver lining for our well-faring parsnips is that their sweetness has doubled (approximately, maybe tripled…) and our leeks are standing strong emitting their strong allium-essence. Almost being put to the test for which they were meant, our roots (turnips, Swedes and celeriac) score full marks, 10/10 AND a gold star!! As do our beetroots and carrots which are now being harvested without their greenery, which couldn’t stand the debilitating frost. Our vibrant and nectorous Crown Prince squash still retain their ever-growing popularity. Harvested in November, burrowing like (scarily large) squirrels, we allow the moisture-rich skin to dry out in air-tight storage, making them available for the following months. From a cabbage perspective, and we all need to take this once in a while, our January Kings reign from on high, while our Savoys shed their frost-bitten, lack-lustre outer leaves to reveal an enduring orb of fine fettle.
Erring on the side of vehemently over-excited, we have our blushing rhubarb and versatile spring greens as the next stars in the spotlight!!
What a buzz, lots of people are coming in, drinking the wine and eating the food. I know that’s what they were supposed to do, but you never really know if anyone is going to do it. As the café dream becomes reality, you wonder if you’ve got it right. I shouldn’t have worried, it’s working fine. We’re a big happy team, we just don’t seem to have enough time now to sit down and celebrate.
I had a go at being a waiter on Friday, I’m not very skilful, but I think I made up for it with enthusiasm. I was so happy by the end of the night that I started giving away rhubarb panacottas.
Would you believe at about 8.30pm, when we were absolutely heaving and barely keeping control, Fay Maschler walked in. OMG that was the last thing I needed, still she got a table and she got some nice food, fingers crossed she liked it.
We still need to do a little bit of work, I think we can build a bigger display of veg. Terrible I know, but I can’t wait for spring to start, wait till you see our produce then.
Till then, I will be in for lunch or dinner throughout the week, if you fancy a chat, come and say hello. If you fancy a long chat, say hello holding a bottle.
Very exciting to be able to serve up our food to people at last. OK, so they were friends and they didn’t have to pay, but still, I think we did a very good job. I was completely hyper two hours before the guests arrived, like a small child at Christmas. I just bounced around in circles.
After the excitement, I got really nervous, I’d invited so many people, I couldn’t possibly be a decent host to all of them. Then I kept wondering whether the service was sharp enough, then I got anxious that they wouldn’t like the food. I shouldn’t have worried, everybody thought the place was wonderful.
We’ve got friends coming all weekend and where am I? Buried underneath an arctic snowdrift on the Kent coast. We officially open on Tuesday, I can’t wait to get back down there and play. I love having a place I can call mine, or at least ours.
Very much look forward to meeting all our new customers, my advice if you’re planning a visit, sample the treacle tart!
I quite like a bit of snow. But not today, please not today! We’re due to open next Tuesday (12th) after a bit of practice on our friends over the weekend. So it’s not great that we can’t even put our name up above the door because it’s too cold for the vinyl to stick. Our till system is stuck on a van in Crawley and won’t make it today. Tomorrow maybe, but the forecast isn’t promising. Meanwhile our credit card terminals, which were due on Thursday, are stuck up in Glasgow and they don’t envisage sending anything out till Monday. It looks like we’ll have to go old school – triplicate order books, manual swipes for credit cards. Not ideal but it could be worse, and we did want a hint of nostalgia about the place. On the plus front the interior is looking great and we’ve even got lights now. It’s beginning to look like a restaurant-to-be rather than a building site. The kitchen is up and running and producing delicious food which went down well with the team yesterday. And we’re very happy with the wine list which is all sourced through Swig, who came in last night to host a tasting. We’ll be doing a dozen whites and fourteen reds, all by bottle or glass (125 or 175 ml), with a maximum mark-up of £10 on top of their retail prices, so the mid to top end stuff will be fantastic value. More on that later…
If only we had a couple of beavers, a Snow Queen, a wardrobe and some Turkish delight. We could easily be in Narnia. However, in the luscious romance of such snow-covered land, there never seemed to be any problems of transport. And if there were such issues, flying unicorns or scarily large birds would step (swoop) in to sort it out. Sadly, on the other side of the wooden doors, such entities, at least to my knowledge, are not available as yet. Thus, we must (snow) plough on to make best the situation with which we are faced….
At Secretts farm in Milford, the snow has hit hard. Think a very vexed Ricky Hatton in the biggest fight of his life. Yes, that hard. Subsequent problems have resulted and it has been difficult, to say the least, to keep the well-oiled mechanisms a-turning. With produce frozen in the ground, vans unable to leave the farm and people not able to get to work, the situation was dire. However, with shovels in hand, wellies on tootsies, thermals all over, it was down to sheer determination to form an affective Plan of Action.
There is nothing like the sobering effects of snow-related problems to quiet the childlike excitement that it usually ignites. However, with persistent smiles and a thirst for action, teamed with the prime importance of our customer’s needs, we have soldiered on to try and cope in the best way possible. Bar taking a hairdryer to the broccoli (not such a stupid suggestion I thought….), utmost efforts of a sizeable scale are being made to combat the icing sugar covered landscape.