I’ve wanted to eat a proper meal at Farmer, Butcher, Chef since I wrote a piece about it for my day job (which is here by the way). That was just over a year ago – pretty much the average amount of time it takes for me to finally get to places, mainly because my list is longer than the list of people Donald Trump has managed to annoy in his lifetime.
The idea is great. Based on the Goodwood Estate (that of the famous Festival of Speed, Goodwood Revival and Glorious Goodwood the horse-racing meet), it uses produce from Goodwood’s own Home Farm, itself an advocate for organic farming. But it’s more in-depth than that and the clue is in the name.
The idea is that the farmer, the butcher and the chef behind the food at the restaurant are a pretty close bunch. Rather than vague business contacts, these guys are all from Goodwood. They know each other, they sit down together, and they talk about what animals are about to be slaughtered, how they’ll be butchered, what produce is ready, and how it can fit on a menu.
In the blurb they say: “Our customers will travel father than their food” and having seen exactly how close Farmer, Butcher, Chef is to Home Farm and the butchery, I know they’re right. And what better than going back to the way things were done before places started shipping meat from across the world to provide people with the same menu month in, month out, with no regard to provenance, sustainability and the way it was reared and butchered.
The restaurant’s adjoined to the Goodwood Hotel where we were staying for the night (more on that later) but has its own separate entrance if you’re not staying. It’s a mix of quirky and classic, rustic and industrial, with exposed beams, soft lighting but modern touches – not to mention the huge white cow as you enter.
It’s one of those menus (for me anyway) where you want to order at least three different dishes from each course. Luckily we were joined by a pal we spotted across the room which allowed us to try an extra dish. We began with starters of Red Sussex beef tartare served with dripping toast and smoked egg yolk and crispy oysters with beetroot, tarragon and fennel salami.
The tartare was the perfect way to show off Home Farm’s own beef, allowing it to sing in its own simplicity, and I’m afraid my palate wasn’t sensitive or attuned enough to particularly notice the smokiness of the egg yolk, though its creaminess was just right with the tanginess of the capers in the tartare, all contrasted with the crunch of the slightly retro melba toast-style dripping toast.
Crispy oysters with beetroot, tarragon and fennel salami were impressive on the plate, the breadcrumbed jewels arranged back in their shells, snuggled on top of a mayonnaise with a hint of warmth to it, with a slice of salami perched on top. Tasty, though I wonder if this is a bit of a waste of oysters as I quite enjoy them ‘au naturel’.
My friend’s baked scallop with broad beans, seaweed and brown shrimp butter was the winner. As impressive aesthetically as the oysters, yet the makeup of the dish allowed the scallops to shine more than the oysters had. The saltiness of the samphire complemented the seafood while broad beans brought colour and an added dimension of texture.
For main course Mr M and I simply couldn’t resist the prospect of a butcher’s board – the perfect way to try several different tastes and see how Farmer, Butcher, Chef makes use of as many different parts of the animal as possible, including cuts you might think you don’t like but you really should try.
You can choose between lamb, pork and beef and if you know anything about me and Mr M you’ve already guessed which one we chose. The beef butcher’s board is an impressive array of cuts with a treacle-cured beef fillet wellington as the centrepiece. Tender beef encased in a layer of mushroom then cabbage to seal the moisture in. The result is a gorgeously light, crispy pastry case without a hint of a soggy bottom.
That would have been enjoyable enough, but we were also treated to some crispy shin and glazed peppered brisket, though the winner for me was the pickled ox tongue and little gem salad. And before you freak out at tongue, done right it can be great, so please give it a chance.
Beef dripping potato was rich, silky and really quite sexy, while the extra beef dripping chips with garlic salt also went down a treat.
With a main course like that, we weren’t entirely confident a dessert could quite like up to it so opted to share the pear, chocolate and pistachio tart between three. If ever a title hid a dish’s light under a bushel, this is it. No simple pastry case and filling here. Instead, an ornamental chocolate-covered pear on a plinth of pistachio crumb.
Except it wasn’t a simple chocolate-coated pear. Instead, light, airy pear mousse fashioned into the shape of the fruit itself then coated in the tempered chocolate. Clever and imaginative yet tasty too. Bravo to whoever was behind it.
We washed it all down with copious amounts of wine – which came on top of a full day of drinking at Goodwood’s Festival of Food and Racing. The good thing about this place is you can easily tie in a trip with some kind of activity elsewhere on the estate, even if it’s not one of the big set-piece weekends of the Festival of Speed or Glorious Goodwood. It’s home to one of the prettiest race courses in the country, as well as a motor circuit and aerodrome, not to mention acres of beautiful countryside, so you certainly won’t get bored.
The Festival of Food and Racing was a combination of both, with the chance to bet on the horses whilst mooching round watching demonstrations from some of Goodwood’s own chefs as well as other big names and checking out a farmers’ market packed with local produce. A grand day out.
We were staying in the Goodwood Hotel, a great base if you’re visiting anywhere on the estate (helped by the fact they lay on a free shuttle bus up to the race course on race days). It started life as an 18th Century coaching inn but has since been added to and now is a sprawling building
Our home for the night is the Goodwood Hotel, a four-star hotel tucked in the heart of the 12,000-acre estate. Once a former 18th Century coaching inn, it has been added to, forming a sprawling building that as well as hotel rooms holds Farmer, Butcher, Chef, another restaurant, the Goodwood Bar & Grill, and some rather nice spa facilities.
Our home for the night was a signature room in the newer part of the building which is modern yet still has a homely feel. It’s all about reminding you where you are – with a comfy throw on the bed, books on the windowsill to leaf through, and art and ornaments to remind you of Goodwood’s heritage. That doesn’t mean you don’t get all the facilities you’d expect from a four star hotel – a huge bed, soft robes, swanky toiletries, plus a handwritten note and some Montezuma chocolates.
A wander round the hotel revealed the rather tempting spa complete with sauna, steam room, pool and jacuzzi – so tempting that we found ourselves buying swimming costumes from the shop so we could enjoy the facilities that we’d come woefully unprepared for.
As a special little treat, we ordered our breakfast to be delivered to the room in the morning so after a blissful night’s sleep and a morning swim and jacuzzi (oh, if life was always like that) we feasted on fresh fruit, pastries, toast, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for me and a full English for Mr M.
Before we knew it, we were heading home, feeling like there was far, far more to Goodwood than we’d managed to enjoy. It really is a place with something for everyone, and I’ve noticed you can often find deals to tie in a hotel stay with a meal and one of the big events. It pretty much seems to have something for everyone, whether you want to relax and get away from it all, watch the horses for a day, or do something a bit more exhilarating like race a car or fly a plane.
I’d happily do any of these and am already planning our return but for a far simpler reason. The other two butcher’s boards….!
Our stay at the Goodwood Hotel was complimentary, as was our access to the Festival of Food & Racing and our meal at Farmer, Butcher, Chef. We paid in full for all our drinks.