The eponymous trio

03rd August 2017

Goodwood’s acclaimed new restaurant Farmer, Butcher, Chef offers gate-to-plate eating for discerning carnivores. Hattie Ellis meets the eponymous trio who are making it happen.  

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Meat is unashamedly sexy right now. Glistening slices of rib eye, and shepherd’s pie with lashings of creamy mash are the stars of Instagram and food magazines. Sustainability also gets a big fat foodie tick. Farmer, Butcher, Chef, a new restaurant on the Goodwood Estate, brings these two trends together in a way that represents something of a quiet and delicious revolution.

I’m sitting at the bar with the farmer, the butcher, and the chef. The restaurant is truthfully named after this trio; they make it work. Every Friday, at a minimum, farm general manager Tim Hassell, master butcher John Hearn and executive chef Darron Bunn sit down and talk. All masters of their trades, they have the experience and desire to really join up the food chain and – crucially – the situation of working together on a 12,000-acre estate.

Farmer, Butcher, Chef's lamb chop sharing board

Farmer, Butcher, Chef's lamb chop sharing board

Our bar snacks include juicy smoked pheasant samosas, rarebit made with the estate’s Charlton cheese and the mother of airy pork scratchings, as big as a butcher’s hand and light as a feather. Every piece of meat at Farmer, Butcher, Chef comes from Goodwood’s Home Farm. There’s plenty of talk about local sourcing in the food world, but an entirely joined-up system, from gate to plate with zero waste, is surprisingly hard to achieve. Everyone has their own systems and needs. The farmer must work with nature. The chef has diners demanding prime steak. The butcher stands between them, with a limited supply of meat. The customer is always right.

Darron confronts these contradictions with a chef’s attention to detail, as befits someone whose CV includes six years with Marco Pierre White. Demand must follow supply, reversing the usual trend. “As a chef, you’re conditioned to think you can pick up the phone and get whatever you want,” he says. “A hundred ducks or whatever – they arrive like pairs of shoes. But if John can’t get something, it’s not because he doesn’t want to, it’s because it’s not there. We have to cut our cloth accordingly.”

Necessity is the mother of invention. Nose-to-tail eating is a buzz phrase that brings to mind extremities and internals. But Farmer, Butcher, Chef is just as much about the many forgotten cuts from all over the animal. Chef Darron’s light-bulb moment – when he saw that the idea behind the restaurant could work – came during a discussion about how to make ox cheeks go further. Each animal has just two cheeks and three to four animals are killed each week. John found a particular cut of shin – a V-shaped muscle from the front of the leg – that would offer a comparable texture and taste. Problem solved.

Goodwood’s animals come from within a few miles of your plate. Gloucester Old Spots and Saddlebacks snuffle in the fields, the piglets kept with their mothers instead of being whisked away at a few weeks. Southdown lambs dot the downs. Rusty-red Sussex cattle graze on the herb-rich chalk grassland where they have fattened for centuries. The best traditions of British stockmanship continue here on organic principles; the present Duchess of Richmond was one of the founding members of the Soil Association.

Interior of Farmer, Butcher, Chef

Much of the restaurant's decor is also locally sourced from the estate

Farmer Tim has an unusual farm. Three times a year, the animals have to move off fields that become campsites for as many as 5,000 people for Goodwood’s biggest events. They even used to grow crops in the middle of the motor circuit, until it became too complicated to get the tractors over the tracks. Tim was determined to bring every part of the food chain back into the estate for reasons of economics, control, and pride, an effort that won him the accolade of Farm Manager of the Year from  Farmers Weekly. “I’m not 100 per cent sure what gives the meat its flavour,” he says. “It’s the type of animal, the feed, the time it takes for them to grow... The fat on the beef is unbelievable – like yellow cream. You want it on the outside, but also within the meat as well. To get that, the animals have to be at full maturity when we take them.” 

Back in the restaurant, one of the three Butcher’s Boards made for sharing (£20pp) arrives at the table. These showcase one type of meat. Ours has rosemary-cured lamb belly and braised shoulder hot pot as well as a juicy rack of lamb and devilled liver and heart. On the Saddleback pig board there’s cured jowl and crispy pork collar as well as rack of pork, while the Sussex beef board includes oxtail faggot, ox heart and breaded shin alongside steak, crispy salt beef and dripping potatoes.

Butcher John started out on his path at the age of eight, helping out in a traditionalbutcher’s in south Wales where they made their own cooked products, from brawn to roast meats. At Goodwood, he goes into the kitchen and nods approvingly at the rich, gelatinous knucklebones in thestockpot. In turn, the chefs come into the butchery and talk about specific muscles and how they might work in a dish. They also tour the farm and see the animals they will cook. 

 

I want to see the lamb come through only once it's been out there in the sunshine and had bellyfuls of that first fresh, really good grass

As we finish with a beautiful bread-and-butter pudding and smoked ale ice cream, both made with the estate’s special Shorthorn unhomogenised milk, John talks about seasonality. No forced-through so-called ‘spring’ lamb here, fed on concentrates to get it ready for the Easter table; the new season’s lamb will be ready when it’s ready. “I want to see that lamb come through only once it’s been out there in the sunshine and had bellyfuls of that first fresh, really good grass,” he says.

Then he tells chef Darron how you know when the beef is at its best: when the cowpat stays in your hand rather than slopping through. “I’ll leave that one to you,” says Darron.

Farmer, Butcher, Chef has a relaxed country glamour; its décor is also locally sourced from the estate, be it the vintage fire hose looped along a wall or long pheasant feathers in the table decorations. There’s an avoidance of foodie affectation: no eco-preaching or overt cheffery – just delicious food, from light snacks to the Full Monty.

We finish our coffee. The farmer, the butcher and the chef head off to the fields, the butcher’s block and the kitchen. And me? I’ll be back at this table soon. I notice that the flint-covered 18th-century coaching inn now has a bus stop outside, handy for those coming from Chichester. Look out of the window and you might well see the pigs, the sheep and the cows as you head towards your plate. 

This article is taken from the Goodwood magazine, Summer 2017 issue

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