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Riverford Field Kitchen

What could be nicer than lunch out on a sunny summer’s day, but this time, a lunch with a difference.

I emailed my cousin and said something like, “We’re booked to have lunch at the Riverford Field Kitchen.  You sit at plain wooden tables usually for 6 or 8 people, whoever is there on the day, and you are served the meal that has been prepared for that day from the produce that is currently available.  There is no choice, although they will cater for allergies. It’s mainly vegetarian but there is also a meat dish served.  You all arrive for lunch at one o’clock, you should aim to be on time, and you are all served together.  Once you’ve had your starter and your main, you are invited up to the kitchen to choose a pudding, two small portions of different puddings, or one large one …”

My cousin sent me a cheeky reply:  “It sounds a bit like school dinner to me!”

 

Riverford Field Kitchen is the latest development at Riverford Organics, formerly known as Riverford Farm.  The enterprise was started by Guy Watson over 30 years ago, when Guy started delivering vegetables locally to 30 friends in Devon. They now deliver around 47,000 boxes a week to homes around the UK from their regional farms.

 

Riverford Field Kitchen

I will quote from their website, as I can’t improve on what they say:  “Eating in The Riverford Field Kitchen is something to remember. We think great food tastes even better when you enjoy it with other people, so most of our guests will share tables with fellow diners for a feast of the freshest seasonal produce from our fields.
Uniquely, there is just one sitting and the whole restaurant is served together at the same time.
For lunch we start things off with seasonal salads & vegetable dishes followed by creative vegetable side dishes and one meat dish served to the table for you to pass around and share. Portions are generous and there’ll be plenty to go round. When it comes to pudding, we’ll invite you up to the kitchen to choose from a wickedly tempting selection.”

We left home with 3/4 hour to get there.  And thank goodness we did leave a bit of wriggle room because we couldn’t find the place!  We are local people and although we don’t have SatNav, we were pretty sure we knew the way!   But we took a wrong turning and went miles out of our way.  Eventually we returned to the Riverford Farm Shop (now called Ben’s Farm Shop for some reason I’ve yet to discover) and we asked where the Field Kitchen was?

“Oh, lots of people go wrong!” was the reply by a very nice young woman.  So if that’s the case, perhaps they should have better signage and clearer instructions, as we’re not that dim, surely?

Never mind, we found it but not before another little hiccup.  Husband got locked in the lavatory at the farm shop!  The lock was iffy and he couldn’t undo it.  So I went to fetch someone with a screwdriver so she could remove the lock, but even that didn’t open the door because the bolt was stuck, so my husband had to shoulder the door to open it – thank goodness, even at his age, he managed it otherwise he’d be in there now.

“I’m so sorry,” said the young woman, “We only had that new lock fitted yesterday!”

Oh dear, perhaps they might do well to get a different locksmith!

Right. Where were we?  On the road, now the right road, to the Field Kitchen, which we found a few minutes later.  Simple, when you have the right directions and don’t turn off at the turning before the one you require!

I think the sunny weather enhanced the experience, the field kitchen is in the depths of the Devon countryside, it’s quite beautiful, fields all around with wild flowers in the hedges.

We were shown to our table, and met the two other couples we’d be sharing with, and we all introduced ourselves, one couple (a brother and sister) were local, like ourselves, and the others were a married couple on holiday from Hampshire.  We had a lovely time chatting to them all, and then our lunch was brought to the table ..

These were the first course items which we enjoyed with sourdough bread.  I was enjoying myself so much that I forgot to photograph the main course items, but here is my plate, once I’d helped myself to all that was on offer (I should say the photos above where the plates to serve the table, not my personal portions!)

The main course

The slow roast pork was delicious as was the tart, indeed, it was all very tasty.

Once we had all finished the first two courses we were invited to go up to the kitchen to choose our pudding (or puddings.)  What a selection, I think there were nine or ten options, from sticky toffee pudding to pavlova by way of clafoutis and lemon tart, even rice pudding and a delicious-looking chocolate mousse.  There was lovely pouring cream and also custard, so I chose a portion of sticky toffee pudding with custard and a small slice of lemon tart.

After our pudding we had coffee, and then it was time to leave.

There is nothing fancy about the place.  The tables are simply scrubbed wooden tables and the chairs look like ex-school-classroom chairs, but that all added to the charm, the only decoration being the bunches of dried flowers hanging on the walls.

After saying goodbye to our fellow diners (or should that be “lunchers”) we made our way to Ben’s Farm Shop, formerly the Riverford farm shop, so that I could buy some new season Discovery apples.  We found plenty of choice of apples here, including a very old variety called Devonshire Quarrendon, first recorded in Devon in 1678 (they are not shown on the photo below, they are quite small, red apples.)

Apples and pears at Ben’s Farm Shop

Inside Ben’s Farm Shop

And then we made our way back to the main road, through a narrow country lane. For those not familiar with Devon, this is what most country roads look like, or green tunnels as they are sometimes called.

This is the view as we left Totnes, heading towards home.  I love the patchwork of fields for which Devon is famous.  We’re now into high summer and most of the crops are either ready for harvesting or have been harvested.  I think we’d also had the best of the day, by the look of the clouds.

The clouds began to lift and the sun shone once more as we approached home

We didn’t need much supper this evening – just a tomato sandwich and then a lovely new season Discovery apple.

Until next time.

 

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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10 comments

  1. How wonderful. I have often thought about stopping there en route for Cornwall. Years and years ago, before I had my allotment and I’ve had that for 17 years (where dies the time go!) I used to get a weekly veg box from Riverford. In those days organic fruit and vegetables were not widely available and the Riverford box scheme was the only one of its kind. In the 1990s there was no choice, apart from small, medium or large boxes and no recipe sheets telling you what to do with your celeriac or delicious extras such as cheese, cream and chocolates. I bought half a dozen Discovery apples from my local farm shop on Saturday. That first crunch never fails to transport me to my childhood and eating Discovery apples straight from the tree in our garden. Thanks for the memory Margaret.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Sarah. The only thing I would say, and I don’t think I mentioned this, is that it is essential to book at meal at Riverford Field Kitchen. They don’t take customers who just roll up and want a meal. By having a bookings-only system, they know exactly how many to cater for.
      Oh, how lovely to have had a Discovery apple tree in your garden. I’ve been learning all about apples recently as I will soon be writing an article about them. I didn’t know that if you planted a pip from an apple, you wouldn’t get a tree that resulted in the same apple! No, you only get the same apple from a graft from the tree from which the apple came. I’ve been learning so much, it’s been fascinating. I now have to work out which bits of information to use in my 800 word article. I’m glad you have been transported back, momentarily, to your childhood and the joys of eating Discovery apples straight from the tree.

  2. The venue looks lovely. The menu is intriguing – what is ‘pointed cabbage’ ?
    I would have struggled to choose only one of those desserts and would have abandoned my ‘gluten-free’ status purely for reasons of gluttony !
    I like the notion of sharing tables with others. Such a great way to shake things up – you never know who you will meet !
    As always, your photos are stunning. It’s now 7:44am and I need my breakfast after reading your posts about food. My cup of tea (in my favourite China cup) is long gone. In fact, I was so engrossed in reading your posts I can’t remember drinking it 🙂

    • Margaret Powling

      Pointed cabbage is just that, instead of being round, it’s more like a cone with a pointy end. I wish I had one in the fridge to photograph for you, but we’ve a round Savoy cabbage in there right now. There were far more desserts than I photographed, the sticky toffee pudding was under foil, to keep it lovely and hot. It was light as a feather and really gorgeous. I am writing this at 23.10pm. I’ve been in bed since 10.00 pm but I wasn’t able to sleep, so I’ve got up and made some Ovaltine which I will now drink and return to bed. Husband is fast asleep, of course!
      I’m so glad you have enjoyed my posts. The 1st anniversary blog post will be coming up soon! I hope it’s a nice day with you, we’ve had a lovely sunny day here, ideal for a visit to such a lovely restaurant. Glad you liked my photos. Taking pix as husband drives doesn’t always give me the results I want, I have to take loads to get a few half-decent ones! Now, I must drink my Ovaltine and return to bed!

  3. Oh Margaret, I am doing one of my bi-weekly 16 hour fasts today, your photos and descriptions of such delicious food are certainly not helping the cause ☺️!
    What a smashing place for a meal, I especially like the idea of the long scrubbed tables and eating with different people, how sociable and so much better than a room of tables for two.
    Summer certainly seems to have returned to East Anglia, the last few days have been sunny and warm with very little rain, I am really hoping that my outdoor grown tomatoes will start to redden up soon, there is only so much green tomato chutney we can eat!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Oh, I do envy you living in East Anglia, Elaine! I love Suffolk especially, but it’s quite a trek (well, in UK terms, not in American or Australian terms!) to the Suffolk coast. I just love the fields that you can see as they are not obscured by Devon’s high hedges! And the windmills sitting proud on the horizon, the big sky, and the all those lovely golden crops, fields often edges with poppies. I love Devon, but I’ve always said the hills obscure the view (others think the hills are the view, ha ha!)
      Sorry my food pix have made your 16 hour fast more difficult! Yes, the Field Kitchen is lovely. I’d certainly go there again.

      • It’s certainly not somewhere you could live if you suffer from Agoraphobia! Personally I love my land of big, open skies, guess I am a real Iceni woman.

        • Margaret Powling

          I just love those big, open skies. When we went to Suffolk for the first time in 1984 I just fell in love with the country. Empty of the traffic from which we suffer, no motorways, big skies, roads from where you could see across the country for miles, small pretty villages such as Clare and Lavenham. OK, they get tourists but not (I don’t think) like we get here in Torbay! One of my favourite walks was from Snape Maltings to the church at Iken, along the boardwalk. We will get back there, one day …

  4. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    From 30 boxes to 47,000 a week – that’s some success story!
    I do love ‘different’ eating experiences; they make for nice memories. We often reminisce about such times.
    The puddings sound fabulous; I am a pudding kind of girl. Haha

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I am sure you would’ve enjoyed the Riverford Field Kitchen. They do a two-sitting Sunday lunch, too. 12 noon and 3.30pm and of course, they do dinner, too, that’s a little more expensive. The puddings all looked delicious, we were really spoilt for choice. But you can onlye eat there if you book; they know exactly how many to cater for, and it’s all served at the same time.

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