3 Favourite Farm-to-Table Restaurants in London

In terms of trends, I think this is one of the best food trends out there- Farm-to-Table.  Originally taking off in California- this concept that has now turned into a movement.  Its basic concept is what it literally means- a farm’s most fresh and seasonal products that is closest to your ‘table’.  One word: LOCAL.

At its essence- it is a picture of community supported farming and also taking the restaurant experience to a new level. It has taken off in England in recent years with new restaurants popping up showcasing our local farmers as well as world-class culinary talents.

Some use the trendy term as a marketing tool while others just simply live it out.  Regardless – its one that we warmly welcome to our foodie city. Here are 3 of my personal favourites.

1- Daylesford Farms

Courtesy Homes and Property

Daylesford Farms in Gloucestershire now has 5 locations in London.  Their concept is a perfect example of what some people call Farm-to-Fork.  All of their food comes from their farm- even their creamery. They boast on being sustainable and an organic farm and have developed into a true success story.  The most recent store in Marylebone just opened!  Check it out or find the one closest to you.  And don’t forget to read our post on cooking up savoury organic Lamb Burgers from their Farm Shop!

2- The Shed

The Shed in Notting Hill Gate is owned and run by two brothers from Nutbourne, West Sussex.  One focuses on the farming side of things while the other runs the restaurant.  Their menu changes daily sourcing their own produce as well as neighbouring suppliers.  They’re menu is wildly diverse and also using creative methods to waste nothing in terms of meat… if you know what I mean!

3- The Grain Store

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I’ve been hearing about The Grain Store in King’s Cross by a foodie friend for months before I finally visited.  The space is buzzing and nearly impossible to get in during brunch on Sundays.  This restaurant is large and therefore sources their menu from local suppliers such as Daily Fish and Lake District Farms among many others.  They also have a few outside suppliers but in general the menu steers to local and fresh.  The cocktails are legendary in themselves.

Chronicles of the Chelsea Flower Show

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Last Saturday, we took a camera, an umbrella and a bit of luck to the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show.  Despite the usual London weather patterns, there was only one real challenge- no ticket and sold out.  Prepared for rejection at the gate, it still seemed a worthy effort to jump on the tube and give it a shot. Sure enough… after a little old fashion networking magic- a ticket was being ripped from the man’s roll of printed entry tokens.  Victory!

As a newcomer to this famous British flower tradition- I was blown away at the level of artistry, creativity, and the amount of flowers is still hard for me grasp.  Small gardens, big gardens, exotic gardens, artisan gardens– it was a feast for the eyes, nose and especially the soul.  There were reports of over 100,000 people expected to visit the show. If you didn’t get to go this year- BBC had beautiful coverage with all 15 episodes still available on BBC iPlayer.

And just In case you missed tracking us live on twitter – here are a few of favourite images I took with my DSLR. You can check out more from our live feed via Twitter – @urbanfarmerLDN.  We do have one tip for next year- take your best totes with you for the mass exodus of flowers on the last day.  The exhibits sell off or even GIVE AWAY FLOWERS.  My arms are still sore from the tube ride home with hands full of very LARGE red tulips.

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Guest Blog from CSA Flower Farmer, Katy Phillips

After our trip down to Columbia Road Flower Market, I asked Katy if she would be interested in writing for Urban Farmer London- of course once settled back in the United States! Her visit to England was full of many trips to flower farms, visiting growers that have inspired her from across the ocean.  Working with local farmers and now having her own flower growing business, she had much to say on the subject we love most here- Farms and City living.  She explains more about this and her CSA membership in her post below as well as her travels here. 

Follow this link to read more about CSA Farmers like Katy here in the UK:  Community Supported Agriculture, UK

Meet Katy Phillips- Flower Farmer, US

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Courtesy Katy Phillips

It is a real pleasure to be a guest blogger on The Urban Farmer London. I recently spent 10 fabulous days getting to know a small piece of England – including the yellow- flowering and rolling countryside, the enchanting coastline and the incredible city of London. It was well worth the effort of leaving my flower farm for these fabulous and rejuvenating days particularly for the chance to see a variety of beautiful gardens, including one of the leaders in the seasonal flower movement in the U.K, Green and Gorgeous.

 I am a novice flower farmer here in North Carolina. I live on some old tobacco land now farmed for pick-your-own strawberries. ¼ of an acre, a small and intimate piece of land behind my house has now become the fertile grounds through which I grow a variety of cut flowers for the farm stand and a 25 member CSA, which I have named Poesy. The farm is conveniently situated between 2 affluent university towns where there is an urban center, ideal for a flower pick up location and the occasional passerby looking for a beautiful, or sentimental gift! With one successful year under my wings, I am really looking forward to developing my existing relationships and learning as much as I can from other passionate flower growers.

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Courtesy Katy Phillips

This is why my spirit leaped at the chance to visit a flower farm while visiting England! My visit did not disappoint! In fact, I was delighted to discover that Rachel Siegfried and her partner Ashley Pearson and their farm Green and Gorgeous are leading the way for flower growers across England. Their farm is located in Little Stoke, Wallingford close to the university town of Oxford. It is an enchanting little piece of paradise and their hospitality to two jet-lagged Americans was a welcome reprieve. We walked around their cottage beds, took a peek in their hoop house full of ranunculus, and explored their newly planted acreage. It was such a treat! Even their cat followed our footsteps as though giving us the tour himself.

Courtesy Katy Phillips
Hoop house with Ranunculus @ Green and Gorgeous Farm, Courtesy Katy Phillips

Green and Gorgeous grows quintessential English flowers, but also host on-farm flower farming, photography and flower design workshops as part of their farmer-florist operation in Oxfordshire. Additionally, they host ‘Farm Gate Sales’, which are a bit like a ‘pop up’ shop, or my farm stand back in the States. They are held on the farm every Saturday next to their flower fields. The adorable little packing shed is filled with buckets of beauty and customers have the pleasure of walking through their gardens and picking bouquets of choice.

Courtesy Katy Phillips
Packing Shed @ Green and Gorgeous, Courtesy Katy Phillips

There has definitely been a huge change in people’s awareness of local flowers and the number of growers around the country of England and the US is increasing. Close proximity to urban centers helps growers’ continue to boost the local flower movement and raise customer awareness to the importance of supporting a more sustainable market. I look forward to taking some of the ideas gleaned from my visit to Oxfordshire back to my own small burgeoning flower farm!

Katy

CSA Shares from Poesy Farm, Courtesy Katy Phillips
CSA Shares from Poesy Farm, Courtesy Katy Phillips

Experience London’s ONLY ‘English Wine Shop’

England’s wine business is booming yet interestingly, there is only one store in the entire capitol that exclusively showcases English Wine. Most people don’t think of England as being a grape growing- or you could call it grape farming region.  But the story is true and for us Londonites – it’s developing right under our nose.  So we thought to go check out what this little store with a big mission is all about.

Here is a short video of our trip down to The Wine Pantry at Borough Market and the lovely girls that make it come alive.   Next stop will be our visit with Julia to her new store. Be on the lookout!

The Wine Pantry is a wine store and tasting room situated in London’s Borough Market.  One of the founders- Julia Stafford -could also be considered an ambassador of sorts for English wine.  Several years ago she was taken back at the fact that a city as big as London and as close to a fine grape growing region had no exclusive English Wine Store. She then was inspired to do something about it.  And so the Wine Pantry opened its doors, strategically in Borough Market. (See our Blog on ‘Borough Market‘)  Building the business was one thing, but more so was her desire to promote and support our local vineyards by connecting them directly to the consumer in the city.

The business has grown so much and received loads of community enthusiasm that they opened a second store- English Wine and Spirits Co.  just last year. The team felt it was also important to expand from wine into various other spirits made here in the UK while providing a larger and full service tasting room.  But Julia’s inspiration came from the wine- grapes grown just outside of London that are now winning global competitions with not enough people knowing it.  (See our blog for more about the story- ‘A growing trend… Grapes‘)

This is another story of how important these human links are in bringing value to our city life- connecting farmers to urban dwellers, boosting local sales and expanding local pride. And in this case for what seems to be a hidden secret- English Wine. But not for long…

How to make the best local ORGANIC Lamb Burger in town… at home.

A new local ORGANIC favourite from Kate’s Kitchen

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It starts with a trip to Daylesford Farms in Notting Hill.  This Organic Farm located in Gloucestershire has now 5 stores in London- selling and serving top quality organic meat and produce straight from their farm.   I heard about this organic cafe and grocery near my neighbourhood and had to go check it out.  Expecting high price tags on beautiful food- I was pleasantly surprised at the options I took home- one of which is a favourite… Lamb Burgers.

Many are always on the hunt for local organic food at affordable prices which can be challenging.  For this single girl in London- 4 already ORGANIC Lamb burgers for less than £8 was a find!   OK- so the burgers were already in patties – even better in my book!  And to find a locally farmed lamb this close with a good price- SOLD.  Anyway- it’s not a perfect burger without everything else on top.  For our Urban Farmer London Cooks – here is the best locally farmed lamb burgers to make at home.

Step 1- Buy these at the Daylesford Farm Store closest to you

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Step 2- Have these ingredients ready

Bread of choice, sliced onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, spinach, gruyere cheese, Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil

Step 3- Time to cook

Slice mushrooms and onions.

Warm Olive Oil up in a med-hot skillet, add sliced onions and sauté for about 10 minutes.

Get Grill ready and hot for the burger as the onions are cooking

Add Mushrooms and turn heat up slightly for about 3-5 minutes. (careful NOT to overcook the mushrooms!) 

Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Step 4- Grill up the burgers on med-high heat

Make sure to get those lovely grill marks!

Have the sliced gruyere cheese ready and the bun sliced and for toasting. Timing is everything. 

Step 5- Serve it up with your choice of sauce.

Step 6- Don’t forget the red wine

Favourite wine pairing for lamb would be either a Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo from Italy

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A growing trend… English grapes!

Courtesy Getty

English grapes are making a splash on the global scene- especially the bubbles!  And some of them are being cultivated only about an hour outside the city.   At a recent local wine tasting, we heard the rumour yet again about French growers buying up land in areas like Sussex and Kent. Interestingly, our English vineyards share similar soil types and climate conditions to those in Champagne, France.  And with warming climate trends – the future for English Wine is pointing in a favourable direction. The numbers alone tell the story- it’s simply growing fast.   Raise a glass to English Wine!

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To find out more about this research, follow these links:

Gov.Uk

English Wine Producers 

Food Standards Agency UK

A trip to Columbia Road Flower Market

Earlier this month we took a visit to the Columbia Road Flower Market on a pristine Sunday.  We toured our friend through London’s iconic market that was started in the mid-1800s and flourishing today is an understatement.  This East London market is quite possibly one of our urban favourites in the capitol.  Nestled next to the trendy Shoreditch area, Columbia Road is a little cobblestone street that transports you to another era of the city’s past- even on a normal day. Over 60 shops and art galleries that are independently owned line the streets.  Then there’s the vintage markets that have found their own nook in the surrounding side streets.

The history of this market is deep and like any good story- has loads of characters and many ups and downs in its evolution to becoming what is today.  It is believed that Charles Dickens hung out here and was a friend with the woman who we can thank for this legendary market- Angela Burdett-Coutts.  In case you want to read more about her and the rich history behind the famous market- a recent book by Linda Wilkinson called Columbia Road- A Strange Kind of Paradise is now on my summer reading list.  It takes us back into the dark and delightful past of this famous market.

However it’s not the history that drew us on this visit- but to see the flowers and the many urbanites that visit it.  And of course take a bundle home for the flat.  The market usually opens around 8am until late afternoon-rain or shine- and apparently even on Easter Sunday.  These flower enthusiasts are serious. 

Along with the colourful market auctioneers selling their goods-  talented musicians line up to get their busking spot and there is certainly no shortage of people.  It’s VERY crowded so prepare to get close to many humans- or have your iPhone ready for the eclectic local characters that will fill your frame.  For someone who loves to people watch- this is a goldmine! Here is our podcast with some our own images that caught our eye- flowers, garden herbs and of course some beautiful humans that came to partake as well. Enjoy and Happy Sunday!

Why Garden? … or wine?

“… the work it takes to make something small or large into something beautiful”

Interview with Entrepreneur/Gardener/Wine lover. 

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Meet my father-  David Brantley.

I live in London and he lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But of the MANY things we have in common- my two favourite ones are – gardening and wine.  Oh… and we love the buzz of city life too.

At the start of our blog last fall- The Urban Farmer London- I thought about where my own desire for rural lifestyle in the city all began. It was actually quite easy to figure out.  My love of gardening, cooking, and hobby or more obsession with wine started with this crazy-busy entrepreneur who is my Dad.

Somehow in the midst of his jam-packed-schedule of business meetings, sport events, social calendars and everything else he juggles- he finds the time to stop and garden… or rather, buzzes around in it.  I grew up watching him do this and I guess it had lasting effects on my own life.

This had me curious as to what drew my urban father to his own rural lifestyle and why he still carves out the time for it in his demanding schedule.   (The picture above is taken on his visit to London last fall)

“…it’s just the simple appreciation of the beauty in it.”

I started with gardening and began with the question I never had asked him before.

‘When did it all start for you?’

He had to think back a bit, “I  believe it started back in the mid-80s.”   This would put my newly 60 year old father back in his 30s.

Inspiration

“Who inspired you?”  Though his own mother was a gardener herself, to my surprise his response was not immediately about her.

“I don’t know, I think it’s just the simple appreciation of the beauty in it.”   He contemplated a bit longer than I expected, “I think its also the work it takes to make something small or large into something beautiful.” He began to unpack the therapeutic side of it in connection with his busy lifestyle.

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But thinking more to the deeper reason of doing it, he returned back to the beauty. “I think it’s also the gratification of turning something into something beautiful and in a relatively short time frame.” Knowing the nature of his business- the grind and also the patience required for its long term rewards- I understood exactly what this simple aspect that the garden lifestyle gives a man like this.

Urban Gardeners

We moved onto the type of people who garden.  I was interested in his thoughts on this as I am constantly surprised of this false stereotype- that gardeners tend to be retired or just with loads of time on their hands.

So I asked him, “What type of person do you think is drawn to the garden?”

“Typically- its often not the most predictable person. Not one personality is found which makes it (gardening) even more interesting.  From the wealthy to the pragmatic or the sophisticated to the simple, the rural or the city dweller. It’s a mix.”

It’s simple. One word: work”

I followed up with another question, “So then why do you think people choose not to garden?”  This he answers without a second of reflection.

“It’s simple.  One word: Work. It’s a LOT OF WORK.”  He chuckles, taking another sip of wine.

I then go on to explain our new blog and our curiosity of the mingling of urban and rural lifestyles- in both values and practice. He began to talk about how his wine hobby that also enhances his fast-paced urban life.  A wine enthusiast but living far from any quality wine regions- he takes part in small vineyard programs in the United States that connect consumers directly to the vineyard.  His favourite being California Wine Club. He feels this is another way that he’s able to have a sense of the rural life in the city.

Wine and … gardening? 

I probed further, “Do you think wine and gardening are connected in some way?”

“The correlation between the process of making wine and gardening is very close to me.  Growing the perfect grapes is essential to making a good wine, but not everyone who appreciates wine is drawn to the soils and climate as I am. Again, its a mixture of personality types.”

Then we got into the juice of our shared and most coveted drink.

He continues- “I love the convergence of art and science in a compressed time period. The fact that each wine takes on a unique personality of its own- down to even the barrel that they are produced in- its just fascinating to me.”

“…to have a vineyard of my own.” 

As opposed to the garden, the most challenging part of this hobby is not the physical work involved.

“Finding good wine at a good price.”  He laughed again saying this may be why he spends increasing amounts of time on this hobby over his garden in his older years.  “But it’s true- with the internet and information age I believe that the wine business is constantly growing. I continue to look for better websites, blogs to broaden my knowledge and lighten my pocketbook and also educating me on the people that are doing what I HOPE to do in a few years-  have a vineyard of my own.”

We clink glasses to a shared family dream- Brantley Vineyards– or I should say the one I decided to join in on many years ago.

“Someday, somewhere Dad.”  We smile… and order another glass.

Organic Food on the Rise in the UK?

THIS VIDEO has gone viral on social media over the last several weeks.  It is a 90 second video that takes a look into what ‘going organic’ actually DOES for our bodies.

The film was based on a study by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute IVL- you can read more about it here:  https://www.coop.se/organiceffect

This prompted us to look into how the UK is doing with their organic table fare.

GOOD NEWS.

THE TREND appears to be up for sales in the organic food sector.  According to the Soil Association, the public spent £1.4m more per week on organic food in 2014 and overall sales were up by 4%. This is great news and gets even more interesting when you compare it to the fact that there was an overall drop of 1.9% in food sales in 2014. So, organic is up even when food sales are down? Hmm..

Courtesy Wikiwand

Ok- so maybe we were spending more on eating out which makes it a bit harder to know the true picture of our organic eating habits, but this still seems a victory for organic vs pesticide pumped food.  Maybe the importance of avoiding these pesticides and chemicals from our bodies is finally catching on.

BUT…there is still a ways to go towards a true upward trend in terms of going locally organic.  We decided to dig a bit deeper on how the UK organic farms and producer side of the story is doing.

NOT so good news. 

The latest UK Government figures (2013 report) show the opposite when it comes to Organic Farms in the United Kingdom. Organic farm land – including those converting to organic- is on the decline.  Together the number of organic farms is decreasing by over 28%.  And as for organic producers and processors- that number fell for the 5th year in a row.  (- 6.4%)

BETTER NEWS for urban dwellers.. 

But, for our Urban Farm London readers and fellow urbanites- we’ve got the best news to report! Though we’re not sure what the 2014 government data is just yet- 2013 showed that the urban organic numbers are actually increasing.

The South East- including London– is the ONLY PART OF THE UK that saw a rise in organic producers and processors at 0.7%. This may not be significant climb- but the stats are going up and not down. We’ll count that as a small and important victory for our organic health.  Let’s just hope these numbers keep going in the right direction.

The UK Government report for 2014 is set to be published next month. Be on the lookout as we’ll be watching and writing about it on our blog here.  Let’s hope the stats show more upswings but for now-  we applaud the growing number of urban dwellers helping lead the UK towards healthier tables!

Grow, buy and eat… MORE organic.