Great food and great restaurants often take a global view, playing with diverse flavours and combinations so that you can enjoy a food experience that spans continents in a single bite. These globe-trotting food experiences can be exhilarating, allowing you to find something new and unknown in every bite – so why are some of the best restaurants in the UK hyper-local, and how can the average person eat farm-to-table without the sprawling acreage and country estate? Seasonal, sustainable (especially since you’re massively reducing air miles) and with a focus on supporting small-scale producers with the best quality produce, a farm-to-table model really gives British produce a chance to stand in the sun.
First of all – what is farm to table eating? Simply put, it means what it says, serving up food directly from UK farmers rather than through wholesalers, whether the farmers sell directly to restaurants, operate through a food co-op or sell on a smaller scale to the public at farmer’s markets. While farm-to-table is a term that seems high-end, at the core its mission is modest, merely wanting to promote a transparent food chain wherein consumers know the origins of their food.
London has an abundance of highly rated farm-to-table restaurants, such as Chelsea’s Rabbit, owned and operated by the Gladwin brothers, a chef-restaurant manager-farmer trio who serve up wild, foraged and most importantly locally grown produce. Much of their livestock is sourced from the brother’s childhood home, a farm in Sussex, with even their wine originating from the family’s own vineyard. While the bucolic nature of this set-up likely produces a second-to-none experience, it makes us wonder how the average Londoner can join in.
If you’re looking for a farm-to-table experience that won’t break the bank, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the best of fresh produce, become more aware about the origins of your food and integrate it into your daily life.
Do It Yourself
If you’re really interested in reducing your food’s travel miles, the most effective way to ensure that your food is as unworldly as possible is to grow it yourself. After all, if you grow it on the dining room table, it doesn’t even have to go anywhere.
While growing your own is often a labour of love, simple indoor gardens can be deceptively easy and can still be contained to your flat. Growing simple herbs such as basil and thyme can easily be done in a single plant-pot or just in water, as long as you have a windowsill that catches a bit of sun.
You can even use this method to re-grow supermarket produce such as spring onions, by reserving the white part of the spring onion and putting it in a cup of water. Provided there’s enough root on the onion, within the week the green will have grown back almost completely. Double the onion for the same price! While this may not be a typical vision of farm-to-table cooking, it allows you to easily enjoy the freshest produce available, and can be a starting point to grow confidence in your home gardening and cooking skills. Allotment, here we come!
Another accessible way to eat farm-to-table is by thinking more consciously about where the produce you eat comes from.
Farmer’s markets are a fantastic way to buy produce, especially if origins are important to you. Often stalls are run by people involved in the growing process, and even if it’s from a larger group, the providence of their food is still front and center. If you want to find a farmers market near you, check out this directory to find the closest.
Another great option is food co-operatives, of which a massive variety exist in London. From buying groups, community farms, co-ops who grow and sell organic food and even community owned supermarkets. The best part about systems like these is that it allows you to develop a greater understanding of how your food goes from food to table, and gives you the opportunity to get more involved beyond being a shopper.
Not Interested in Cooking?
The farm-to-table model can be a bit idealistic – just as everyone doesn’t have rolling countryside at their front door, nor does everyone have the motivation, desire or knowledge to be producing their own restaurant-quality offerings. Another great way to engage more consciously with your produce is by supporting restaurants with transparency as a core value, that highlight their supply chains and see this as a source of pride.
Restaurants such as Farmer J’s consciously seek out produce from as many high-quality, high-welfare British farms as possible, and they aren’t shy about telling you who and how. Just check out their map of produce that highlights all their beloved farmers, and what produce they grow.
Farmer J’s hearty, wholesome and transparent food is the perfect lunchtime meal for anyone who wants to eat more farm-to-table, but doesn’t quite have the lifestyle to match. Farmer J’s can even be delivered right to your office by ordering through Feedr, with great lunchtime options including chermoula chicken, charred flank steak and a massive variety of seasonal vegetables.