THE PHRASE ‘field to fork’ has become a little well-worn in foodie circles – but at one local restaurant, it has a unique and genuine meaning.
Goodwood’s Richmond Arms has been offering a warm welcome to guests since the 17th century, but now it’s about to offer a modern dining experience which puts fresh, local and seasonal produce to the fore.
Part of the hotel, but open to the public, the eaterie in the heart of the estate has a new ethos and a new menu, under the eagle eye of star chef Simon Wills.
Having trained in France and worked at a litany of Michelin-starred eateries, Simon came to Goodwood earlier this year, bringing his brand of simple, wholesome cooking which lets top-quality local ingredients speak for themselves.
“For the south of England, it doesn’t come much better than this,” he says of the estate’s 3,500-acre organic farm. “I don’t know many other places in Britain where they have their own organic produce which they are serving in their kitchen.”
While private members’ club The Kennels has long made the most of what Goodwood has to offer, Home Farm is now producing enough to offer its fayre to those eating at the Richmond Arms on a permanent basis.
“It has taken four years to get to this point, but it is a really interesting time for us now,” said farm manager Tim Hassell.
The lamb, beef and game he rears just a couple of miles from the restaurant form the focus of Simon’s delicious new menu.
“We want it to be a showcase for the quality produce we have on the estate,” he said, adding that he accepted the role because he is passionate about great local ingredients.
“I am here because of the quality of the produce from the farm – we have the right breeds for the area eating the right things and being looked after properly.
“The most important thing for us is the produce... and we have the best possible produce.”
Simon, who grew up near Loxwood and now lives in West Stoke, is giving the kitchen a major overhaul, and seeking to work with even more local suppliers – he is in talks with someone who grows their own redcurrants and whitecurrants just down the road from the restaurant.
His cooking is deceptively simple, with just a few key ingredients allowed to shine in each dish – and he only wants the best of the best. “This food has a lot of character, it has a traditional feel to it,” he says.
And that rustic character suits the Goodwood ethos, quite literally, down to the ground.
FRUITS OF THEIR LABOUR
Home Farm is one of the largest organic farms in the UK: the present Duchess of Richmond was one of the earliest members of the Soil Association and clearly passed on her passion for growing without chemicals to her son, the Earl of March.
Gloucester old spot and saddleback pigs roam about, Southdown sheep are enjoying a revival at the farm and, alongside the herd of 500 beef cows, pheasants and partridges are encouraged to make the farm their home. The estate also produces its own organic cheeses, from the delicious Charlton to the brie-like Levin Down and tasty Molecomb Blue – and the milk travels just 200 yards from the cow to the bottling plant or the cheese room.
Goodwood produces a million litres of milk a year, and the aim is to turn it all into bottled milk or icecream or cheese for sale in its farm shop or to small retailers – and for use in the Richmond Arms, as well as the hotel’s Bar and Grill, Goodwood House, and the Kennels.
It has 15 employees, and will soon be hiring two butchers, which Tim says is ‘the final piece of the jigsaw for us’.
“We can tailor everything between the restaurant and the farm, that is our strength – we can go in the kitchen and go to the butchers and see what we want.”
Another part of Simon’s simple philosophy sees all parts of the animal being used, not just the traditionally-popular rump or fillet: featherblade, oxtail, pork belly, pigs’ cheeks and shoulder of lamb need a bit more cooking, but can bring a lot more flavour.
And this dovetails nicely with the other enterprises on Lord March’s estate – other cuts of meat are used in the four liveried burger vans which sell 80,000 burgers a year, plus four tonnes of carvery meat and thousands of sausages, at different events around the country.
Hopes are high that the restaurant’s new approach will be a hit, not just with foodies and those conscious of the ever-increasing issue of food miles, but with any fans of decent, local produce.
“It has been a long time coming, so I am really excited about it,” said Tim Powell, the executive chef who oversees all the food and drink ventures at Goodwood.
And farm manager Tim is equally passionate about sharing the fruits of their labour: “We are not just producing meat to produce as much meat as we can – it is what we believe in.”