River Cottage often runs an eclectic collection of events every year and 2015 will be no different! Intrigued by this year’s ‘Summer Feast’ I knew I HAD to attend and investigate.
A lovely chap at the reception welcomed us in and casually strolled us to our table. He introduced us to the concept of ‘Summer Feast’ which is essentially an idea evolving around the notion of sharing and feasting. A one-off experimental meal designed and led by the chefs of River Cottage, Bristol. As part of the introduction, our helpful waiter highlighted that the dishes were a little larger than average, again, emphasizing the indulgent nature of the evening. He recommended sharing one main dish accompanied with smaller vegetable plates and also one dessert dish.
Like a good customer, I decided to take his advice until I was confronted with the menu. The more I studied the menu the more I got myself into a fluster. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the dishes were far too good to share!
Unfortunately, the starter was based on a sharing platter so there was no loophole for my self-indulgence. Sigh. There was an option of either a meat or vegetarian platter. We opted for the vegetarian option which included the following: Creamed feta, asparagus and grilled carrots, raw radish, dukkha, courgette and roasted garlic hummus with flatbread, peas and marjoram with grilled bread and crisp vegetables peelings with rosemary salt.
It was a feast indeed! With so many different delights contained within the platter, it created an exploratory dining experience. My favourite? Obviously the crushed peas and marjoram with grilled bread! Fresh and beautifully seasoned, what’s there not to like? And, who doesn’t love good bread? Grilled with hints of smokiness and crispy textures, it was an utter delight.The other items were absolutely delicious too but we’ll be here all night if I get into the detail of every part of this cracking platter.
After a very successful starter, I was presented with a saddleback pork belly with gooseberry sauce. This was accompanied with a side dish of baked beetroots, sour cream and dill. The marinaded meat was tender and flavoursome. The sharpness of the gooseberry sauce helped to cut through the richness of the meat. And finally, the crackling made me feel euphoric. The side dish was equally delicious too. A combination I will recycle myself at home.
For dessert, I opted for the ‘Soft meringues, cashew cream and strawberries’. Again, it was a large portion, in keeping with its concept. The presentation was glorious – it almost looked like a crown. As for the taste, the strawberries couldn’t be more sweet and juicy. This demonstrates the great quality of ingredients used at River Cottage. The meringues were reassuringly sweet, crunchy and sweet.
As delightful as the fruits and meringues were, my euphoria was taken down a notch by the cashew cream. An idea that was much better in principle than in reality. It was somewhat chalky, a little bland and unfortunately dominated most of the dessert. Something I will feel a little reluctant to try again.
Obviously, due to the generosity and nature of the event I failed to finish off all of my main and dessert! Thankfully for me the helpful staff encouraged us and everyone around us to take home any leftovers.
Overall, the disappointment of the cashew cream didn’t outweigh what was a fantastic evening. The quality was beautiful and the combination of ingredients was innovative and the staff knowledgeable and friendly.
Ultimately, the concept of the event added a unique feel to the atmosphere. It engaged customers, created dialogue and encouraged interaction between mouthfuls. An experience usually found at home with friends and family.