Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Some enchanted evening

A couple of weeks back, Malago WI spent an enchanted evening at The Ethicurean, one of my very favourite places. Set in a Victorian walled garden, this cafe/restaurant is still green in that it's only been open a couple of years but is already making waves in the world of food and won Best Ethical Restaurant at the Observer Food Monthly Awards last year.

We were lucky enough to nab an evening booking (The Ethicurean is usually open during the day only) and could not have been luckier with the weather. It was that hot week, you remember the one, back at the end of July, and 50 Malago women caught a stuffy coach out to Wrington. Emerging to that view of the Somerset hills on such a sultry evening was like stumbling into a secret garden. The owners invited us to potter about in the garden for a while, and we wandered down the formal paths out towards the polytunnels and came across Mark, the gardener, who answered our urban questions with aplomb. It was wonderful to hear his enthusiasm for a rare heirloom beetroot, to see the joy and the care he takes tending this enormous plot single-handed. The weather has caused a six-week delay to some crops, while others have been ruined by the torrential rain including some rather sad looking garlic that ought to have been giant fat cloves by now.

As we made our way back up the hill the glasshouse was waiting for us, set with beautiful mismatched tea sets and cake a-plenty. I have a well-documented love of all things juniper, and tried a Sipsmith gin and tonic with cucumber - definitely to be recommended, especially as a sundowner in such a tranquil setting. It was mixed by Jack, one of the talented and very friendly owners of The Ethicurean, who also gave us a talk about the history of the garden as well as the origins of their business. Paula, another co-owner, chipped in with some of the details, as did Matthew, one of two brother chefs who make up the four owners.

Writing this now is making me yearn to go back, being as it's such a world away from inner city Bristol which can feel so close and claustrophobic sometimes. Next year, Ebury Press will publish The Ethicurean cookbook, photographed by one of the very talented guests I met at Lia and Juliet's Supper Club a few weeks ago. I can't wait.
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