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5 of the best restaurants to build a country weekend break around

28th February 2018

Desperate for a foodie getaway? Feast on five hand-picked delectable destinations just two hours (or so, ish) from London worth building the ultimate country weekend break staycation around. So go on, book that Friday off and make plans for a game-changer of a dinner-meets-weekend away. Your inner chef deserves it.

1. The Sportsman, Whitstable

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

The Sportsman: the best ‘grotty rundown pub by the sea’ you’ll ever eat at.

When this pub was crowned National Restaurant of the Year 2016, it left it’s chef/patron Stephen Harris ‘gobsmacked’. It won again in 2017 and was also named Gastropub of the Year for the second time in a row. The only non-London restaurant to make it into the top five, you can find the Michelin starred-pub on the windswept barren beauty of the Seasalter coast. Self-taught cook Steven swapped a career in finance in 1996 for a professional kitchen and three years later landed near his home town of Whitstable.

Previously a self-proclaimed ‘grotty rundown pub by the sea’ (via their Twitter bio, now minus the words grotty and rundown), Stephen used ingredients he could see from his kitchen window long before the farm-to-fork movement hit the mainstream, saying: “This bit of salt marsh on the north Kent coast was owned by the kitchens of Canterbury Cathedral, and for more than a thousand years it was the larder for this area, so it seemed right to use the land.”

Now equipped with a small kitchen garden, his dishes let native ingredients do the talking with beautiful finesse. Whether going a la carte and or for the excellent value daily tasting menu, dine on Whitstable Native Oysters, slip sole grilled in seaweed butter and round it off with a rosehip ice lolly. Book far in advance and don’t forget to take a trip down the coast to see the sights, shops and sounds of Whitstable seafront too.

Getting there: 1hr 40mins by car from central London.

Find it: The Sportsman, Faversham Road, Seasalter, Whitstable, Kent, CT5 4BP

2. 64 Degrees, Brighton

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Truffle tagliatelle with confit egg yolk at 64 Degrees, Brighton.

Tucked away in the Brighton Lanes, 64 Degrees is a tiny restaurant serving small plates using fresh, local produce from an open kitchen. Founded by chef Michael Bremner (a Great British Menu finalist), his award-winning kitchen sits bang in the middle of the seating area. Perch on a high stool — one of only 27 seats — and you’ll see every slice and dice as you sit at the pass.

There are just 16 plates to choose from — four of each meat, veg, fish and sweet — and its relaxed muted interior leaves space to focus on all the drama happening before your eyes. The co-creator behind dishes such as ‘tongue, pea, jowl’ and ‘celeriac, chestnut, yolk’, head chef Sam Lambert says: ‘we just stick to local, and the fact we’re face to face with customers means we can tell them exactly what’s in the food’. And the name? We hear it pays tribute to the optimum temperature for poaching an egg.

Getting there: 1hr train ride from Victoria + 10 mins walk

Find it: 64 Degrees, 53 Meeting House Lane, Brighton BN1 1HB

3. Hartnett Holder & Co at Lime Wood Hotel, New Forest

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Hole up for the weekend at Hartnett Holder & Co in the New Forest. Photo: Áamy Murrell.

If you weren’t aware already, Angela Hartnett’s cooking is an Italian-inspired tour de force (pop to Murano and you’ll know what we mean). Hartnett Holder & Co is the restaurant of the luxury country-house Lime Wood hotel set in 145 square miles of ancient heath in the heart of the New Forest and makes for an idyllic epicurean country weekend break.

Together with chef Luke Holder, Angela and the team create locally sourced Italian dishes with a respectful nod to the seasons. Pretentious fine dining and big plates are out and home cooked sharing plates are in. Expect dishes such as fresh wild garlic, served simply with gnocchi, Parmesan and pine nuts or a cashew nut hummus (as spotted on Instagram). Complete with cosy wood fires, oak interiors, and an onsite smoke house, handily there’s a sumptuous bed you can roll into after dinner.

Getting there: approx 2hr drive from central London

Find it: Lime Wood Hotel, Beaulieu Road, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7FZ

Honorary mention: The Pig, Brockenhurst

Sister hotel of Lime Wood, it’s another fine example of the right amount of glamour needed to make a time-precious country weekend break go with a bang. Expect locally sourced and foraged ingredients with a story without any old-fashioned stiffness. Its menu is uncomplicated seasonal British garden food influenced by the forest and coast and all to enjoy in a stunning country house.

Getting there: approx 2hr drive from central London

Find it: Beaulieu Road, Brockenhurst, Hampshire, SO42 7QL

4. Hand & Flowers, Marlow

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Fancy an Essex lamb “bun” and a pint?

Zoom down the M40 and you can be at chef Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers  – the only pub in the UK to hold two Michelin stars  –  in just over an hour from central London. Located in the Georgian town of Marlow, there’s a little whimsy to be experienced amongst it’s chocolate-box pretty, winding historic streets along the Thames. A thoroughly modern British pub that you can stay over in, Tom and his wife opened in 2005 with the idea of it being a place they’d like to go on their day off. Now it’s a place that folk from around the world are desperate to visit on their day off.

The menu’s focus is on making the most of the best seasonal ingredients with little fuss and lots of charm. Dishes include lovage soup to start, and an Essex lamb “bun” for a main and chocolate and ale cake to finish. Book a table in advance or if you prefer to be spontaneous on a country weekend break, head to his second non-bookable pub called The Coach, also in Marlow.

Getting there: 1hr 10 mins drive from central London, or 1hr 30mins by train and bus

Find it: The Hand and Flowers, 126 West Street, Marlow SL7 2BP

5. The Ethicurean, Bristol

5 best restaurants to build a country weekend break around near London

Dine overlooking an exquisite Victorian walled garden and the Mendip Hills at The Ethicurean.

The Ethicurean is a must-visit destination for arguably the most beautiful setting to eat in on a country weekend break in Somerset. Focussed on sourcing ingredients from the nearby fields, forests and orchards that surround their garden, its philosophy is simple: “eat local, celebrate native foods, live well.”

Its story began when friends Jack Adair Bevan, Paula Zarate and brothers Ian and Matthew Pennington met working at farmers’ markets. They took a shine to an apple business at Barley Wood Walled Garden and its conservatory-style cafe was available to rent too. Together, they grabbed the opportunity and use everything from its bursting vegetable and herb patches to make their own vermouths, fermentations and of course, apple juice. Expect vibrant dishes such as cucumber with labneh at lunch to a scones adorned with jam made from their walls which ‘drip with fruit’ for an afternoon tea break. Check out their cookbook to try their dishes at home.

Getting there: 2hrs 40mins drive from London (okay it’s not 2hours, but you need to go!)

Find it: The Ethicurean, Barley Wood Walled Garden, Long Lane, Wrington, Bristol, BS40 5SA

In need a rural escape that requires a flight? Take a look at our top 8 international farm stay holidays guaranteed to beat winter blues.


5 of the best alcohol-free bars and cocktails in London

17th January 2018

Where to drink when you’re not drinking.

Forget mindful eating, mindful drinking is the next new thing. More of us are seeking social drinking without the hangover, and studies say one in five adults in the UK are now teetotal – the highest in a decade! So if you’ve jumped on the wagon for good or you’re just dabbling in a dry-as-much-as-you-canuary, this is the guide for you. Here’s to how to ditch the sugar-laden juices and boring alternatives out there thanks to London’s best alcohol-free cocktails, along with tips and ideas for making your own at home from the genius mixologists behind them.

Tonics and ferments at Kultured

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

Probiotic tipples are the focus of this new Soho bar where you can expect clever cocktails (both boozy and not) of fermented fizz, bitters and naturally carbonated tonics. Their Retox Tonic of ginger kombucha, tonic, ferment brine and Manuka honey syrup is rather apt for January, packed with gut-loving stuff and vitamin C to give your immune system a boost. Or try Botanique; a botanical fizz topped off with a shot of kombucha.


DIY. Kombucha is a brilliant alcohol swap and is incredibly easy to make at home. Its naturally fermented fizz and flavour tastes somewhere between a mulled cider and a drinking vinegar – a delicious drink that’s not overly sweet.

Distilled and spiced with Seedlip

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

The world’s first non-alcoholic distilled spirit, Seedlip is well worth a mention. Try their Spice spirit with notes of allspice and cardamom, lemon and grapefruit, mixed with Indian tonic water and a twist of grapefruit for an alt G&T vibe. Available direct from their website or find them at some of London’s best bars, from The American Bar at The Savoy and Dandelyan (below) to Nightjar and The Ned. The American Bar serve up a mean Sherwood Forest Cocktail (above) of lemon-infused Seedlip, kefir cultured milk, gooseberry jam, egg white and sorrel. No booze and you won’t notice.

Around London.

DIY. Making your own mocktails at home is certainly getting easier with imitation spirits and wines cropping up that include Seedlip, Botanique – a botanical fizz aimed at booze-avoiding wine lovers and perfect for Bellinis – and Luscombe Drinks’ wild elderflower bubbly; a refreshing Champagne alternative.

The Peach Cider at Dandelyan

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

Awarded the world’s best bar in 2017, Dandelyan raises the bar with innovative alcohol free that mimic the body and brightness of their more potent mixes. We asked for advice on how they do it; “To get savoury notes we often use ‘teas’ made from herbs and spices, such as dried chillies and fruits. Changing what you use as an acidulant works too – citrus often needs quite a lot of sweetness to balance it out so using vinegars and tart juices can lead to a cleaner, drier profile.” says the man behind it Mr Lyan, aka Ryan Chetiyawardana. Try his Peach Cider, using Seedlip Garden Spirit: a delicious floral blend of pea and hay with nutty spice and peach.

Mondrian Hotel, Southbank.

DIY. Experiment with herbs and spices to add natural sweetness and depth to tonic water or juices – try muddling in fresh herbs like mint or basil, adding ginger or chilli, or ribbons of fresh cucumber. Dandelyan’s sister concept bar, Cub, make a mean celeriac & sea buckthorn drink, using juiced celeriac, sea buckthorn (for savoury funk), Thai basil and a dash of gooseberry juice. A dash of the Forager’s Sea Buckthorn & Birch Water works well too.

Health-conscious mocktails at Redemption

best bars for alcohol-free cocktails in London

A restaurant-bar with a difference, Redemption is vegan and totally alcohol-free with a menu of mocktails that make the usual pub offering laughable. Their coconut water, lime and birch syrup ‘frozen margarita’, blitzed with ice and rimmed with Himalayan mountain salt is a punchy answer to those sugar-laden alternatives out there. Or give this blackberry and basil concoction a go at home; macerated berries, basil and maple syrup, shaken up with coconut water and lime for an ace balance of tart sweetness, aniseed and citrus.

Notting Hill and Shoreditch.

DIY. Make Redemption’s Black Beauty Martini for yourself. Mash and macerate together 10 fresh or frozen blackberries, 4 leaves of ripped basil and 25ml of maple syrup, then chill overnight. Shake vigorously in a cocktail shaker with 150ml of coconut water, 15ml of freshly squeezed lime juice and a handful of ice cubes for 10 seconds. Pour into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a lime twist. 

The classics at Mark’s Bar

Downstairs at Hix Soho, you’ll find Mark’s Bar with a decent offering of non-alcoholic tipples that make it worth the trip. Their Pickled & Charred Seedlip Martini is smoky and dry, the Shirley Temple with Luscombe ginger beer, Mark’s grenadine and lime is a sweeter fizz, or go classic with a Bloody Shame virgin Mary.


DIY. Experiment with creating your own dry, sour, bitter and savoury drinks using mixers, teas, brines, salts and shrubs. Take Shrbdrinks’ sodas for example. Inspired by Prohibition-era shrub making, they make sodas by steeping ingredients in apple cider vinegar, then adding spring water and a touch of fizz for a lightly sweet, subtle-tasting soda. Pickle juice from The Pickle House adds a delicious sour tang to cocktails, as does Wild Fizz Kombucha. Or turn your cold brew into a virgin espresso martini.

Fancy some of the hard stuff? Try these cocktail bars for an sustainable tipple or these pubs and restaurants with excellent sourcing to cosy up in this winter.

After some gin-spiration? Here’s 5 beautifully simple gin cocktails with a twist.


7 reasons why 2017 was a good year for ethical food innovation in Britain

28th December 2017

Meet the ethical food innovators who took it upon themselves to change how we eat, drink and shop in 2017.

#SquareMileChallenge is one solution to the mass misconception that disposable coffee cups are recyclable. Image: Hubbub.

2017 sent us some worrying signals. Cheap, chlorinated chicken could find its way to the UK. Large scale poultry plants were exposed for their fibs and deceit. Much-loved chocolate manufacturers ditched Fairtrade status. Supermarkets showed disappointing responses to the growingly dangerous use of antibiotics on livestock.

You get the point: headline news in the world of food elicited little more than doom and gloom. To spare us complete despair, here are a few stories that will have you feeling a little more optimistic as we head into 2018.

UK’s first ultra-sustainable cocktail bar lands in London

ethical food innovators 2017

Doug McMaster and Ryan Chetiyawardana of Cub. Image: Xavier D. Buendia.

Cub, a new restaurant-bar in Hoxton, is the birthchild of mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana and zero-waste pioneer Doug McAllister. The table tops are made from recycled yoghurt pots and the lights from paper mulch and cork. However, the main focus is the food and drink.

Cub employs a closed-loop system to produce as little waste as possible, while nothing but sustainable ingredients are bought into the kitchen and bar. It’s kind of a big deal ­– when someone as with as much international fame as Mr Chetiyawardana opens a bar hinged on sustainability, you can expect the rest of the world to take note.

More people buying into ethicality

ethical food innovators 2017

Native breed West Country Wessex Saddleback crossed with a Welsh Boar pigs at Pipers Farm in Devon

According to a report carried out by Triodos Bank and Ethical Consumer, sales in organic and ethical food and drink flourished in the past year, while conventional food stagnated. It’s good news for ethical food in general, as that side of the market saw a growth of 9.7%, and the fourteenth year straight in which interest in ethical goods has increased.

‘It appears that demand for locally produced artisan food is driving a revival of local shopping,’ said Ethical Consumer co-editor Rob Harrison. ‘Shoppers increasingly want to know where their food comes from, and that it’s come from somewhere as local as possible to reduce its carbon footprint.’

Sustainable cod is back on the menu

ethical food innovators 2017

Stocks of North Sea cod fell to 36,000 ten years ago. So it was remarkable news when the Marine Stewardship Council said reserves had recovered enough in 2017 for them to be sustainably sourced again.

Mark Pike, chairman of the Scottish Fisheries Sustainable Accreditation Group, called this a ‘massive development’ where, finally, shoppers could buy one of the nation’s favourite fish with a clear conscience. We hope the fishing industry collaborates to make sure things stay that way.

Brewers take ethicality to heart

ethical food innovators 2017

The team at Long Arm Brewery, owned by brothers Ed (left) and Tom Martin.

Craft beer still makes up for a comparatively small portion of the brewing industry, but given the total figure of breweries reached the 2,000 milestone in 2017, you have to wonder – for how much longer? As the number continues to rise, so too does those with a sustainable philosophy.

Unlike big breweries, these small guys are more mindful. A more nimble bunch, they can adopt waste-saving initiatives such as repurposing spent grain otherwise destined for the bin, drastically cutting down on water used, rolling out more environmentally friendly packaging (such as cans), and turning surplus or waste products into beer. Some like the Long Arm pub in Shoreditch are even embracing aquaponics to feed fish their spent grain, waste from which is used to fertilise their urban farm.

Coffee drinkers snub high-street chains in favour of small batch roasters

ethical food innovators 2017

Will Corby, Head of Coffee at Pact with Colombian grower Faiber Vega and his family. Faiber describes how the opportunity to sell his best beans has revolutionised farm life.

Three years ago, Costa’s sales were on a high. August 2017, however, saw them at a new low. The reason? Partly down to rising costs, and the rise of internet shopping, but even Whitbread’s chief executive (Whitbread being the conglomerate who own Costa) had to admit Britain is caught up on a new appetite for higher quality, extra-ordinary coffee from independent roasters. And as we’ve seen with the likes of Pact, these setups generally favour the farmer’s welfare more than they do their own profits.

‘War on the straw’ takes hold among popular bars and restaurants

Millions of plastic straws, which end up in our oceans, are fatal hazards to marine life and sea birds. In the wake of a distressing video depicting a bloody sea turtle with a straw wedged up its nose, pub chain Oakman Inns stopped stocking plastic straws from their sites and opted for an eco alternative instead. The move triggered other chains to swiftly follow suit ­– JD Wetherspoon, Be At One, The Alchemist, Laine Pub Company and Liberation Group, Hawksmoor, and Redcob Pubs to name just a few. More are expected to join them.

Councils and organisations address the deplorability of disposability

The #SquareMileChallenge in the city of London. Image: Hubbub.

Innovation in the world of straws is just the start – it’s estimated there’s five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the world’s oceans. So does the war on the straw really align with the actions of cutting out plastic as a whole? Well, quite possibly.

This year, London’s first plastic-free shop opened in Hackney; Borough Market introduced water fountains as their first action in phasing out single-use plastic bottles; and City of London launched a Square Mile Challenge which succeeded in their goal of recycling half a million coffee cups in April, with the aim of recycling five million by the end of the year. However small these victories, they’re concrete signs that we’re not just open to the idea of harmony among animals, one another, and the planet – we’re actually championing it too.

Any other good news to come out of 2017? Shout it out in the comments below.

Discover 10 food and farming heroes to watch in 2018 and the food trends that’ll shape your plate.


10 food and farming heroes to watch in 2018

20th December 2017

Meet the farmers, chefs and all-round superstars safeguarding the future of our food and making the planet a better, healthier place you need to watch in 2018.

There’s plenty of doom and gloom in the media these days, what with chicken scandals and plastic-filled oceans and warming climates. But with every year that passes, more producers and farmers, more chefs and foodies, more brewers and growers are working harder to make our planet a better, healthier place to be.

They’re the guys helping to safe-guard the future of our food system, bringing our attention to what’s on our plate and where it comes from, and promoting better ways to grow, buy, cook, eat and enjoy it.

Here’s our super-select pick of the ones to watch; the inspiring, passionate and positive game-changers who are leading the way in the world of radical food and farming.

Massimo Bottura

future of our food

It’s hard not to love Massimo. Owner of three-star Michelin restaurant, Osteria Francescana in Modena, voted the Best Restaurant in the World in 2016, Massimo is one of the most influential chefs in modern Italian gastronomy. Now he spends his time heading up his non-profit association, Food for Soul – a series of community kitchens from Brazil to London that intercept otherwise wasted food to feed those in need. He’s also recently released a new cookbook – Bread is Gold is packed with recipes that show how to turn humble, often wasted, ingredients into delicious meals: “these dishes could change the way we feed the world, because they can be cooked by anyone, anywhere, on any budget. To feed the planet, first you have to fight waste.” Enter our competition to win a signed copy.

IG: @massimobottura

​Old Tree Brewery

future of our food

‘Living drinks for living soil’ is the tagline for this ecological brewery in Brighton investing in regenerating the land through their naturally fermented, seasonal, probiotic drinks. Suppliers of zero-waste restaurant SILO, Old Tree are equally serious about minimising their negative impact on the planet. They gather ingredients they’ve grown in their food forest or by foraging for abundant wild edibles and return any waste as compost to the land. Find them setting up their new nano-brewery of live, botanical drinks in 2018.

IG: @oldtreebrewery

The Sioux Chef

future of our food

What with all Trump’s handiwork this year, the rights of North America’s indigenous communities seem on shakier ground than ever. So it’s good timing that the Sioux Chef, AKA Sean Sherman, is reviving an ignored slice of North American history. And he’s doing it… through food. Forget tacos and fry-breads, wheat and beef, dairy and sugar. The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen cookbook (soon to be restaurant and a string of Indigenous Food Hubs) dispels modern misconceptions of native American food, with a celebration of ingredients from venison to rabbit, lake trout to wild turkey, sage to sumac, plums to purslane. Of native American origin, the Sioux Chef draws from a long forgotten culinary culture that uses wild plants and animals, native crops and methods to inform a new take on what north American food really should, and could, become known for.

IG: @siouxchef

Kate Collyns at Grown Green

future of our food

Magazine editor-turned-veggie grower, Kate Collyns ditched her office career for a life on the land, and now runs a successful, award-winning, sustainable market garden near Bath. After years of learning on the job – with challenges from chiselling swede out of the ground in sub-zero temperatures to picking kale in hail storms to educating customers on seasonal eating (and why they can’t have tomatoes in January) – she’s also written a book, aptly named Gardening for Profit, and shares her knowledge in farming groups and organisations to promote the merits of efficient small-scale farming. These days Kate’s two-acre garden is flourishing, and we’re big fans. Even with an eight-month-old in tow, she still manages to supply Farmdrop with quality greens grown with organic methods. She’ll be back on the site in spring.

T: @katecollyns

Neil Rankin

future of our food

Offal lovers unite! The rise of nose-to-tail eating is showing no signs of abating, with more chefs and home-cooks seeking to swap prime cuts for under-loved and often-wasted parts of the animal. One such person is Neil Rankin, chef and owner of Temper Soho, whose focus on using well-reared whole animals, butchering them on site and barbecuing every morsel over open fire pits won him Best Newcomer at the 2017 Observer Food Monthly awards. “I buy a great cow, and then work out how to sell the whole thing. People come in and say they want a sirloin. There are maybe six kilos of sirloin on a carcass of 600 kilos. Every single part of the cow is delicious to eat, it’s just knowing how to cook it.” He knows what he’s talking about.

T: @frontlinechef


future of our food

The revolutionary pop-up restaurant and catering company that ​connects refugee and migrant women with London diners has taken the capital by storm in recent years. Serving up ‘soulful, authentic’ meals, the social enterprise seeks to give women a means to work by putting their cooking skills to good use. After sold-out supper clubs and a Guardian Cook residency, Mazimas has now launched its first online shop, selling jams, spice blends and teas with interesting twists and quality ingredients.

IG: @eatmazimas

Locavore Magazine

future of our food

Photo: @salutateporcum via Facebook

A new publication promising ‘slow, seasonal and sustainable food’ was always going to pique our interest, and this one’s a goodie. Launched in November 2017, the quarterly journal looks at how food is found, grown, prepared and served. Expect intelligent stories from chefs and farmers, foragers and scientists that explore anything from seed-saving projects and fermenting to heritage grains, asking the question; what does a sustainable food system look like?

IG: @locavoremagazine

Mr Lyan – Ryan Chetiyawardana

future of our food

Xavier D. Buendia / XDB Photography

It should come as no surprise that we’re big fans of Mr Lyan. Award-winning bartender and owner of Dandelyan, Ryan went on to open White Lyan – the world’s first bar without any perishables in a bid to reduce waste – and later Super Lyan (which we wrote about here) and adjoining bar-restaurant Cub (we wrote about that here too). Both work to empower their farmers, chefs, bartenders and consumers to produce, cook, eat and drink in a more sustainable and informed way: “we want to nurture a dialogue between producers and us, and between us and the public. By empowering each stage, we can treat our food systems more appropriately and find ways of championing positive change in a way that feels realistic and exciting” says Ryan. Cheers to that.

IG: @mrlyan

​Nordic Food Lab​

future of our food

Eating insects is a concept we’re waking up to, albeit slowly, in the west. And it’s a trend on the up, with more scientists and chefs researching the benefits of eating bugs as a viable source of edible protein. Will it take off? It seems so. The Nordic Food Lab – the non-profit organisation founded by Noma’s Rene Redzepi and food entrepreneur Claus Meyer – are taking it seriously, with a new book, On Eating Insects, that explores most importantly, how they taste. Insects are just one of their many experiments, with a lab full of local roots, mushrooms and herbs, fermented fish, preserved deer meat and barrels of ageing quince ‘balsamic’ vinegar to name a few, in their pursuit of delicious foods that can feed a sustainable future planet.

IG: @nordicfoodlab

Delphis Eco

future of our food

Delphis Eco CEO Mark Janovich and team at Damer’s First School in Dorset during Recycling Week.

This kickass manufacturer and innovator of eco cleaning products is taking their mission one step further. They’ve developed the UK’s first 100% post-consumer plastic bottle. Meaning? They collect recycled plastic milk bottles, refine it, re-blow it and re-use it to package their products, lengthening the life-span of single-use plastic. Providing a small – but significant – solution to the world’s 300 million tonnes of virgin plastic that gets binned every year. All of their products will use their ‘closed loop’ packaging, and will be sold via Farmdrop soon.

T: @DelphisEco

Don’t miss the food trends set to shape 2018.


10 of the best alternative things to do in London between Christmas & New Year

19th December 2017

10 of the best alternative Christmas events in London, including festive activities for kids and adults alike, carols by candlelight and some cracking strolls.

Had enough of Winter Wonderland? Rather skip the glitzy windows of the big department stores? Love it when the city is dead in the awkward bit between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve? Here are our favourite, lesser-known, festive haunts, activities and walks to occupy your London Christmas holiday (and satisfy your motley crew of friends, family and second-cousins from Canada).

1. Gather round carols by candlelight at St Martin In the Fields

Christmas events in London

It doesn’t get much more Christmassy than the uplifting sound of carols to an enchanting backdrop of atmospheric candlelight. Some spots for this festive treat may have sold out, but thankfully there are tickets available for performances spanning 20th December and the New Year. Take in the country’s finest chamber ensemble London Concertante perform Viennese Christmas by Candlelight among work by Tchaikovsky and Strauss on Tuesday 28th December, or see in 2018 with a New Years’s Day Extravaganza with the Festive Orchestra of London, featuring works by Handel, Mozart and Bach.

St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, WC2N.

Nearest stations: Charing Cross and Leicester Square.

2. Discover hidden London on foot

A snowy Hampstead Heath earlier this month. Photo (c) Ashley Coates via Flickr.

Take this treasured time to slow down and go for a big ol’ walk across London town. Walking across the capital might seem alien due to the ‘I need to get from A to B as fast as un-humanly possible’ mindset the rest of the year, but now’s the time to slow down and drink it in. Spot over 30 species of birds along the Lea Valley Walk and other green routes along the Lea Valley Regional Park, admire the beautiful canal sides of West London over a relaxed amble from Little Venice to Camden, or adventure over river valleys, heath and parks with a route across Hampstead Heath, Primrose Hill and Regent’s Park.

3. Head to the Horniman Museum

Christmas events in London

If you’re yet to visit this South London treasure, now’s the time to go get your Horniman on. Stuffed full of extensive collections of anthropology, natural history and musical instruments and tucked away in Forest Hill, the museum is home to a stunning 16 acres of garden complete with views across London and a Victorian conservatory, as well as a highly acclaimed aquarium. Catch the British Wildlife Photography Awards exhibition before it ends on 14th January. Oh, and don’t forget to visit the museum’s furry and feathered friends on the animal walk, home to alpacas, goats, rabbits, chickens and more. Entrance is free, with a small fee for the aquarium and ticketed events.

Horniman Museum, 100 London Road, Forest Hill, SE23 3PQ. Open daily 10am – 5.30pm, except 24 – 26 December.

Nearest station: Forest Hill

4. Take a stroll in Postman’s Park

Nestled next to St Paul’s Cathedral and bordered by Little Britain (have a chuckle at this street sign), Postman’s Park is on the site of the former headquarters of the General Post Office and is one of the largest parks within the City of London; as well as one of the most beautiful. It’s enchanting gardens are home to the mesmerising Watts Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice – a wall of 54 memorial tiles that commemorate men, women and children, who lost their life while attempting to save another. The touching stories of everyday heroism will really bring the true spirit of Christmas home. You might recognise it from the film Closer too. It’s closed on the 25th and 26th of December and on New Year’s Day, but if you’re in the area on Boxing Day, take a Victorian Christmas tour with your guide Hazel (book in advance) and delve into the Dickensian history of our festive traditions.

Postman’s Park, St Martin’s Le-Grand, EC1A.

Nearest Station: St Paul’s.

5. A Christmas Carol by candlelight

Christmas events in London

Is it possible to do too many things by candlelight at Christmas? We don’t think so. Head on down to The Charles Dickens Museum in old London Bloomsbury for a very festive performance of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol performed by actor Dominic Gerrard. There’s also the opportunity to explore Dickens’s home dressed lavishly for Christmas (arrive an hour beforehand to explore the whole house), and soak up the atmosphere as darkness falls. There are still tickets available for performances from 19th to 30th December (book in advance).

The Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, WC1N.

Nearest stations: Russell Square and King’s Cross.

6. Step into Britain’s Christmas past

Christmas events in London

Ever stopped to wonder why we deck the halls, send cards, fill stockings and pop a tree in the living room to celebrate Christmas? Well neither had we, but the folks at The Geffrye Museum have the history of Britain’s odd-ball festive traditions covered. Within the walls of the museum’s stunning period rooms you’ll find an evocative glimpse into how Christmas has been celebrated in English homes over the past 400 years, complete with trees, fairy lights, paper chains and some exceedingly jazzy festive curtains. Admire the 1965 living room that rekindles memories for those who grew up in the 60s and grab this opportunity to visit the museum before it closes for a two-year refurbishment in January.

The Geffrye Museum, 136 Kingsland Road, London, E2. Until Sunday 7 January 2018. Closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day. Free entry.

Nearest station: Hoxton.

7. Tour London’s Christmas lights on bike

Christmas events in London

Fingers crossed that it’ll be lovely weather for a bike ride together around town. Ideal for getting the body going after all that glorious sitting down, tours kick-off from the London Bicycle hire centre on Southbank, where you’ll get tooled-up with a bike, helmet and lights for your festive ride. Taking in a route via quieter streets and cycle paths, you’ll see all the glory of Westminster, palatial houses with tree in their windows on the back streets of Kensington and Chelsea, and the world-famous light displays of Sloane Square, Bond Street, Carnaby Street and Covent Garden, with a return that catches the particularly picturesque and iconic views from Waterloo Bridge., Gabriel’s Wharf, Southbank. Tours take place from 3.30pm daily until 6 Jan and are suitable for children over 10.

Nearest stations: Waterloo and London Waterloo East.

8. Dennis Severs’ House at Town Hall Hotel

Christmas events in London

Haven’t made it to Dennis Severs’ House in Spitalfields (above)? The characterful and lovingly preserved Victorian four storey home-meets-museum paints a ‘still life drama’ with the 18th Century Huguenot family at the centre. At this time of year guests are treated to wandering the house’s candle-lit chambers whilst stepping into the family’s yuletide celebrations. This year, the team behind the house have extended their Christmas installation to the grand Edwardian halls and corridors of the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green. Get throughly into the festive spirit with the hotel’s seasonal menu inspired by the house, with dishes including sloe gin and treacle cured salmon, wild boar penny pies and douglas fir roasted haunch of venison.

Town Hall Hotel, Patriot Square, Bethnal Green, E2.

Nearest stations: Cambridge Heath and Bethnal Green tube.

9. Volunteer in the capital this Christmas

Christmas events in London

One of the best things you can do (at any time of year, let alone Christmas) is give back. Whether it’s managing donations or working in a soup kitchen, brighten up someone’s day and hopefully even someone’s year by bringing them some cheer will a small act of kindness. Crisis organise the largest volunteering initiative in the country and seek over 10,000 volunteers for a huge variety of roles. With just one day’s notice you can help transform a site with festive decoration or bring cheer late into the night. There are even roles to run feel-good activities such as massages, cooking and crafts, and you can volunteer with friends too. Team London makes volunteering in the city incredibly easy. Simply search from over 50,000 opportunities by interest and area and you’re guaranteed to find a role to suit you.

10. Go sledging on Hampstead Heath (if snow comes)

A post shared by Tim Katz (@katztim) on

If enough snow falls, then head for new heights. Visit to the highest point in the capital at Whitestone Pond in Hampstead (between the West Heath and Hampstead Heath) or check out Parliament Hill for some stellar views and great powder (probably). Or if you’re south of the river, try Brockwell Park in Brixton for a range of slope gradients so there’s something for everybody. It’s also near plenty of welcoming cafes to warm up in. This excellent guide will equip you with everything you need to know to choose the best spots for sledging.

Whatever you’re up to this festive season, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Visiting Somerset or have friends celebrating in the West Country? Take a look at our 10 festive things to do in Bristol & Bath.

Still planning? Here’s our guide to having an ethical and green Christmas and 10 time saving strategies for Christmas cooking.

This article was originally published on the Farmdrop blog in December 2016 and has been updated.


An alternative Christmas dinner menu by Heirloom

19th December 2017

Want to impress with effortless seasonal stunners? Look no further than these alternative Christmas dinner ideas by Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Heirloom – a thoroughly modern British restaurant in Crouch End.

alternative Christmas recipes

Take a seat at the bar at Heirloom.

Talk to most chefs and restaurateurs and they’ll tell you that Christmas is something they get to enjoy between the menu planning, chaotic services, and never-ending kitchen prep. Rarely, in other words.

But despite the seasonal stresses, Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Crouch End’s much-loved Heirloom restaurant, retains a childlike enthusiasm for the festive period. He looks forward to putting together his Christmas menus and starts planning dishes as soon as summer departs, favouring those that blend tradition with modernity; British flavours with Continental touches.

alternative Christmas recipes

Ian Macintosh, Chef Owner of Heirloom.

This year, for the first time in a few, Ian, who has run Heirloom with his brother, David, since 2014, is opening the restaurant on Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and for lunch on the last two Fridays before the big day; as well as the usual Tuesday to Sunday opening hours.

It promises to be quite a spread. But if you can’t make the jaunt to North London, then don’t despair as the Yorkshire-born has devised a special alternative Christmas menu just for Farmdrop, comprising some of his favourite recipes from Heirloom’s 2017 vintage.

Ian’s alternative Christmas menu showcases British cooking as it is today; seasonal, forward-thinking and delicious. Starters are provided in the form of tandoori trout rillettes and a sprightly kohlrabi, clementine and fennel salad. For mains, Ian flips the bird to turkey in favour of pheasant, which he pot-roasts on a bed of barley, and a vegetarian-friendly salt-baked carrots with labneh dish. Brussels with chestnut and pancetta makes a lovely versatile side, while treacle loaf rounds things off with some much-needed decadence.

Cook any or all of these on the 25th and your guests are sure to go to bed happy. (As for Ian, well he’ll still probably be working.)

To start:

Kohlrabi, clementine and fennel salad

Serves 6 | 50 minutes

Slightly smoky, citrusy and aniseed-y, this simple salad packs a real punch. A lovely light starter to precede the traditional festive gluttony.

1 kohlrabi
4 clementines, 1 saved for dressing
1 fennel bulb
Lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
80ml rapeseed oil
A handful of chives
150g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Roast the kohlrabi for 30 minutes or until slightly blackened on the outside.

2. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool, remove the skin with a paring knife, chop the flesh into neat chunks or slices and set aside.

3. For the clementines, cut each in half and sprinkle with sugar. Place a pan over a medium heat and, once hot, add the clementines flesh-side down. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and caramelised. Allow to cool and then remove the skin.

4. For the fennel, slice on a mandolin or use a sharp knife to cut into thin slices. Store in water with the lemon juice to avoid it oxidising.

5. For the dressing, mix together in a bowl the juice from the remaining clementine, Dijon mustard and chives. Slowly whisk in the rapeseed oil until combined.

6. Combine the kohlrabi, clementine and fennel and toss in the dressing. Scatter with the flaked almonds and serve in bowls or on one big sharing platter.

Tandoori trout rillettes

Serves 6 | 25 minutes plus pickling time

We tend to serve this on blinis over the festive season, but it is equally good on toast or flatbreads. The tandoori spices add a warming twist, while the tartness of the cucumber cuts through the fattiness of the trout belly.


Pickled cucumber

1 cucumber
50ml cider vinegar
50g caster sugar
50ml water
5g mustard seeds
5g cumin seeds


1 trout belly
Tandoori powder
100ml duck fat
50g chervil, chopped


1. First, prepare the pickled cucumber. Add the vinegar, sugar, water and spices to a pot and place over a medium heat. Heat for 15 minutes, then pass the liquid through a strainer or sieve and allow to cool slightly

2. Cut the cucumber into rounds and place into the pickling liquor for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 220°C

3. Leaving the belly whole, cover it in salt and roast in the oven for 6 minutes. Then, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.

4. Place a plan over a low heat. Once hot, add the tandoori powder and heat to release the oils in the spices. After 5 minutes, add the duck fat and cook until combined.

5. Meanwhile, pick the meat from the belly, discarding any bones or skin, and add to a large bowl. Add the mixture from the pan in stages, using a spoon to bring the rillettes together. Allow to cool.

6. Once cool, add the chopped chervil to the mix, check the seasoning and serve on toast, flatbreads or blinis with the cucumber.

For the main event:

Roast pheasant with barley and cranberry sauce

Serves 6 | 1 hour

Pheasant are abundant at this time of year and not as costly as some other birds. Here we pot-roast the legs on a bed of barley and serve with the pan-roasted breasts and a side-serving of cranberry sauce to produce a tasty festive main.



3 pheasants, legs removed
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 brown onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 a leek
300g pearl barley
Splash of white wine
300g pearl barley
250ml chicken stock

Cranberry Sauce

300g frozen cranberries
250ml water
bunch of thyme


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

2. To make the mirepoix, a traditional base for many winter dishes, finely chop carrot, celery, onion, garlic and leek and add to a large ovenproof casserole dish with a little oil. Place over a low-medium heat for 10 minutes.

3. Add the barley, a splash of wine and 200ml of chicken stock. Place the pheasant legs on top of the barley, leave the lid off and cook in the oven for 40 minutes, topping up the stock as necessary.

4. Towards the end of the cooking time, place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat and add a few drops of oil. Once hot, add the pheasant crowns and pan-roast until nicely coloured.

5. Turn the oven up to 185°C and place the crowns in there to cook through for 8 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, prepare the cranberry sauce. Add the cranberries to a pan along with chopped thyme, water and sugar to taste. Heat until the cranberries start to lose their shape, roughly 5 minutes.

7. Remove the casserole dish from the oven along with the crowns. Using a sharp knife, fillet the breasts from the crowns and place on top of the legs. Serve up a sharing dish with the cranberry sauce on the side.

Salt-baked carrots with labneh, hazelnut and chard

alternative Christmas recipes

Serves 6 | 50 minutes, plus resting time

Salt-baking draws out moisture and concentrates flavour, and we find the method works particularly well with carrots. At the restaurant we use Sandy carrots, which have been grown on loam soil in Brittany and have a high sugar content to counter the salt, but good-quality medium-sized carrots will work nicely, too. If you’re feeling extra generous, add some pan-roasted cauliflower to the plate.


1kg sandy carrots, or 6 medium carrots
1kg white flour
350g salt
50g ground cinnamon
700ml of water

500g natural yogurt
500g brown onions, thinly sliced
50g ras el hanout
knob of butter

500g swiss chard
150g hazelnut


1. Mix the flour, salt and cinnamon in a food mixer with the bread attachment and add roughly 700ml of water to form a dough. Use your hand to finish the dough, then wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge for 1 hour.

2. Remove the dough from the fridge, roll out and place the carrots on top. Wrap back up to conceal the carrots inside. Place on a tray and bake in an oven set to 180°C for 30 minutes, then set aside.

3. To make the labneh, line a sieve with a J-cloth, then tip in the yoghurt and allow the whey to drip through until you are left with a thick set yoghurt.

4. Meanwhile, add the sliced onions to a pan over a low-medium heat with a knob of butter. Cook until slightly brown, then add the ras el hanout seasoning and cook for a further 15 minutes. You can add some water if the mixture looks too dry. Allow to cool then mix with the thick yoghurt.

5. Boil a pan of salted water and blanch the chard for 2 minutes.

6. In a separate pan, toast the hazelnuts then crush up using the side of a knife.

7. Remove the carrots from salt-bake and divide onto plates with the labneh, chard and hazelnuts.

A festive side:

Brussels sprouts with pancetta and chestnuts

Serves 6 | 15 mins

Say no to boiled-into-submission sprouts! They do nothing for the reputation of this deliciously versatile vegetable. Instead, do as we do at Heirloom and pan-fry them with salty pancetta and sweet, earthy chestnuts.


1kg sprouts, scored and halved
250g pancetta, diced
250g vacuum-packed chestnuts, grated or chopped into small chunks
50ml white wine vinegar, Cabernet Sauvignon if possible

rapeseed oil


Place a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. Add the halved sprouts, diced pancetta and a splash of water to the pan along with a few knobs of butter and rapeseed oil

Once the water has evaporated, add the vinegar to the pan and cook for a further minute, or until the sprouts are nice and tender.

Add the chestnuts, stir to combine and serve as a festive side.

To finish:

Treacle loaf

alternative Christmas recipes

Serves 6 | 45 minutes

A great way to use up brown bread, we serve this treacle loaf at the restaurant throughout autumn and winter. Sticky, sweet and comforting, it’s a real crowdpleaser and makes a wonderful winter pud.


1 small brown bread loaf, chopped and crusts removed
250g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
210g golden syrup
150g black treacle
3 eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Melt the butter, sugar and syrups in a pan over a low heat, then add the bread and coat in the mixture. Set aside to cool.

2. Once cool, add the eggs and transfer to a food mixer. Blend until smooth.

3. Line a terrine or loaf tin with baking parchment and pour in the mix. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

4. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Slice and serve with a dollop of clotted cream or ice cream.

Heirloom, 35 Park Road, N8, 020 8348 3565

Need a hand in the kitchen? Try these 10 time saving strategies for Christmas cooking.

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