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Food review: Pennard Hill Farm near Shepton Mallet

Chef Tom cooks with wild and foraged ingredients Photo Glenn Dearing
Chef Tom cooks with wild and foraged ingredients Photo Glenn Dearing

‘I wasn’t sure if I should have worn my wellies,’ said my neighbour as she sat down next to me. ‘I didn’t know what to expect when it said we’d be eating in a barn.’

I admitted that I’d also debated whether my suede heels were the best choice of footwear for an evening on a farm, and that at the last minute had decided to grab a thick cardigan – just in case the barn proved to be a bit chilly.

As it turns out our fears were entirely unfounded, and neither wellies nor knitwear were required at the Pennard Hill Farm Feast Night. Far from being damp and draughty, the ‘barn’ was, in fact, a gloriously chic and cosy space full of rustic charm and homely touches. The Feasting Barn is one ofthe most recent developments to the farm in East Pennard, which over the years has grown into a stunning wedding venue, glamping site and holiday cottages overlooking the Glastonbury Festival site.

Great British Life: A menu full of wild and foraged food Photo Amelia JohnsonA menu full of wild and foraged food Photo Amelia Johnson

Downstairs is a space perfect for mingling with a drink in hand, while you watch the evening’s menu roasting in the huge wood-fired oven. Upstairs is the light and airy dining space with beautiful wooden beams criss-crossing the ceiling.

The business is run by husband and wife team Pippa and Tom Godber-Ford Moore, with Pippa handling the day-to-day running of the weddings, cottages and glamping, and Tom – a trained chef – looking after the catering for weddings and during the Glastonbury Festival – and now the new Feast Nights.

Great British Life: Pippa and Tom Godber-Ford Moore Photo Georgina PrestonPippa and Tom Godber-Ford Moore Photo Georgina Preston

The Feast Nights will be taking place regularly, and are a chance for Tom to flex his (not inconsiderable) culinary muscles, as well as showcasing some of the region’s finest ingredients. Each event will have a different theme, with game and wild food taking centre stage on the night we dined. The game was all sourced from around the south west, from Tom’s network of contacts, and the wild food was foraged and harvested by Tom himself.

The feasting began as soon as we arrived, with a table laid out with home-cured charcuterie and focaccia studded with herbs and slathered with lovage butter to nibble while the guests assembled and enjoyed a welcome drink.

Bites of insanely more-ish buttermilk pheasant laced with truffle and parmesan were passed around the room. With a perfectly crunchy coating, succulent meat and a touch of luxury they were like the best fried chicken you’ve ever tasted. These were followed by rabbit croquettes – the soft, rich meat perfectly offset by the bright sharpness of fermented and pickled wild garlic.

Great British Life: Salad of wood pigeon, blackberry, elderberry and cobnuts Photo Emma DanceSalad of wood pigeon, blackberry, elderberry and cobnuts Photo Emma Dance

A starter of wood pigeon demonstrated Tom’s mastery of flavours. Alongside the soft slivers of perfectly pink pigeon sat sharp end-of-season blackberries, sweet, sometimes even slightly floral elderberry, the warm toasty flavours of cobnuts and the salty tang of a goats’ cheese cream that tugged the flavours firmly back into the realms of savoury just before the fruit and nut flavours could let it stray anywhere too sweet.

From the wood fire came wood roast partridge which had been embraced by the smoke just long enough to give it a bitter sweet bonfire tang, but without overwhelming the delicate flavour of the meat. To brand the accompanying platefuls as side dishes would be doing them a disservice – each one was utterly delicious and, on another day, would be perfectly able to hold its own in the spotlight. Nduja queen beans had just the right amount of heat from the spicy sausage to tickle, rather than slap, the tastebuds, while an ember baked onion squash was sweet, nutty and almost spoonably soft, and laced with a whipped Westcombe ricotta that added a cool, creaminess to the mix.

Great British Life: The first Pennard Hill Feast Night Photo Amelia JohnsonThe first Pennard Hill Feast Night Photo Amelia Johnson

Pudding was an unusual take on a classic panna cotta, the set cream flavoured with fig leaf and garnished with wild fennel grapes, Tuscan oil and burnt fig leaf salt. The fig leaf flavour was very subtle and the oil and salt almost brought it into savoury territory more than once.It was intriguing and challenging – perhaps a brave choice for such an occasion – and it seemed to split the room. For anyone hoping for a sweet, sugary finale it probably didn’t hit the mark, but for those happy with a more surprising end it was fun final twist in the tale.

The evening certainly lived up to its claim of being a ‘feast’ and was a wonderful opportunity to get a peek at a glorious venue as well as try the cooking of an imaginative, and highly accomplished chef. If you’re travelling from further afield, or just want to imbibe a few beverages from the bar, then there’s accommodation available too. The next feast night on January 27 will feature wood roast beef from the pedigree Guernsey herd at Brown Cow Organics, and on February 10 it’s all about wood roast wild venison from the wilds of Exmoor.. pennardhillfarm.co.uk

Great British Life: The wood oven at the heart of the new Feasting Barn Photo Glenn DearingThe wood oven at the heart of the new Feasting Barn Photo Glenn Dearing



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