Top Bristol Chefs get a ‘Sense of Place’ at The Ethicurean

The Award-winning Ethicurean restaurant near Bristol played host to Monday’s Chefs’ Forum event majoring on sustainability and sense of place.   Matthew Pennington, Iain Pennington, Paûla Zarate and Jack Adair Bevan are the team behind this beautiful green oasis on the outskirts of Bristol.  Top chefs from Bristol and surrounds flocked to the beautiful Barley Wood walled garden in Wrington for a day of cookery demos, knowledge-sharing and a tour of the fantastic produce grown in the garden.

The gardener at Barley Wood is Mark Cox who grows a huge array of vegetables some of which are heritage and heirloom varieties. Espaliers and cordon fruit trees spray and fan, blossoming in spring to create a lacy blur against the warm brick walls that frame this remarkable creation.

The Ethicurean, voted 75 the top 100 top restaurants in the UK (National Restaurant Awards) prides itself on being virtually self sufficient, growing its own produce and sourcing other ingredients on a very local level.  It is this minimal food mile operation and ingredients in situe that determines the ‘Sense of Place’ phenonmenon on which the menu is founded.

Matthew Pennington, one of the chef owners of The Ethicurean described ‘Sense of Place’ as “the idea of having a connection with the native land, its history and the community who grow food locally upon it. Our family team seek to discover harmonious pairings between the ingredients that surround the walled garden”.

Guests were welcomed by Chefs’ Forum Founder Catherine Farinha and the attending chefs were then treated to cookery demonstrations from Matthew and Ian Pennington showcasing preserving techniques and what makes them sustainable. The talented brothers showcased preservation and curing techniques used in the restaurant.

The Ethicurean is about to launch a series of food master classes open to all in such specialisms as wild food fermentation, curing, cheese making, game butchery and chef-led foraging walks.  These will commence in October 2014 and further details are on

 TV Chef, Arthur Potts Dawson (The Peoples Supermarket, Channel 4) assisted by Ben Debreceni, a first year student at Weston College wowed guests with his demonstration of Italian-style rose veal.  Whilst cooking, Arthur spoke to the chefs on the importance of working with young people.  His dish, vitello tonnato was a real hit with the chefs showcased sustainable ingredients and salad from the Barley Wood Walled Garden.

The Chefs’ Forum was founded here in Bristol in November 2011 and has since expanded to include highly accredited chefs, catering colleges and top suppliers from London to Cornwall and as far as Kent.

Catherine Farinha, Founder of The Chefs’ Forum and event organiser stated:
We are so lucky to have such a naturally beautiful venue like this on our doorstep.  The Chefs, most of whom were on their only day off, relished the opportunity to meet with their peers, network and learn about some of the fantastic techniques like fermentation and pickling to minimise waste and use everything grown at The Ethicurean Walled Garden.

The Ethicurean also sources vegetables from The Community Farm which grows organic vegetables on 22 acres of land in the Chew Valley a couple of fields away. From here, it operates a vegetable box delivery scheme, as well as providing wholesale supplies to local eateries.   Open days are also on offer as well as courses and volunteering opportunities to promote knowledge and understanding of sustainable farming and food provenance.

Forum Member Chris Wicks, Executive Chef at Old Down Manor and Founder Committee member of The Chefs’ Forum, said: ‘I have been involved in this fantastic movement since its inception in 2010. Since then it has grown to become a credible industry organisation, supporting chefs and staging interesting events.  The Chefs’ Forum opens up communication channels and that is something really positive for the industry’.

Photography by Andrew Plant (Imagine Photographic).