If you have read my previous post about Trill Farm, you would know the main reason of my trip to the countryside was to visit River Cottage HQ but was disappointed to find that when we arrived, we weren’t able to just go and have a look around as we weren’t booked on a course or didn’t have tickets. When we booked our trip, we did look to see if there were any events or meals on the days we were were but there wasn’t, so we had booked into the Canteen restaurant in Axminster instead, around a 15 min drive from where we were staying.
We had booked for 7pm and were there a bit early so it wasn’t very busy. There were a few people sitting around but the place looked and felt really quiet. It was quite strange actually because from the front the restaurant looked completely empty as they sat everyone at the back. The back did look a lot better though, it had high ceilings with exposed beams and a kind of barn like feel. It was cool to see it after seeing it plenty of times on the River Cottage shows.
Our waiter was really friendly and they had pre prepared the menus with GF next to dishes my friend and I could both eat. We started with a delicious white Pedro Ximenez from Chile that was not too sweet, really full bodied and delicious.
To start we decided to share the pork scratchings with rhubarb from the nibbles menu and then the braised cuttlefish with orange, chilli and fennel. The pork scratchings worked so well with the rhubarb, I sent a pic to my friend who thought it was weird but it absolutely worked! The sharpness of the rhubarb cut through the fat of the scratchings and even made them feel lighter/healthier so I would definitely try them again.
I was surprised with the cuttlefish, I had assumed it would be a fresh salad like dish with only the cuttlefish being braised but everything was braised together. A new flavour which I enjoyed was the quartered orange that was braised so you could eat it skin and all with a spoon. It was slightly bitter but sweet and juicy still and I think it would really work with slow cooked pork too. The cuttlefish somehow stayed tender and there was a good hit of chilli as well. I was glad I was sharing the dish as I think it would’ve been too much on it’s own.
There were only a couple of dishes we could have on the main menu, one being a polenta dish and the other being a Devon Rose Veal burger with Canteen chips and Trill Farm salad. Although I love polenta, I could eat it almost anywhere so my friend and I ended up both ordering the Rose Veal burger. Now veal has a bad reputation because across Europe they are farmed really badly, in poor conditions and don’t ever get to see the light of day. Veal is a meat from a male dairy calf, which sadly doesn’t have much other use in the grown up world. Rose veal are brought up in small groups in social pens where there is plenty of natural light and are free to run outside. Their food is as natural as possible with a mixture of milk and straw to develop their digestive system. It’s the only veal I would ever eat, as at least their short life was made enjoyable and at least they are made use of instead of just being shot when they’re born.
When we were waiting for our burgers the waiter went to the pass to remind the chefs they were gluten free, and I heard the chefs starting to moan about it. It was a little unprofessional and made me feel a bit awkward, especially as we were sitting near the kitchen and could almost hear everything!
Anyway, the burgers were delivered and were served on their own (no sauce or anything) in 2 pieces of gluten free bread without butter or anything. I thought it was a bit strange, so asked the waiter if this is normal and he said yes, you’re meant to sauce it to your liking and he recommends loads of tomato sauce and mayo. We did as he said and it was actually REALLY good! The picture doesn’t sell it at all so I don’t blame you if you think I’m fibbing. The burger was so juicy and tender and had amazing flavour, it was everything I always want my burger to be in terms of seasoning and tenderness. It came with Trill Farm salad which we had had at the farm during the day, then Canteen chips that were delicious! They were at least triple cooked, with a lovely brown coating and crunch and super fluffy in the middle.
We were too full for dessert so just finished our wine and paid our bill. What I was confused about was the sign on the wall next to us that listed all of the suppliers they used as I thought a lot would just come from River Cottage Farm? I mean they are still using local suppliers or course and they can’t supply everything for themselves but I just thought that was the original point of it, but maybe I am wrong!
Overall it was really good, I think we paid near to £30 each for everything including tip so I would say it’s more of a special occasion thing. I would recommend trying it, as everything was cooked well and there were interesting and seasonal food combinations too. We completed the survey at the end of the meal and just the other day I was emailed a personal thank you and an offer to dine with them again with 10% off. I thought that was a nice touch, but don’t know if I will make it back again!
Have you been to a River Cottage Canteen? What did you think?