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Menuwatch: the Wild Rabbit

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Menuwatch: the Wild Rabbit

The Daylesford estate provides fantastic produce which the chefs are using to their great advantage, says Lisa Jenkins

Alyn Williams and Nathan Eades share a love and appreciation of fresh produce and ingredients, which puts them in a good place together at the Wild Rabbit – a British inn with rooms in Kingham, Oxfordshire.

The restaurant is on the Daylesford Estate, one of the most sustainable organic farms in the UK, owned by Lord and Lady Bamford.

Eades describes how, when Williams joined in April 2018, they visited the estate’s market garden. “We were so excited. To see a veteran chef like Alyn so enthusiastic about the ingredients and produce is quite inspiring.

“It’s a massive benefit to have him here with us in a senior role [chef-patron]. He’s got incredible credentials and I’m still a bit raw – not quite the finished article – so to be able to bounce ideas off him is superb.”

Alyn Williams and Nathan Eades
Alyn Williams and Nathan Eades

Head chef Eades, who previously worked at one-Michelin-starred Simpsons in Birmingham, says Williams’ enthusiasm is contagious around the kitchen and front of house team. “He’s got nothing to prove but he’s still so passionate. I’m enjoying working alongside him.”

Eades says the food is a team effort. “The new Wye Valley asparagus salad (£13), with pickled onion, whipped goats’ curd, walnut purée, pain Poilâne and Jez Taylor’s leaves is my favourite right now. It’s a celebration of our head gardener Jez’s expertise with a variety of salad leaves.”

He says the dish is based on the Daylesford salad from the lunch menu, which is created by Williams and a good example of the chef’s style. Eades’ dish of heritage tomatoes with cured mackerel, shallot and coriander, served with a dashi cracker and matcha tea, was inspired by his travels to Bangkok. It has a umami flavour and performs as a palate cleanser, positioned as the third dish on the six-course tasting menu (£65 per person without wines).

wild-rabbit

Currently, the Wootton Estate lamb is the bestselling dish: loin and shoulder accompanied by miso-roasted aubergine, courgette, tomato and olive tapenade sauce. An early-summer peach melba dessert with new season peach, English raspberries, white chocolate and tofu (to thicken the chocolate and make it a vegetarian dish) also sells well.

The estate culls eight cows per week in its own abattoir in Staffordshire, but this is shared between the Wild Rabbit, two farm restaurants, four Daylesford Cafés in London and the Bamfords’ own personal use. They also buy meat from Todenham Manor Farm in nearby Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire.

Crab, Sharpham Mill spelt, cauliflower, Berkswell cheese
Crab, Sharpham Mill spelt, cauliflower, Berkswell cheese

Both chefs believe organic ingredients are vital, and Eades says produce from the estate’s dairy is the best he’s tasted. “Richard Smith [senior farms manager] and his team also produce organic poussin; to my knowledge we are the only eatery consistently serving organic British poussin.”

Eades continues to use many suppliers from his Simpsons days, such as Flying Fish, Ritter Courivaud and Aubrey Allen. He has also brought in specialist companies like Sauce Fine Foods and Channel Fisheries. He adds: “We use a lot of foraged ingredients from the hedgerows and wildflower meadows on the estate. It would be criminal not to.”

There’s also a simple bar snacks menu, including Scotch eggs, goujons and steak and chips. The clientele is a mixed bag and the business must satisfy city workers up for long weekends, walkers, tourists and locals. Eades says: “Foremost, it’s a community pub [there are around 800 people in Kingham] and the locals are just as important as our visitors.”

Heritage tomatoes with cured mackerel, shallot, coriander, dashi cracker, matcha tea
Heritage tomatoes with cured mackerel, shallot, coriander, dashi cracker, matcha tea

The restaurant is open from Wednesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner and Eades and Williams are working hard to create a business with continuity and consistency. The restaurant’s previous chef, Tim Allen, received a Michelin star in October 2015 and Williams and Eades must be on the same course. However, they say that the next six months are all about making the business a success and “if the accolades come, they come”.

“The Wild Rabbit has its own identity,” says Eades. “And we are hoping to build upon that success by keeping the Daylesford Estate integral to our cuisine. We go up to the garden three or four times a week, picking as much produce as we need, as well as venison and pheasants after the shoots. For any chef, it truly is a dream.”

Peach melba: peach, English raspberries, white chocolate, tofu
Peach melba: peach, English raspberries, white chocolate, tofu

From the menu
Starters
• Crispy Daylesford egg, Jerusalem artichoke broth, black truffle, watercress £13.50
• Organic chicken and duck liver, shiitake mushroom, onion, beer vinegar £16
• Cornish plaice, chervil root, sunflower, mussels, whey £14.50

Mains
• Heritage carrots, gingerbread, Sharpham mill spelt, buttermilk, Swiss chard £22.50
• Halibut, chestnut mushroom, lardo, onion, red wine sauce £28
• Creedy Carver duck, organic kale, swede, lingonberries, yeast £30

Desserts
• Walnut parfait and sponge, orange curd, crème fraîche £8
• Salted caramel, peanut butter, banana, caramelised puff pastry, miso £8

The Wild Rabbit, Kingham, Chipping Norton Oxfordshire OX7 6YA www.thewildrabbit.co.uk

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