As we are all aware there are massive environmental factors facing us all in this day and age. And this is no different when it comes to the food that we eat and the demand for it to be sustainably sourced, ethical, plastic-free and nutritionally valuable. Something that in reality, is quite hard to achieve. Especially if you like to dine out regularly, or ‘treat yourself’ to something sweet or processed once in a while!
So when I received the invite to head over to Will Devlin’s new venture, ‘The Small Holding’ for his Farm and Forage Tour, I was most intrigued to learn all about his concept.
Many people throw about the term ‘farm to table’, ‘ethically sourced’ and my personal favorite -using only locally sourced ingredients’ but Will genuinely is doing that. Half an hour into our tour of the grounds, I tentatively and possibly a bit naively asked just how much produce he is managing to grow himself for his kitchen. Bear in mind that ‘The Small Holding’ is just that – small. It is by no means a fully-fledged working farm producing every kind of meat, and obviously, he cannot produce his own fish so let’s be realistic here, but in terms of fruit, vegetables, garnishes and meat that he can produce, I was genuinely interested. To be honest, I fully expected him to swerve the answer but to my absolute shock Will responded, ‘Everything we can physically produce here, we do. We design the menu around what we produce from this farm. And anything we don’t grow here ourselves, or we can’t forage, we source practically within walking distance.’
The ‘Farm and Forage’ day is a new concept that Will is offering through his restaurant, as a way for people to come and experience a bit of the ethos behind what the restaurant is about. When you arrive you are greeted and seated down to fresh coffee and pastries to start your morning off, followed by a tour of ‘The Small Holding’ grounds, where you see all the magnificent work that has been put in so far. Tomatoes, strawberries, herbs and everything in between is being grown here, alongside the chickens and Berkshire pigs- who are fed on a mix of pellets, kitchen scraps and acorns from the oak tree above them.
During the tour Will thoroughly explained to us the intricacies of foraging and how he got into it. We learnt so much about the different delicacies that were literally under our noses, and that typically grow in the English countryside.
After a good look around the grounds, we crossed the road and went for a stroll around the local woods. Will pointed out some more forager finds. Unfortunately, these were to be left for another day as the ground is National Trust but it was great to see things growing in the hedgerows and learn a bit more about the Kent landscape.
All that exploring worked up a hearty appetite so we headed back to the restaurant where I had a quick chat with Will’s brother Matt- General Manager and Front of House. He also looks after the wine, beer and gin lists, working with only Kent suppliers such as Greensand Ridge Distillery.
For lunch, we were treated to the Half Acre Tasting Menu. Five courses of delicious, freshly cooked and definitely locally sourced produce!!
All this deliciousness was served to us by Will himself or one of the other chefs, who you can see are equally as passionate about their work as Will is. Something that was evident from the get-go with Will was how much he valued his team at The Small Holding, his eyes really lit up with pride as he told us about how talented and hard-working they are, and how lucky he is to have such a great team.
The Small Holding is a refreshing twist on your traditional country pub. Will Devlin is creating something much more substantial than your local “boozer” here in Kilndown. Sure, you can pop in for a pint of local ale and a light bar snack with your friends, but you can also bring a loved one or friend for a more intimate and comprehensive dining experience. The Farm and Forage days are expanding his offering as a business and I would highly recommend them to anyone who is an avid foodie or who is really into sustainable food. They are educational, fun and the food is exceptional.
At the heart of The Small Holding is an extremely talented chef, a super hardworking and ambitious team, and a forward-thinking outlook helping us to understand how we can all be more aware of where our food comes from, whilst delivering top class service and quality food in an exquisite location.
Go! You won’t regret it.
To find out more or to book a table visit the website here.
All photo credit to George Gunn Photography
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