The organic farm restaurant has been ahead of the curve for a decade, yet it feels like its moment has finally arrived, writes Jo Rees
The rustic dining room which deals in feelgood food crafted from Riverford veggies has had plenty of plaudits over the years, including bagging The Observer’s Most Ethical Restaurant award.
Loved for its field-to-fork vibe and creative ways with veg, Riverford Field Kitchen has long been popular with Totnes types (read: environmentally aware and not afraid to eat their greens) and visiting Londoners looking to experience a taste of the Devon terroir.
Yet now it seems that this outlier – not many restaurants are 98 per cent organic or based on a farm, after all – is providing a blueprint for the future of hospitality.
VISIT for zeitgeist dining where waste is kept to an absolute minimum (the restaurant uses veggies that are too big, too small or don’t make the grade for the veg box delivery scheme), where eco-friendly organic produce is standard, and where meat and fish are the support act to vegetables.
It’s also incredibly sociable. Poor WiFi sees phones switched off in favour of conviviality and the family-style set-up (diners are cheek to cheek on school chairs and required to pass bowls of food to each other) means it’s impossible to avoid having conversations with total strangers.
DON’T VISIT if you’re a bit uptight. Eating at Riverford Field Kitchen is all about bonding with new buddies over sharing dishes while reaching across each other for the (knockout) sourdough.
WE LIKED head chef James Dodd’s inventive creations (who knew roasted jersusalem artichokes could be such a hero?) and fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants approach to menu planning: ‘I don’t know what we’ll be serving for dinner until I see what comes in in the morning’.
The vibrant food is lively and delicious and, in its home-cooking style, highlights just how lacklustre most actual home-cooking is.
To finish, six or seven homemade puddings dictate a decision-making dilemma, although the chefs are pretty nice and will let you try more than one – resulting in the sort of belly that’s usually only reserved for Christmas Day.