I don’t often venture outside Bath for my reviews – basically, dear reader, it comes down to the fact that I don’t have a car, so I tend to stick to Bath’s brilliant centre where I can walk everywhere. But sometimes I can be tempted to leave the city by something exceptionally exciting and wonderful – and I found just that thing recently, in The Freerange Chef’s Fireside Supper Club, at The Farm Camp.
|Dinner in fairyland|
Winding down the narrow leafy lanes outside the city and then bumping up a long farm track, you find yourself transported to the lovely Farm Camp, a secret spot for weekend getaways that combines glamping with a little getting back to nature. Arriving at supper hour with a view across rolling hills in the dusk, and the welcoming smells of woodsmoke and fine food cooking, I half expected to spot Bilbo and Gandalf enjoying a pipe together by the fire – it’s a magical little place. A tent built with huge cruck frame timbers was tucked just under the fringe of a little woodland, flaps open at one end to give us a glimpse of a long wooden table lit by softly glowing lanterns and strings of twinkling fairy lights, and decorated with posies of bright flowers, miniature pumpkins and handfuls of conkers. The soft autumn air was filled with delicious aromas, and there was a fire crackling away in an open stove to warm us (alongside a good glass of red wine). It was absolutely perfect and utterly charming – I was sold instantly.
|Everything is lovelier by lamplight|
Settling ourselves down at the long table, we got chatting to the rest of the guests, who were a lovely bunch, everyone seeming to find themselves just as enchanted by the gorgeous setting as I was. And once we were all well-supplied with wine, Beth (alias The Freerange Chef) began to bring out platters of her incredible food. The first was a selection of delicious little nibbles to start – piles of her famous falafel made with mushrooms and sundried tomatoes, tangy crunchy pickled cauliflower, a wonderful broad bean and garlic dip (with a little bowl of smoked nuts and seeds to sprinkle on top) and a bright fatoush salad. I’ve met Beth’s famous falafel before so I made a beeline for those – she really is a falafel wizard, they’re always absolutely delicious – but I loved the broad bean dip too, while my dining companion was very much taken with the cauliflower.
|Green beans with sage & walnut pesto|
For ‘middles’, as Beth called them on the menu, we were tantalised with even more delicious smells, as the heaped dishes were passed one by one down the table – steamed green beans bathed in sage and walnut pesto, a jewel-bright carrot, beetroot and fennel salad, stuffed aubergines in a rich tomato sauce and piles of rosemary focaccia fresh from warming at the stove. I had seconds of absolutely everything and wiped my plate clean with an extra piece of focaccia (I didn’t want to waste a single bit of the pesto, which was amazing), but for me the star of this course was the stuffed aubergine, which was full of glorious flavour and texture.
|Sticky toffee pudding looking sensuous in the candlelight|
Finally, the heaped platters returned laden with desserts – squares of sticky toffee pudding decorated with fresh figs and flower petals (with a little tin jug of fragrant golden toffee sauce, alongside), pumpkin custard tarts topped with pecans, and clouds of feather-light syllabub bejewelled with little inky-purple blackberries. I’m usually a sucker for the savoury courses but this really was the high point of the night for me – the toffee pudding was fabulously indulgent, sweet and sticky without being too heavy, and the syllabub was the perfect balance of fruity and boozy. I have to admit the custard tarts didn’t do much for me – but that’s honestly the only thing I can think of that wasn’t note-perfect.
|Beautiful boozy syllabub|
Such a glorious setting would have been a joy even without the food, but having such a banquet in such an atmosphere was truly unforgettable – this will go down as one of my favourite reviews of the year. Initially Beth and Tim (the brains behind the Farm Camp) were planning to test the waters with this one and return next summer, but the reception has been so good there are now whispers of festive supper clubs to come – and if they do, you absolutely must nab yourself a place. Don’t worry about anything as boring as the weather – we were lucky to have a crisp autumn night, but we’d have been utterly cosy and comfortable in the tent, by the fire, with a glass of wine, anyway – simply transport yourself to Hobbiton for dinner under the party tree. I promise you won’t want to come back.