After a devastating fire ripped down the original River Cottage HQ barn 18 months ago, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s iconic Devon based barn and restaurant, reopens with a state of the art new cookery school, events menu and rebuilt barn.
Visiting Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage is a little like stepping foot into your imaginary life, where you grow your own, cook up inspired dishes with local produce and generally spend your days gazing out onto sun drench countryside, for as far as the eye can see. Sadly reality is very different. And as Londoners we’re lucky if even a farmers market pops up in our area.
We were privileged though, to experience a little of the good life first hand, as we headed down to the idyllic Devon/Dorest border, for the relaunch of River Cottage HQ’s beautiful new barn.
We’ve all seen Hugh do his thing at River Cottage on TV, but in the flesh the working farm is vast, all 66 acres of it. Hugh himself is as charismatic as he is on TV and genuinely full of that wholesome, organic charm he’s become known for.
The food lived up to the River Cottage reputation too, as the farm was transformed into a gastronomic festival. From strawberry stalls to a makeshift, outdoor pizza oven run by the chef school’s apprentices, there was plenty of treats to choose from.
But it was the new barn that we were all there to celebrate, and no more so than Hugh himself. After the fire devastated the property 18 months ago making headlines around the world, it was with sheer determination and support from not only the River Cottage team, but locals and fans from around the globe that got the barn back up and running, better than ever before.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the team worked so hard to get things back on track after the fire. The rebuilding has allowed us to shape and design the space so that it is an even better venue,” said Hugh of the restoration, “It’s such a pleasure to be welcoming our guests again into this stunning space.”
It now boasts a state of the art teaching area, where young aspiring chefs can earn accredited qualifications and amateurs like us can hone our at-home skills with a vast menu of one to four-day courses. Whether you’ve always wanted to nail it at baking, or brush up on your fish skills, you can do so looking out onto the rolling fields of Dorset.
Although the fire was a travesty for River Cottage and the team that worked so hard to make the farm what it has become, it’s a true example that great things can come from utter travesties.
For more information on River Cottage HQ, their events and cookery courses visit their website, www.rivercottage.net.