Guest Blog about the Kitchen by Peter Jones, Member of the Guild of Food Writers – My Comfort Blanket!
A bit of an intro to Peter Jones, Member of the Guild of Food Writers ….. Peter is one of those extraordinary men that has turned a passion for food and photography into a business and has recently become a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Peter, his wife Pam and his daughter Sam have become very good friends of Anthony and I, since we moved to the area 15 years ago. Peter is a total legend – he has taken brilliant photographs for us over the years – both for our businesses, for our customers and of our family on memorable occasions.
Peter also shares with us a great insight into the restaurant industry – both locally and further afield, most recently his job took him eating and drinking in the South of France, admittedly we were insanely jealous! Over to Peter who has very kindly agreed to write some words about the evolution from The Butchers Arms to The Inn and to The Kitchen today …….
There has been an Inn in the Warwickshire village of Farnborough for several hundred years though I have only been using it for just over fifty years. Firstly, back in the sixties when as a young stud living in Warwick its location provided many opportunities on the drive back to “run out of petrol “or “would you like to look at the stars”!
But since 1970 I have lived just a couple of fields away and it has become a sort of comfort blanket, the building gives off great vibes, always comfortable, always welcoming it wraps itself around you whether it be in the middle of winter or a hot summers day.
And of course over the years I have seen several landlords come and go one of the earliest being a friend of mine Neville Richardson from Warwick who bought the Butchers Arms, as it was in those days with his lump sum when leaving the Army.
Later years saw the arrival Jim and Sue Hilton who enlarged the building and picked up a couple of dining awards, I also remember Andrew Knight who could cook steak like no one else I have ever met before or since, he and his mother ran the very popular New Inn at Wroxton Heath for many years.
Then just over fifteen years ago a rumour circulated that it had been bought by a top London chef, the locals around here do exaggerate, and that heralded the arrival of Team Robinson, ironically taking over from the then current incumbents who shared the same surname.
After a very short period of closing for refurbishment it reopened under its new name, The Inn at Farnborough and on day one I went for lunch, now us simple country folk in those days only knew two shades of paint, white and magnolia, but here it was resplendent in a new colour that none of could pronounce never mind seen before and at the windows had trendy slatted blinds.
My first meal which we ate in the garden was a hot salad of bacon and chicken livers and nice crispy bread, exciting times no more chicken in the basket or scampi on the menu but trendy food just like they eat in London, and the radio in the bar was tuned into a French Radio station…..this was almost too much for a poor boy from Warwick.
We enjoyed ourselves so much we went back just a day or two later only to be thrown out!!
It was a Monday and I was told very politely and very firmly that we don’t open on Mondays, I remember it very clearly as Mrs R was sat at the bar writing in a Filofax with a pen, how times change these days we all use our phones and tablets though I did see a Filofax in a museum recently.
Anthony and Jo are great family people but are lucky to have two families, their own children and relatives and The Inn Family which over the years has grown and grown, they are great party people and we have celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, 5 years, 10 years and 15 years’ celebrations of the original opening meeting old and new friends alike.
But Jo and Anthony do not stand still, The Inn has constantly evolved new and interesting additions to the menu, including a couple of failures, subtle changes to the décor and of course a regular change in front of house personnel. It is a sad fact that in the hospitality industry that there is a big turnover in staff, but Jo and Anthony have always chosen very carefully and ensured a warm welcome from Paul and Kate in the beginning right up you Jo and Emily now.
Jo and Anthony, their children Charlie and Emily and Jo’s great dad Dennis are great travellers and in recent years The Inn reflected those travels, Papaya Salads appeared on the menu following a trip to Malaysia, proper pizzas after Italy, fish dishes from Cornwall and even Biltong appearing on the bar after a safari in South Africa.
But as I said earlier the Robinson’s don’t stand still and this year saw the biggest change of the lot, not just a change of colour but a complete rebranding, new furniture, new lighting, new menu in fact a brand new concept different again to anything else around here…. The Kitchen at Farnborough and Country House eating has arrived.
The food is described as Rustic British Cooking, ingredients are sourced locally some as local as just outside the front door where herbs are growing in funky painted wine boxes, and at this time of the year wild garlic is growing in abundance in the village as are the wild primroses that add colour to the plates of fabulous food being produced by the hard working and inventive team in the kitchen.
A huge handmade pizza oven sits outside in the smoke shack from which delicious authentic pizzas and home baked bread are produced and if weather allows eaten alfresco on the colourful tables in the garden.
They say that imitation is the greatest form of flattery and many of the eating establishment in the area have mirrored what the Robinsons have done in Farnborough, and whilst many may have matched it none have bettered it. Indeed, as I write one local establishment is now also offering pizzas on a Sunday afternoon, I am sure another is about to paint its outside tables in some obscure Farrow and Ball shade and my favourite is one claiming that its food is “locally sauced”.
So there we have it The Kitchen at Farnborough…. Exciting, vibrant, funky and head and shoulders above anywhere locally though I am frightened to think what Team Robinson will do next because don’t expect them to stand still…but whatever, it is it will always be my comfort blanket.