Inspired by the title of a well-known film, I bring you the following:
“The Chef, the farm, the restaurant, and his diners”.
That would be non-other than Mr. Dave Kennedy himself. Dave is a passionate chef, dedicated to quality food made from the best ingredients, at a fair price.
He is no stranger to working at the sharp end of cuisine having previously worked in his earlier career at several Michelin-starred restaurants in London. I believe he possibly began at The Grosvenor House in London, as a third commis chef, but showed his talents to good enough effect that they had him joining the top Tyneside venue, 21 Queen Street; he possibly even plied his craft at The Apartment and Eslington Villa along the way.
Dave even found time to be named North East Chef of the Year in 2007 and won a string of top accolades for the Black Door, his first foray into being an independent Chef in his own Gaff.
The Black Door moved to newer and very much more contemporary premises at the Biscuit Factory Art Gallery in Shieldfield, before renaming the restaurant David Kennedy’s Food Social (now called Artisan @ The Biscuit) when he and his former business partner went in different directions.
Our quiet, self-effacing Mr. Kennedy opened David Kennedy’s River Café on the North Shields Fish Quay, which achieved a solid reputation and a Michelin Bib Gourmand after just 12 months of opening.
This is Vallum farm a proper working farm owned by the lovely couple that are Peter & Vicky Moffit.
I will name the Epicurean Enterprise “ The Vallum Farm Food-Village Courtyard” and who knows it may even catch on.
Embracing modern farming and business diversification, Vallum is the home of Ken & Tracy Holland’s North Country Growers. They specialise in micro and heritage vegetables. Ken is something of a legend and an innovative grower, his knowledge and produce are very much in demand by some of the finest Chefs and restaurants in the country.
The Food village is also home to the very excellent Bywell Fish and Game Smokery, Murray Rhind artisan baker, The Vallum Tea Rooms (where they serve their own fantastic, award-winning home-produced ice cream) Vallum Farm Shop, a wildflower florist and Grant’s Butchers.
This place is worth the trip out and is bang on the Roman Wall walking pathway. Don’t be surprised if one day you see they have managed to add accommodation for the weary traveler and the Food Tourist looking to indulge maximally at the farm’s fabulous epicurean enterprises.
David Kennedy at Vallum
The Cow Barn
It stands newly built in the cover of the old cow barn. The kitchens are visible to the public from the Farm Shop downstairs. The produce in the shop is dedicated as much as possible to local produce, and those things that have definable quality, Murray Rhind’s artisan bread made on the premises is a must-buy as is Ken Holland’s veg grown from the field behind the tea room.
The comfortable and unpretentious restaurant upstairs has a magnificent view through its large windows (in good light and clement weather of course) of the surrounding countryside.
The imaginative menu changes as the availability of the produce changes, sometimes day by day. To be able to walk from the kitchen into the meat locker, the dairy, the bakery, the smokery and out into the field to choose the best freshest vegetables that clever old Ken Holland has to offer every day must be Food Heaven!
No prize sorry yup that’s me again and the Mrs Zap.
Well enough of that eh! What did we eat?
It would be rude not to snack on a little of the Great Baker, Murray’s bready bounty, so while we looked at the menu and scanned it a couple of times we made sure we had some freshly made bread and a dunking of the oil and balsamic. The bread is just fabulous, light and flavoursome. We had a lovely, soft wholemeal and a bubbled ciabatta. Honestly at that point if you had just thrown cheese at me I might have just made it a meal.
Starter for me was the Truffled ham hock pressing with the mustard dressing and bacon salad.
Oh what a savoury big hammy slab of meatiness that was. A good slice packed with loads to chew on, dotted with herbs, crunchy crispbread, fresh salad and the glory that is TRUFFLE OIL. Yes, it has to be said I am partial to TRUFFLE OIL; the bacon bringing in little bangs of intense flavour while the mustard dressing offering a piccalilli zip.
For the Memsahib it was the marinated Vallum beets, Ribblesdale goats curd and tunnel shoots.
At first sight you would think one really should not eat it, but just stare at the colours and arrangement on the plate. The curd was cloud-soft and mildly tangy, distinctly goaty but not overwhelming. Ken Holland and his crew are Veg Gods I am sure. The beets were earthy, sweet, crunchy and succulent. True beauty on a plate. Food miles? Pah! Food yards more like.
On to the mains. For me roast rump of lamb, Montgomery & rosemary polenta, sprouting broccoli, with a side of buttered kale and spinach.
The jus oozed intense lamb and garlic flavour )the roasted whole cloves helping that along nicely), the meat a good portion size and beautifully pink wonderfully succulent, raised up on the farm fresh broccoli, and lurking beneath a herb scented, orange and crisp seared polenta block. Everything fitted together fabulously.
The vibrant colour of the vegetable sides is quite simply beautiful.
Mrs Zaps opted for the Fillet of turbot, morel risotto, salsify and wilted greens.
The risotto was superbly flavoured with the morels, their earthy mushroom taste not overwhelming delicate salsify in the slightest. The risotto was moist and complimented the excellently cooked turbot, juicy sweet and the perfect sear to add colour and surface crisping.
Throughout our choice of wine, a 2012 Domaine Coste Viognier Grenache was a good match for taste. I would have liked a glug of soft, fat red with my lamb but I was driving so I paced myself well. The Viognier was crisp, citrusy, clear with a soft rich fruit finish. So well-behaved was I, we even had half a bottle to drink on our return home.
Desserts were a sharing half/half experience as is our norm. Apple and date tart tatin, caramel ice cream was one and the other, lemon tart, lemon sorbet, salt butter caramel.
Oh Dear Lord! I think I might return and just settle in for my own pudding club so I can just have dessert for my entire meal, eating my way through the dessert menu might overload my arteries and give my pancreas a hammering but what the hell it would be a glorious event.
Sadly I did not take the picture of the apple and date tart tatin soon enough as I was busy pfaffing about with the iphone camera doodah so the ice cream had softened a tad. However it was a dessert of the highest order, sweet with a marvellous stickiness, easy on the eye, smelling wonderful and the apple soft but with some texture remaining. I had to wipe the plate clean with my finger I must admit, simply because the spoon was not up to the job.
The lemon lemony tart was sharp, sweet, and rich (all gloriously lemony, I mean really lemony) and achieved the golf score of a-hole-in-one. The salty caramel was terribly appealing I must report.
My/our thanks to all at the restaurant who had their hand in the show, deliberately or by happenstance. And thanks too to everyone plying their trade at The Vallum Farm Food Village Courtyard. A little bird tells me we have to keep our eye open for Vicky & Peter Moffit’s cheese soon too. How simply divine.