An ex­clu­sive look at the chef’s new col­lab­o­ra­tion with Iona Craw­ford

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

IAM be­ing driven at such speed I can hardly take in my sur­round­ings. My driver brakes and ac­cel­er­ates ex­pertly as he nav­i­gates hill and glen. From my lim­ited van­tage point, I spot leaves on the early au­tumn turn, over­grown beech hedges drip­ping in the driz­zle, half-shorn sheep and newly turned fields whose raw soil echoes the over­cast sky. As we rattle along, I feel com­pelled to com­mit to mem­ory the route taken, just in case. But it’s no good: all I know is I’m head­ing to a top se­cret lo­ca­tion in deep­est, glo­ri­ous Perthshire.

Abruptly we turn into a ma­jes­tic drive­way and af­ter a cou­ple of hun­dred me­tres I’m given the sig­nal to alight, pronto. I see an an­cient high stone wall cov­ered in ivy rise out of the tree-lined av­enue. Just at that mo­ment the sun bursts through the cloud and I’m greeted by An­drew Fair­lie stand­ing be­fore a faded teal-painted wooden door that spells out Our Se­cret Gar­den. Try­ing not to gig­gle, he beckons me in.

Then, with a typ­i­cally mod­est ges­ture from Scot­land’s most cel­e­brated chef, I’m granted the Big Re­veal. I take off my metaphor­i­cal blind­fold as Gre­gor Mathieson, Fair­lie’s busi­ness part­ner and the “gate­keeper” of this in­trigu­ing project, lifts the latch, opens the door, and walks with me down a well-tended path, on both sides of which a ver­i­ta­ble mar­ket gar­den of veg­eta­bles and fruits and herbs thrive, and past the re­stored orig­i­nal glasshouse of this beau­ti­ful 19th cen­tury walled gar­den.

It’s here that Fair­lie has fi­nally re­alised the dream he’s held since he opened his epony­mous res­tau­rant at the Gle­nea­gles Ho­tel some miles up (or down) the road in 2001, re­gain­ing the Miche­lin star he’d orig­i­nally at­tracted in 1996 and main­tained for five years at Glas­gow’s One Devon­shire Gar­dens. Res­tau­rant An­drew Fair­lie has had two Miche­lin stars con­sis­tently since 2006 and re­mains unique in Scot­land. Hav­ing the lux­ury of grow­ing his own veg­eta­bles, fruit, herbs and flow­ers and cook­ing with them at the peak of fresh­ness has, he has said, “changed his life” and gal­vanised his cook­ing and his du marche, de­gus­ta­tion and a la carte menus be­yond recog­ni­tion. It has also been a source of so­lace as he con­tin­ues his health bat­tle with a par­tial brain tu­mour. He doesn’t want to talk about that strug­gle to­day, apart from say­ing that he con­tin­ues to live with it.

“The gar­den is a very calm­ing in­flu­ence and I am sure it has had a ben­e­fi­cial ef­fect,” the 52-year-old, who started cook­ing at age 15 and is now one of 160 Grands Chefs du Monde, once told me. “It might be peace­ful and quiet, but there’s an en­ergy in these plants that is so dif­fer­ent from the crazy en­ergy of the kitchen. Hav­ing this gar­den is the most ex­cit­ing thing that’s hap­pened since the start of my ca­reer. It’s given me a new di­rec­tion and a whole new lease of life.”

As I tread gin­gerly to­wards a shaded table in the mid­dle of the gar­den I spot head gar­dener Jo Camp­bell – who came here from Ray­mond Blanc’s gar­den at le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Ox­ford­shire – tend­ing late sum­mer her­itage toma­toes, cour­gettes and a breath­tak­ing va­ri­ety of edi­ble cresses in the glasshouse. I see trees heavy with her­itage ap­ples and pears and, be­yond the bor­der fence, a flock of dun-coloured Castlemilk Moorit sheep, a Scot­tish rare breed, and the pride of the pri­vate es­tate owner from whom Fair­lie has leased the walled gar­den – on con­di­tion that it re­main incog­nito to the gen­eral public.

But it’s what I see in the cen­tre of this earthly Perthshire par­adise that takes my breath away. Un­der the cool­ing shade of a large can­vas awning is a wooden picnic table laid with a col­lec­tion of ceramics and fab­rics in 11 mes­meric pat­terned de­signs, in­spired by this gar­den and its glasshouses, which were built by the Glas­gow firm Macken­zie & Mon­cur in the late 1800s – and the all-male team of 12 gar­den­ers de­voted their lives to sup­ply­ing the kitchen at the es­tate house with fresh pro­duce and, later, fresh flow­ers for newly built Gle­nea­gles Ho­tel be­fore the gar­den fell into dis­use for 40 years be­fore Fair­lie and his team took it over.

I ex­pe­ri­ence the twin sen­sa­tions of shock and de­light. This is not what I was ex­pect­ing. When Fair­lie first told me about this new project over the phone, I’d im­me­di­ately con­jured im­ages of plates dec­o­rated with botan­i­cal draw­ings of flow­ers and plants in fem­i­nine greens and pinks. It sounded lovely, though I ad­mit I’d strug­gled to imag­ine how it could be dif­fer­ent from what has al­ready been done.

But here I’m con­fronted by a mes­meris­ing se­quence of kalei­do­scopic, Fi­bonacci-style

pat­terns in var­i­ous shapes and colours, all based on the patina and form of old tools, twines, taps and brack­ets from the an­cient glasshouse and pot­ting shed. Their in­cred­i­ble depth draws the eye to re­veal more and more ex­quis­ite de­tail. Screen­printed onto fine-bone china charger plates, din­ner plates, coupe dishes, teapots and cups and saucers, and dig­i­tally printed on to lux­ury linen and fine cot­ton vel­vets, they’re breath­tak­ingly orig­i­nal and bang on-trend.

There’s Twine, a fas­ci­nat­ing tri­an­gu­lar close-up in mono­chrome colours; Har­vest, a mes­meric pat­tern of mini her­itage turnips with their leaves on in bright, al­most acidic greens, reds and yel­lows; and Yield, in­spired by marker tools to show where seeds were sown in the soil.

There’s Fi­bonacci too, where the latch of the Se­cret Gar­den gate is rep­re­sented in a re­peat geo­met­ric pat­tern of teal and bronze, and Heir­loom, a dizzy­ing study of yel­low, pur­ple and or­ange her­itage baby car­rots com­plete with tops. En­tan­gle is a won­der­fully in­trigu­ing pat­tern of knots and twigs and plant fronds while Ripe is a de­cep­tive re­peat of rusty red bashed cir­cles that could be mis­taken for red pep­per slices or even red chill­ies but which are in­spired by the taps in the glasshouse. Lastly there is Nur­ture, Ger­mi­nate and Glasshouse, a mono­chrome kalei­do­scopic study in the sharp an­gles of the glasshouse roof.

SEE­ING my amaze­ment, Mathieson takes a step back. Now the Glas­gow-based de­signer Iona Craw­ford, who’s been wait­ing in the wings, stands up to take a bow. Her scar­let lip­stick, black leather dress and spike heels add an ur­ban edge to the scene that links her both to this new col­lec­tion and to the world be­yond these walls.

“It’s the grit, the harsh el­e­ment in the tools of the gar­den that I liked, and their par­al­lels with the tools An­drew uses in his im­mac­u­late kitchen,” she says. “I like the mas­cu­line/fem­i­nine el­e­ment, the play on per­cep­tion, the feel­ing of get­ting lost and the el­e­ment of sur­prise.”

The farmer’s daugh­ter from Stir­ling­shire goes on to ex­plain that when she was first shown the pho­to­graphs of the gar­den, glasshouse and pot­ting shed that had been com­mis­sioned by Fair­lie and Mathieson from Alas­dair Smith, she was “blown away” and im­me­di­ately asked if she could do some­thing with them.

The re­sult is a new Scot­tish life­style brand, with ev­ery piece bear­ing the la­bel Our Se­cret Gar­den by An­drew Fair­lie and Iona Craw­ford. Vinyl wall­pa­pers and fine art prints with hand­painted frames by the for­mer Glas­gow restau­ra­teur Ciaran Gourlay are also part of the grow­ing col­lec­tion, which is to be show­cased at Decorex In­ter­na­tional De­sign Fair in Lon­don on later this month af­ter a short ex­hi­bi­tion at the Stal­lan Brand ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dios in Glas­gow from next Thurs­day.

Al­ready, though, it has been snapped up by at least one high-end Lon­don re­tailer and a top in­te­rior de­sign show­room in New

From top: among the good­ies grow­ing in Fair­lie’s kitchen gar­den are a range of cresses; a plate fea­tur­ing the Twine pat­tern; and head gar­dener Jo Camp­bell tends her­itage toma­toes

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