RESTAURANT THAT’S WORTH THE WALK
IKNEW it was supposed to be tucked away but the website for Pythouse Kitchen Garden made it sound relatively easy to find.
“We are located on a small country lane between the villages of Tisbury and Semley,” was the simple instruction and a quick look on Google Maps seemed to confirm, to my untrained eye at least, that it was walkable from Tisbury railway station.
And so I walked and walked, and then walked some more as beads of perspiration started to form on my brow in the warm October sun.
I walked past houses with names like Hare Lodge and Russets, the air heavy with the smell of manure and nettles as locals in cars nodded politely when I jumped onto verges and into hedges to let them pass.
Nonchalant, grass-chewing cows observed me as pheasants screeched, presumably with laughter as they watched another hapless amateur hiker navigate the narrow country lanes in search of lunch at the 18th-century walled garden.
Swatting horseflies on my now moist neck, I could hear the distant crackle of gunfire and then a low-flying RAF helicopter, presumably on a training exercise rather than a search party looking for an overweight food critic pounding the lanes of South Wiltshire.
By the time I reached the imposing gates of the estate and walked the final few yards to the Kitchen Garden, my shirt was stuck to my back and I looked as if I had walked from Bristol, not just the relatively short distance from Tisbury.
Red-faced, sweaty and dishev- elled, I was the antithesis of the calm, tranquil and cool place I had reached but sometimes you have to put a bit of extra effort into finding a decent lunch.
I was shown to my table in the light, conservatory-style dining room looking across the terrace, orchards and abundant kitchen garden supplying the majority of fruit and vegetables on the menu.
Wood-burning stoves, rug-strewn flagstone floors, dressers and mismatched distressed paint furniture added to the vintage, boho vibe as welly-booted kids straight out of the pages of a Boden catalogue ran around the garden, where there’s a play area and a glamping village. It really is one of the most perfect and unique settings for any restaurant I’ve been to and up there with The Ethicurean near Bristol and Roth Bar & Grill in Bruton.
I started with the grilled pear, fig and goat’s cheese salad (£8.75). OK, the slices of pear could have been slightly riper but the figs were plump and juicy, the thick disc of goat’s cheese warm and pungent and the tangle of peppery watercress coated with a sharp dressing and scattered with seeds for crunch.
It was followed by a bowl of slow-cooked Wiltshire lamb shoulder (£14.50) – the soft, tender meat liberally doused in a dark, varnishlike gravy that was soon soaked up by the creamy, sweet smashed autumn roots, wilted chard and a knobbly carrot with an extra “nose” that made it reminiscent of the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
To finish, an exemplary plum and apple crumble with custard (£6.50) was generously filled with ripe fruit beneath its buttery, sugary rubble lid.
The menu changes most days depending on what the gardener picks for the kitchen – dishes I didn’t order included cauliflower and Blue Vinny soup; butternut squash, goat’s curd and kale tart, and celeriac and lentils with autumn vegetables and nasturtium pesto – and prices are aimed at those diners who don’t flinch at paying that little bit extra for food produced with the very best ingredients.
Cod and “fire pit” salmon fishcakes with creamed leeks and burnt lemon will set you back £16.90 and an organic “Red Poll” beef burger in a brioche bun topped with Dorset Blue Vinny cheese, watercress, onion marmalade and served with rosemary chips costs £17.50.
It may have involved a bit of extra work walking to the Pythouse Kitchen Garden but you are more likely to arrive by four wheels rather than two sore feet.
However you get there, and you really must, it is worth the effort as the reward is food that’s perfectly in step with the seasons served in an unbeatable setting. It’s a real find and a very special place indeed.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden in Wiltshire is quite a find, says Mark Taylor
Grilled pear, fig and goat’s cheese salad