Wednesday 21 August 2013

David Kennedy at Vallum Farm, Newcastle

Anyone who has visited our house will know that it’s a massive understatement to say that my wife and I both enjoy ‘a splash of colour’. Built in the 1960s we are midway through redecoration with period pieces to achieve a look of ‘flower power with a hint of Barbarella futurism’.

The kitchen and bathroom are the only rooms where we have given over to a completely modern look. That said, my ‘retro modern’ Smeg fridge freezer, in shiny red, and Kitchen Aid mixer are two of my most prized possessions.

One item I’m not allowed to replace is my wife’s table that once belonged to her “Nanna and Gramps” - it was the first item they bought together after their marriage in 1931 (they couldn't afford the chairs at the time and had to have sausages for their Christmas lunch).

At Vallum Farm to visit the Chef’s Pod (see here), I arrived early to squeeze in a meal at David Kennedy’s on site restaurant, housed above his farm shop in a converted cowshed. It was whilst I was waiting for my meal that my wife’s dogged attachment to her grandparents’ table (and my lack of sentimentality) finally made sense.

The dining room at Vallum is furnished with a mismatched selection of similar such tables, each with their own story secreted deep within their grain. As I waited, I looked around and imagined what scene each table may have hosted in a previous existence

Under the sturdy square one, I imagined children huddled together seeking safety during an air raid; the large round one, I saw surrounded by people, linking hands in a darkened candlelit room as spirits were summoned from the Ouija Board at its centre.

At the oblong extender, I pictured a hopeful young suitor asking his future father-in-law for his daughter’s hand.

The saw the dark wood one as a pre-loved family table – the setting of generations of breakfasts, lunches and suppers; family card and board games; children doing their homework and drawing with crayons…

Whatever the tables’ pasts, they have now found their way to Vallum Farm and are put to good use as families and friends gather round to enjoy the fabulous food of David Kennedy… happy times. 

I started with Vallum Reared Pork Rillettes, Ken’s Radishes – the meat component was delicious, beautifully done. My one gripe is that I’d have liked the radishes to have played a greater role and I certainly wanted more toasts.

Thinking to the future and sustainability, I have taken on board the idea of eating less meat. Simon Rogan’s vegetable driven menus at L’Enclume and The French, often making use of Ken’s excellent Vallum Farm produce, have helped to show how amazing and flavourful, good quality organic vegetables can be. With this in mind, I opted for the Minted Garden Pea Risotto.

Quite simply, this was the best risotto I’ve tasted in a very long time… possibly ever. Rich, creamy and well seasoned with parmesan and perfectly cooked rice; the pièce de résistance being wonderful fresh peas, mint and vibrant yellow courgettes, which I had seen growing out on the farm just moments before - my future benchmark for all risottos.

My dessert of Strawberry & Custard was delightfully simple – just fresh strawberries, halved and served with proper custard… no messing, exquisite.  

David Kennedy has other restaurants in Newcastle – Food Social at The Biscuit Factory and David Kennedy’s River Café which are now both on “my list” for when I am next in the North East.

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