A Farewell Forage: The Last Chapter of The Ethicurean’s Legacy around the Victorian Walled Garden

In the heart of the Mendip Hills, 10 miles outside Bristol, lies a sanctuary of nature and multi-award-winning culinary tradition – The Ethicurean.

This historic gem, which has echoed with tales of nature’s abundance and culinary artistry, is closing its doors forever at the end of October.

Yet, before the final curtain falls, you can be part of an unparalleled gastronomical experience, a chance to witness two luminaries join forces in a setting that can only be described as magical.

the morning session

Robin Harford, renowned in the foraging world but rarely teaching these days, will lead the morning session.

His deep expertise comes from years of practical daily experiments with wild food, extensive research into the historical food record of these isles, and numerous jungle and forest visits meeting traditional foraging cultures.

As a pioneer in his field, Robin’s life work has informed his unique and celebrated teaching style.

His radical botanical approach of meeting plants in an embodied and sensory way, breaks from the traditional dry academic method of plant identification. Turning plant spotting into a thrilling, immersive and explorative journey.

This isn’t merely a course but a historical event, an experience bathed in the golden hue of late Summer, where every step in the Ethicurean’s Victorian garden and surrounding land unravels secrets of wild greens and wild fruits.

Robin’s insights enrich every discovery with tales, traditions, and techniques passed down through the ages.

refreshments and lunch

Start the day with a choice of foraged tea or extract coffee.

Then, after the morning session, be prepared for a culinary experience led by The Ethicurean founder, Matthew Pennington, and his skilled team.

On the menu is a ‘peak of harvest’ lunch – a showcase of the walled garden’s very best.

An unforgettable feast, where every bite shows off the extraordinary flavour of the walled garden crop. 

the afternoon session

After lunch you will be initiated into fermented foods and how to conjure alchemical botanical beverages.

Here, the Ethicurean’s essence, championed by its co-owner, the legendary Matthew Pennington, comes alive.

Under Matthew’s award-winning guidance, you will enjoy a fun, practical, hands-on workshop using wild and cultivated ingredients to create fermented preserves and botanical drinking elixirs.

These concoctions sing songs of seasons past and present. Gifts you can take home to share with your friends and loved ones.

But what makes this day genuinely extraordinary is its ephemeral nature.

The combination of Robin’s rare teachings, Matthew’s culinary alchemy, and the backdrop of the closing Ethicurean walls ensure this experience is genuinely unique, a day never to be repeated.

In this closing chapter of The Ethicurean’s story, in its walled haven atop the Mendip Hills, you’re not just learning but becoming a part of an irreplaceable moment.

Secure your place in this historical tale and witness an era’s end in the most memorable way possible.

how to book

Tuesday, 19th September 2023
Start: 8.30am for 9am
Finish: 3pm
Location: The Ethicurean
Diet: Omnivore. However we can cater for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
Cost: £245

what people are saying about the ethicurian

Amazing experience, I feel sad for the people who won’t get to go when this place closes!

Absolutely fabulous, one of the best dining experiences we have had! This brand and ethos and quality must live-on so we do hope the owners / chef start something new.

Loved, loved, loved everything about our lunch at the Ethicurean. The food was delicious and served so beautifully. The staff were welcoming and lovely. A truly amazing experience xx thank you for a wonderful time XX

what people are saying about robin harford

Thank you for sharing your time and knowledge. It’s incredible how many new flavours and textures you can come across in such a small patch of “wilderness”. Your novel way of looking into the world of plants and imparting it’s knowledge is refreshing and captivating. I must thank you for allowing me to see this world through your eyes and planting a little seed of curiosity in me which has opened a new world of possibilities in my life.

Pio Catemario (owner chef at Locanda on the Weir)

We absolutely loved the course: fascinating and deeply therapeutic. Robin is a brilliant communicator.

Naomi Cleaver (Channel 4 & Sky Presenter)

The most informative and inspiring walk that I have been on in ages.  I learned a lot and have already started using the knowledge that you so generously passed on in my own kitchen.  Definitely a new and fun interest!

Dawn Smith

about robin harford

Robin Harford of Eatweeds

Robin’s sessions are less ‘workshops’ and more ‘transformative experiences.’

He is the author of the bestselling, ‘Edible and Medicinal Wild Plants of Britain and Ireland’ as well as numerous other foraging books.

Robin established his wild food foraging school in 2008, and his foraging courses are listed at the top of BBC Countryfile’s ‘best foraging courses in the UK’.

He is the creator of eatweeds.co.uk. Michelin chef Richard Corrigen recommended Eatweeds for inclusion in The Times Top 50 Websites For Food and Drink.

He has travelled extensively, documenting and recording wild food plants’ traditional and local uses in indigenous cultures and his work has taken him to Africa, India, SE Asia, Europe and the USA.

Occasionally he appears on national and local radio and television. His work has been recommended in BBC Good Food magazine, Sainsbury’s magazine, The Guardian, The Times, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, etc. He is a member of the Society for Ethnobotany and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland.

About Matthew Pennington

Matthew Pennington is the co-founder of The Ethicurean restaurant at Barley Wood Walled Garden in North Somerset. He has been exploring the UK culinary scene for over 20 years and has interests in cookery, native produce, wild food, fermentation, regenerative agriculture, permaculture, mycology, and food folklore.

Pennington initially opened The Ethicurean as Head Chef in 2010 with his brother, aiming to create one of Britain’s pioneering responsible food ventures. He handed over head chef duties in 2019 but continued to uphold the restaurant’s acclaimed integrity.

In his youth as a cub scout, Pennington developed passions for outdoor cooking, wilderness training, and foraging thanks to an inspirational scout leader. Growing up near a nature reserve, his curiosity for new flavours was fed by his food-loving father.

Inspired to work for himself, Pennington started a street food business selling items like chorizo scotch eggs at Bristol’s St Nick’s market. After 3 years he was able to open The Ethicurean at Barley Wood.

Pennington is passionate about sustainable practices and providing great food accessibly. He’s a fermentation expert, knowledgeable forager, and experienced speaker on running an ethical hospitality business today.

He has been featured in publications like The Guardian and Observer, and recognised with accolades including a Michelin Green Star in 2021. The Ethicurean has been named among the UK’s top restaurants by guides like Square Meal and The Sunday Times.

Pennington has appeared on TV programs like BBC’s Gardeners World and Countryfile. Matthew appeared alongside Michelle Roux Jnr in Hidden Restaurants in 2016 talking about the merits of walled garden produce and kimchi making in career highlight for him.

The Ethicurean, A Potted History

The Ethicurean. Founded by Matthew Pennington in 2008, joined by Brother Iain Pennington and business partners Jack Adair Bevan & Paûla Zarate, opening the Restaurant at Barley Wood Walled Garden in October 2010.

The Observer Food Magazine Awarded them Best Ethical Restaurant in 2011, quickly followed by a publishing deal with Ebury Books in 2012, releasing The Ethicurean Cookbook in 2013.

The Michelin Guide Awarded The Ethicurean a Bib Gourmand in 2013 and a coveted Michelin Green Star in 2022/23

Matthew and Iain took the company as sole owners in 2016 and, with a shared vision, saw a massive uptick in interest in their approach.

Appearing alongside Michele Roux Jnr on Hidden Restaurants in 2017 was a remarkable point in their journey, one that brought huge attention to their regenerative approached project, food, and philosophy.

The Country File Team & Ellie Harrison joined them in 2017 to see the brother’s approach to lacto-fermentation of walled garden produce.

As ambassadors for gardening and localised food production, The John Lewis Garden Society invited The Ethicurean to a high-profile two-month 2017 winter pop-up on the rooftop of their flagship Oxford Street store.

Back in the bountiful walled garden, the brothers had the great pleasure of being visited by Andi Oliver and the Radio 4 Food Programme for ‘Stories for a Harvest Moon” in 2018. Cooking harvest-inspired dishes for Andi Oliver remains a career highlight for The Ethicurean team, where they discussed the importance of taking inspiration from the natural cycle of the seasons.

Marina O’Loughlin stunned the Ethicurean Family by making it her 2nd favourite restaurant in the UK in 2018.

In 2019, Mark McCabe was tempted back from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage HQ to become Head Chef and Co-Owner at The Ethicurean. Gradually elevating the food while staying true to shared principles on cultivation, fermentation, and seasonality.

Matthew, Iain & Mark brought the restaurant out of lockdown in 2021 in a new format, ‘The Ethicurean Experience,’ advocating for responsible working practices within hospitality. This included service included pricing, living wage and flexible working hours for their team.

08 2022. Matthew was invited to appear on Gardeners World to talk about the walled garden, soil health, no-dig gardening, and mycology hosted by Adam Frost. Highlighting the incredible efforts that have gone into the walled garden from everyone involved.

Mark McCabe was runner-up to champion of champions in the 2023 Great British Menu programme and reached the judging chamber of the Scottish region. An outstanding achievement for a first attendance, doing the Ethicurean Team proud.

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