Lunch with the family A better roast would be hard to find
If there is a silver lining among the dark clouds cast by the horse meat scandal, it is the simple fact that more and more people are questioning exactly where the food on their plate comes from.
Stories of meat travelling across the world before ending up on supermarket shelves has certainly dented consumer confidence. It has woken us up to the realities of the food chain and the importance of traceability and provenance.
There are no such concerns at Gatcombe Farm because all the beef, pork, lamb and chicken is reared on the farm by a third-generation family and all the meat is sold in the farm shop next door.
On a crisp, sunny lunchtime, Gatcombe Farm is a genuine breath of fresh air if you need a break from the grind of city life. Next to the entrance is a mill pond and a small enclosure including alpacas, geese and ostriches (or were they rheas?). It's like River Cottage without the TV cameras.
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At just past noon on a Tuesday, the large carvery and tea rooms was packed, with most tables reserved. On Sundays they do three sittings for lunch and if you don't book you probably won't get a seat for any of them.
As I walked into the large, beamed room, the chef was carrying large trays of freshly cooked meats to the hot plates of the carvery, where a long queue of people was already forming. During the week, the carvery roasts cost £7.95 for an adult portion, £5.75 for a smaller adult portion (which most of the older customers were ordering) or £4.25 for children under 13. On Sundays, it's £9.95 for adults, £7.75 for the small portion and £5.95 for children. On this occasion, there was shoulder of pork, silverside of beef and a glazed gammon ham. You can have a few slices of each and portions are generous in the extreme.
The "trimmings" include crisp and fluffy roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, carrots, peas, broccoli, cheesy leek gratin and parsnips, with a selection of sauces and mustards and a huge vat of dark and strong gravy.
OK, the pork was a touch on the dry side but it had a deep, piggy flavour. The beef was exceptional – juicy and impressively tender – as was the sweet, salty ham. The trimmings were hard to fault, the roast potatoes and leek gratin outstanding.
Purely in the line of duty I had to have the apple and blueberry crumble (£3.95) which was superb – a buttery topping with a deep filling of tender Bramleys stained by tart blueberries, covered with a blanket of thick yellow custard.