"We'll have nettles and squirrels on the menu, but no horse meat": Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
GREY squirrel could be on the menu at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's new Bristol restaurant – if someone will go out and catch it for him.
The campaigner, TV presenter and food writer was in the city this weel for the first time since his new restaurant opened on Monday.
River Cottage Canteen is situated in Whiteladies Road in a converted Grade II listed 19th Century church hall, and is a much anticipated addition to Bristol's restaurant scene.
Last month it emerged that Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's restaurant of the same name in Plymouth had served up grey squirrel starters.
10% off of any full price ticket
Must not be used in conjunction with other offers
To redeem either print and use at the venue on purchase or use code MAY7974 on our website.
Contact: 0117 2443656
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
The creatures, said to taste like rabbit, were shot at River Cottage HQ on the Devon-Dorset border and braised in a tomato and red wine sauce.
When asked if Bristol diners would see squirrels on the menu Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "If someone will go out and catch them for me!"
The experimental chef is open to serving almost anything – as long as it is local and seasonal.
"We will be serving up lots of local venison, as well as pigeons and rabbits," he said.
"If there are other things that are local and sustainable that we are offered by our suppliers, we will look at putting it on the menu."
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall is also excited about the possible foraging opportunities just outside the city.
"The great thing about Bristol is that you don't have to go very far to be in the countryside," he said.
"One thing we will soon be serving up is spring hedgerow greens – things like nettles and wild garlic.
"I'm not saying you'll see me on a dirty city roadside searching for nettles but there are some definite foraging opportunities a little bit further out."
Mr Fearnely-Whittingstall is proud that up to 90 per cent of the produce comes from within a 50-mile radius of the restaurant. He wants to form close links with local suppliers.
Chew Magna-based Community Farm will provide the restaurant's organic vegetables, while it will also take produce from Sunseed Organics, based by Temple Meads.
"These are people our chefs have been getting to know and building relationships with," he said. "It's great, because the whole team get really excited about the produce.
"It gives them real inspiration – its imperative for us to know exactly where something has come from."
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's approach to food could be seen as the complete opposite of the large retailers who were recently exposed in the horse meat scandal.
And funnily enough that is one type of meat he says he will not be serving up.
"I am definitely not about to put horse on the menu," he said.
"It's not something that is, or really ever has been, part of the culture.
"It's been an extraordinary time – it's not so much the horse that I find offensive, it's the selling of products by massive companies that do not bother checking what they really are or where they really come from."
Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall, known for his Channel 4 TV series River Cottage, opened his first restaurant in Axminster in 2008 when he re-purposed a disused town centre pub.
He opened the next River Cottage Canteen in Plymouth's Royal William Yard in 2011.
The TV chef told The Post that Bristol was the next obvious place for him as the "buzziest city in the West Country".
"I've got a bit of previous in Bristol," he said.
"My parents live in Wotton- under-Edge and I had a lot of friends at Bristol University and at the Soil Association, which has been here for a long time.
"I've also taken part in the organic food festival – it's the buzziest city in the West Country.
"Both my other restaurants are in wonderful locations and I wanted something like that here too.
"We looked at other places in the city but found this beautiful old church hall with stained glass windows that was a bit out of shape after being used by a building society, and felt it was perfect."
The new restaurant was designed and renovated over a ten-week period by Paintworks-based Simple Simon Design.
They were asked to use British firms, with much of the interiors being supplied locally.
Mr Fearnley Whittingstall told The Post: "What I hope people can expect when they come here is the best local food in somewhere that is fun and exciting to be in.
"We want to be very much a part of the community for the people that live and work here."