Roux with a view: The Scenic Supper reviewed
Rustic and revolutionary; two words that sum up the Cotswolds coolest dining experience. Famed for its alfresco glasshouses-with-a-view, for the winter season Scenic Supper has moved to Fir Farm in Lower Swell. Muddy took a trip there for lunch to find out what the fuss is all about. Want to know what we thought? Read on ....
What do you get if you mix three friends owning an event business, a gin brand and a catering company with a global pandemic? You’d be forgiven for thinking not much, given the circumstances. But instead Toby Baggott, Sam Lawson-King, and Scott Sullivan have gone and reinvented eating, with a quite extraordinary dining experience.
The trio of school buddies had known each other for 20 years when Covid hit, and instead of letting events throw them to the wall, in July 2020 they came up with the brilliant concept of The Scenic Supper.
During warmer climes Scenic Supper lives at Todenham Manor Farm near Moreton-on-Marsh, a row of seven individual heated glasshouses, each with individual artwork, a rustic, gourmet taster menu that extols a plot-to-plate ethos and eye-watering views over the Cotswold countryside.
If you’ve never seen anything like it before that’s because it’s thrillingly new and innovative – in a brave new socially distanced world what they have come up with is pure genius.
And for the first time this autumn and winter it has popped up at a new home it’s trialling, The Stone Barn in Lower Swell, minutes from Stow-on-the-Wold.
On until 18 December, and offering four and six-course lunch and dinner tasting menus, it’s temporary home ticks all of the ‘scenic’ boxes from the get go.
You’re in proper farming country here. The long country track snaking up to the 18th century barn is reassuringly rustic (aka bumpy) with wildlife scuttling past, from flocks of pheasants to clutches of rabbits. But then it is a working livestock farm dedicated to sustainable and organic farming, chiming perfectly with the Supper’s ethos of plot-to-plate food which is all grown and raised locally.
The Barn itself is stunning, open plan, and festooned with pine cones from its rafters, with a view looking out onto the most glorious hilly vista towards Stow (I hear there are mind-blowing sunsets if you come for dinner).
What the Supper boys are doing here feels different to anything else you’ll experience in the Cotswolds, or anywhere in the UK. It’s gourmet but rustic; theatrical but unfussy; proudly sustainable but unpretentious. I certainly felt quite excited when I arrived, not knowing what to really expect, but instantly the feelgood factor that Toby and his team give off is highly infectious – the atmosphere is fun, friendly and seductively epicurean.
The renovated farm building itself is bright, beautiful and was fully booked on the day we came, with a variety of punters, from couples next to us toasting a wedding anniversary and birthday, to gaggles of friends and the plain curious, coming to see what it’s all about. Luckily we’d bagged a prime location by the floor-to-ceiling windows, which was phenomenal dining-with-a view. If you want the view though I’d recommend requesting ahead, as some tables naturally sit further into the barn and don’t get the panorama.
SCOFF & QUAFF
At the centre of the Barn is the King Stone Gin Bar and there’s a fabulous gin-based cocktail menu which you are handed when you arrive (the only way to start a meal surely). Everything at Scenic Supper is sustainably sourced where it can be, and even the drinks use homemade shrubs, cordials and mixers. You can go mocktail or cocktail, with tempting-sounding numbers such as Nectar of the Gods (a red wine gin sour) and Damson Gin Fizz.
But as we had to find our way back down the track without getting arrested at the end of lunch, we opted for mocktails, going for the homemade Hot Mulled Gin (but sans gin) which was highly drinkable with hand-blowtorched rosemary (you can watch it being scorched at the bar which was rather fun) and seasonal spices, all served up in a funky jam jar.
The Supper’s style is sort of a Michelin mash-up. There is a tightly curated, quirky menu with a very Heston-esque, gourmet feel but without a hint of stuffiness or standing on ceremony. I want to use the phrase fine-dining, but it wouldn’t do justice to the wholesome and relaxed vibe here.
Head chef Samuel Idione began his training in classic French cuisine in Cornwall when he was just 15. With previous form at Simpsons, Rick Stein and The Clove Club, as well as cooking for David Beckham at the footballer’s summer garden parties, he brings quite a punch to proceedings.
The menu showcases Fir Farm’s beef, lamb, poultry and game, along with other locally sourced ingredients from the likes of Mark’s Cotswold Bakery, Drinkwaters fruit and veg, King Stone Dairy, Cotswold Brew Company and Spinners Cider.
You pre-order when you book as it minimises food waste, with any vegetable-based scraps heading back to Fir Farm’s paddocks. So it’s no bad thing, and nothing comes quite how you expect it will anyway.
First up was the Selection of Homemade Breads and Butter, warm fists of fluffy dough which came on a bed of grains (don’t attempt a nibble as I almost did, much to my husband’s embarrassment, they’re just for show). Both the 4 Cheese and Rosemary and Focaccia were delicious, but the best bit was the creamy and tangy hazelnut butter slathered on top.
I won’t call them starters as that’s wayyy too un-hip, so the first plate up for my plus one was Beef Brisket with Yorkshire Pudding and Bone Marrow. Our waiter drenched the dish with gravy from on high from a glass teapot stuffed with herbs and a theatrical flourish. A deconstructed roast, it was rich, decadent and divine.
I opted for the vege alternative, a Chestnut Mushroom with Yorkshire Pudding and Mushroom Tea, which also really hit the spot, for that warming comfort food feeling you want in the winter.
Next up was a palette cleanser – a Tomato Sorbet. A nice touch which made the whole meal feel trés Michelin. Super pretty with an edible flower on top, it tasted incredible. Tomato and sorbet are two words I would not have put together, but I could have eaten a tub of it.
For our second plates I went vege, with a Beetroot Wellington with Roasted Potatoes and Roasted Sprouts. A lovely dish and the vegetables were delicious, all crispy and flavoursome. Although I will confess a whole beetroot was perhaps, for me, a little too much beetroot! But in December the vege main changes to a delicious-sounding Roasted Cauliflower Steak, if that’s more your bag.
My companion had the Fir Farm Pheasant with Crisp Skin, Parsnip Puree and Roasted Sprouts and it was an absolute winner, with a lovely simple presentation.
Dessert was a Cotswold Chocolate Orange Mousse with Honeycomb, which was tangy, sweet and a real work of art on a plate, unsurprisingly it was polished off in minutes.
Needless to say we had scant room for the Selection of Local Cheeses with Homemade Winter Chutneys, some of which hail from ex-Blur bassist Alex James’ famous farm in nearby Kingham. They come as an optional extra to the meal, but they sounded like a delicious way to end the meal, with a glass of locally-made Woodchester Valley Orpheus Bacchus and a famous Cotswold sunset.
All in all the whole experience was utterly fabulous from first sip to last scoop, in fact the only upgrade I can think of is perhaps slightly bigger tables for 2 (I clumsily managed to knock a drink over on ours, but the staff couldn’t have been nicer about it). Every element of the Scenic Supper feels like it has been dreamt up with a sense of mischief, the staff are attentive but never over-fussy which I loved, and the fact they are trying to do something different from the pack in challenging times is admirable. Roll on the Spring, now I’ve had a taste of the Scenic Supper I can’t wait to try out one of the famous glasshouses.
Exceptionally reasonable. A four course lunch is £55pp, or a six course dinner is £70pp. The Barn is open for lunch from 12.30pm to 3pm for tables of two upwards and for dinner tables of four upwards from 6.30pm to 11.00pm, Wednesdays to Saturdays. All tables for the four or six-course pre-set menus are bookable and payable in advance.
Foodies, foodies and foodies – it’s relaxed Michelin-inspired dining with serious sustainability credentials. Couples with something to celebrate, get-togethers with gaggles of mates, anyone with an IG account who wants a banging food-with-a-view selfie, gin lovers (oh that gin menu), and the culinary curious.
If you don’t like pre-ordering, that’s the way it works here (although they are so friendly if you change your mind I can’t imagine it’d be a huge problem). Very small children, whilst there are acres to bomb around in outside, the menu is probably more adult-friendly.
Want to book in for a roux with a view? We don’t blame you. Get in touch with the team at The Scenic Supper or email email@example.com to book up until 18 December at Fir Farm, or to book into a glasshouse for Spring 2022.