By Dominic Parkes
Food miles and the drive to reduce the gap between source and plate seem to be the hot topic of conversation at the moment and few can beat the newly-opened Barnetts Barn in Bowerchalke.
Owner Max has the ‘aim to provide excellent food to customers with minimal travel by using a seven-mile radius for most of the food and wine’. He’s not joking either; the watercress comes two miles from Broad Chalke; The trout is from Chalke Valley Trout Farm 100 metres away, and meat comers from Knowle Farm on which the barn is built.
Max took on the thatched barn, which dates back to 1690 as a threshing barn, in late 2018. and after a substantial refurbishment, opened earlier this year as a wedding venue, and more recently as a pop-up restaurant. He has found the time to take on the Queen’s Head pub in Broad Chalke’ too. The clearly energetic Max has worked as a chef in several top London establishments’ including the highly-acclaimed Michelin starred Pollen Street Social.
Barnetts Barn opens Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings all year, occasionally dropping an evening for a wedding or private dining – so it is always best to call ahead or check the website first. Nine staff are employed, headed by executive chef Andy, and Max’s plan is to have two AA Rosettes for the barn within a year.
My wife and I visited for a soft opening night in August and were warmly greeted and given a brief history of the barn before being shown to our table: and what a table – a long refectory-style solid wood affair in perfect keeping with the pitched high roof with straw and timbers on show. Being a barn, it is never going to be airtight and Max assures me that, come the colder months, all gaps will be found, and heaters will be fired up.
The service was friendly, and before long, the starters of Gazpacho with cucumber, watercress, pea and mint, plus Chalke Valley trout with fennel, cucumber, watercress and caviar had arrived. Both were light and packed with crisp flavour.
I chose the Aged Flat Iron 10oz Steak with duck egg, hash brown and watercress to follow. Cooked the only way – medium rare: absolutely superb and tasting so good I decided against a pudding so the taste could linger on. My wife chose the Hake with oyster, fennel, lemon, dill and seaweed which, she reported, was delicious.
Proof, if any were needed, that the seven-mile-rule really works.
Barnetts Barn, Knowle Farm, Bowerchalke.
OPEN Thursday/Friday/Saturday all year.