Spring into action!
PUBLISHED: 14:57 12 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:57 12 February 2016
RUPERT COX urges us to get out and about to experience the finest food and drink in the county
Not long now until the first signs of spring will have sprung up around our glorious county. The spring snowdrops will soon be followed by the abundance of daffodils in a kaleidoscope of yellows followed by the green shoots of new young grass and cereal crops. At the Royal Bath & West Show we are also in full swing for spring as we finalise our plans for the biggest, best and only four-day Show in the South of England.
I am now well into my second year leading this great society and this year’s show gives me and my team the opportunity to present a Great British Festival of Agriculture, Food and Entertainment for everyone in our great county to enjoy. Improvements this year include cattle, sheep and pigs being shown on all four days (instead of just three), a greater emphasis on rural life and living in the countryside, the promotion of more smaller local craft businesses and most excitingly for me, and whole new emphasis on local food and drink served up in a wonderfully effervescent ‘festival’ environment.
I have a real passion for local food and drink and being one of the judges of the Somerset Life Food Awards has stimulated me into thinking how else I can make an even greater impact for the benefit of local producers; where else should this be done, but the Bath & West? The key for me is to make the thread between producer and consumer indestructible with this being done most effectively by some of the best eating establishments around the county, as well as the smaller producer/retailers that we see around the various Farmers’ Markets and food festivals in the area. We are going to bring all this together at the 2016 Royal Bath & West Show – The British Cheese Awards, the British Cider Championships, star-studded chefs cooking the best of Somerset meats, pop-up restaurants, the opportunity to buy the finest food and beverages to take home with you, or most excitingly enjoy our new Bath & West Food Village together with like-minded foodies enjoying the very best food from local purveyors in the area while experiencing fabulous local live entertainment courtesy of our new President, Michael Eavis – bringing the ‘festival’ feel to our show.
My wife and I were lucky enough to be asked to judge the Best Gastro Pub of the Year at the Somerset Life Food Awards. This gave us the opportunity to visit three wonderful establishments pepper-potted around the county. All three gave us a wonderful dining experience with The Candlelight at Bishopswood beating off strong competition from The Pony & Trap at Chew Magna and The Devonshire Arms at Long Sutton. Each one demonstrated their commitment to local produce and seasonality, but it made us consider carefully what a ‘gastro pub’ actually is, which is where The Candlelight had the edge. For me a gastro pub is a pub that serves food of the highest quality, but it is a pub first and foremost. So to see ‘locals’ perched at the bar of The Candlelight consuming beers and ciders sourced from barely 10 miles away, while mingling with interlopers like us who were there to enjoy the finest local cuisine and quality wines epitomises the very best of gastro pubs – and all served by the most hospitable waiting staff.
So now back to the spring! As the days lengthen and the weather improves, I would urge all Somerset Life readers to get out and about to experience the finest food and drink in the county. Plenty of opportunities to buy the very best from either food markets, farm shops, restaurants, gastro pubs – and of course at this years Royal Bath & West Show from 1–4 June, and as it is half-term week, bring the whole family to witness the best of local farming, food and entertainment.