Just north of the Mendip Hills, near the village of Wrington, sits Barley Wood Walled Garden in which this “completely unique” restaurant has its home. Originally built for Henry Herbert Wills and his family at the turn of the century, the carefully-restored Victorian kitchen garden and orchards make for one of the most tranquil settings one could ever hope to dine in.
The restaurant itself – so named for its whole-hearted commitment both to the wonders of the plant kingdom and the appreciation of, and indulgence in excellent food – is located in two rustic glasshouses, allowing diners to be as close to the natural environment as possible while enjoying the spoils of the season. Filled with light and utterly charming, it’s the kind of place you might stop for a coffee and a slice of homemade cake after ambling about the walled garden, and end up staying all day. This is no hardship, since The Ethicurean offers everything from small plates to a ‘guided dinner menu’ that puts vegetables centre stage.
Whether the quality of the food is down to the connection those preparing and cooking it have with the native land (as is their claim), or simply because the kitchen only uses the very freshest fruit and veg, pasture-reared meat and sustainable seafood, is by the by; what matters is just how delicious those dishes are. From smoky ember -baked beets with green herbs and charred chicory to hake with wheat berry, radish, coriander and whey, and honeyed thyme cake with blackcurrant meringue, plum and cream, every dish on the menu sings with flavour.
Drinks, too, are seasonal, wholesome and alive with experimentation. Non-drinkers have a choice of gut-friendly sips, such as kombuchas, kvasses and kefirs, while those looking for a tipple to complement their meal can choose from the likes of natural, low-intervention wines and cider brewed on-site. Exceptional service and a genuine sense of community make this West Country gem a must-visit.