Review: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s new River Cottage in Hatfield

PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 April 2018

Welwyn Hatfield Times food columnist Becky Alexander paid a visit to the new River Cottage at Hatfield House.
Picture: Becky Alexander

Welwyn Hatfield Times food columnist Becky Alexander paid a visit to the new River Cottage at Hatfield House. Picture: Becky Alexander

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Welwyn Hatfield Times food columnist Becky Alexander has taken a trip to the new River Cottage at Hatfield House.

Welwyn Hatfield Times food columnist Becky Alexander paid a visit to the new River Cottage at Hatfield House.
Picture: Becky AlexanderWelwyn Hatfield Times food columnist Becky Alexander paid a visit to the new River Cottage at Hatfield House. Picture: Becky Alexander

Hatfield House has just opened for the busy spring and summer season, and it was a busy winter in the cafe – it has been revamped as an outpost of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage.

The famous food writer and campaigner is well-known for his ethical approach to food, with campaigns about sustainable fishing and using seasonal ingredients.

The main River Cottage in Axminster is a destination for foodies, and spin-off River Cottage Kitchens have opened in Bristol, Glyndebourne, Winchester, and most recently at Whipsnade Zoo and Hatfield House.

I popped in for lunch last week.

It is a beautiful space, with light flooding in even on one of our rainy days.

Service was a bit muddled.

We weren’t sure whether we had to order at the counter or at the table, and in the end it was a mix of the two – I think that will get smoother with time.

The lunch menu has ‘main event’ and ‘lighter’ options, as well as a nice selection of drinks, including River Cottage IPA and elderflower cider.

I chose roast cauliflower with spiced yellow split peas and charred broccoli, which was delicious and one of the nicest (and healthiest!) meals I’ve had locally in a long time.

My friend chose butternut squash and walnut patties, with Moroccan-spiced blitzed carrot salad, which she loved too.

It is good to see vegan and vegetarian dishes at the heart of a menu rather than as an after-thought, and is very in-keeping with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s interest in seasonal, plant-based cooking.

The meat dishes on the menu (pork burger, lamb meatballs and beef ragu) are all organic, yet are priced in line with local pub main courses, which is good to see.

You can get a bowl of soup or a slice of spinach tart if you want a smaller meal, and I imagine that some visitors to the House won’t be expecting a full meal, so smaller plates are a good option.

Hot food is available until 2.30pm and after that the focus is on hot drinks, cakes and afternoon teas.

We had pud, and the baking is good.

My almond cake with poached rhubarb was lovely, although more rhubarb would have been welcome.

The chocolate and beetroot brownie was excellent, with the beetroot adding a lighter texture.

There is a small deli takeaway next to the main restaurant with a couple of benches.

You can get soup, sandwiches, coffee and snacks in here to take outside.

The baskets with packed lunches for children had rolls, fruit, biscuit and crisps for £5.

I’m concerned that this takeaway will be crowded on the weekends, and most of the seating is weather dependent (maybe add a canopy?).

I can see why they have changed the restaurant; Hatfield House is the most beautiful location and the previous cafe felt a little old-fashioned, certainly compared to the cooking being offered for weddings and events.

Let us know what you think.

The River Cottage Kitchen and Deli will be open Tuesday to Sunday 10am–5pm, and Bank Holiday Mondays throughout the summer.


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