Review date: February 2014
While Jimmy’s Farm is still very much a working farm, it is really putting itself on the culinary map these days. There’s plenty of family fun to be had and a generous helping of good food to enjoy too. Lesley Rawlinson re-visited Jimmy’s renowned restaurant to see what the new spring menu has in store
Gone are the days of Jimmy’s Farm as purely a rare breed pig farm. While pigs remain central to much of the operation, farmer and TV personality Jimmy Doherty has seen dreams of living the good life develop and grow with the farm now home to a multitude of animals and the venue ranking high on the list for day tripping families. Along with his wife Michaela and the Jimmy’s Farm team he’s created a must visit spot for adults and children alike to get close to nature and enjoy the Suffolk countryside. There’s plenty too for foodies with the farm shop, restaurant and field kitchen plus the chance of some retail therapy if you still need your fix.
Before we’d even left the car park we were drawn to the edge of the field where a family of Highland Cattle, well wrapped in their shaggy coats were feeding from a trough filled with hay and quite adorably oblivious to our arrival. This close up arrangement is indicative of how the farm works as visitors can wander quite freely near the livestock. Obviously they’re fenced off but with the trails and petting farm there are plenty of opportunities for children to gain first-hand experience of the animals.
When the 200 year old barn that has become the restaurant at Jimmy’s Farm was lovingly restored you get the feeling that, once again, families were top-of-mind. Light, bright and airy the space is certainly rustic and has a contemporary yet welcoming feel. A clever mixture of casual tea room, bar and restaurant - on the one hand there’s a good reserve of toys and books for keeping younger visitors entertained while parents and grandparents may appreciate the recent addition of several Adnams cellar favourites to the already well stocked bar and some creative additions to the hot beverages – I spotted a ‘tea toddy’ on the blackboard, apparently a blend of Earl Grey tea with a shot of Bailey’s Irish Cream…intriguing!
When we last visited the restaurant it seemed ridiculous not to dive into a plate of home reared pork but the aforementioned developments have meant that Jimmy’s Farm Head Chef Katie Rowles has been able to create a menu for this spring with some surprising additions and she agreed to give us a preview tasting of some of the new dishes. First up were two of the starters; turkey with pomegranate & spring onion salsa and grilled halloumi with mixed vegetables, toasted walnuts and sweet balsamic dressing. Knowing that Jimmy’s Farm turkeys have been award winning in recent years we predicted that we were in for a treat however it was hard to imagine how such a rich meat would sit with the accompaniments but the reality was a light, fresh flavoursome starter where the moist dark turkey meat contrasted beautifully with the salad and salsa – a pretty dish too, jewelled with the pomegranate seeds. The halloumi salad was an equally harmonious blend of flavours with the sweet roasted vegetables and balsamic balanced by the saltiness of the cheese and the added crunch of the walnuts kept the textures interesting.
While I wasn’t overly surprised that Katie had chosen a lamb main course for us to try I hadn’t expected fish! Whole baked Lemon Sole makes the cut this spring and it’s elegantly joined by a sorrel and spring onion salsa – not dissimilar to the salsa on the turkey starter. This is another well thought out combination as the dish has both depth of flavour and a light fresh taste – a perfect lunch served with soft, buttery, earthy new potatoes. Just like the pork the lamb is reared and butchered on site and Chef’s idea of teaming it with creamy sweet potato mash and purple sprouting broccoli all brought together in a minted jus delivers a hearty plate of farm-fresh goodness.
The restaurant at Jimmy’s Farm is one of those places where you can dive in to any part of the menu at will so even if you’re full at the thought of starters and mains at lunch time an afternoon coffee could be accompanied by homemade cake or one of the irresistible desserts. While there are lots of new additions to the menu this spring I’m relieved to say that the much loved ‘secret recipe’ chocolate brownie remains – complete with chunks of white chocolate found in its gooey dark chocolate centre. Katie also treated us to her light and fruity strawberry Bakewell served with clotted cream, surely the answer to an afternoon tea lovers dreams. So, all that remains is to devise a reason to return! Mind you, the packed spring schedule, including the ever popular Science & Nature Festival towards the end of this month, will give plenty of opportunities so I don’t think I’ll have to wait long.
Jimmy’s Farm, Pannington Hall Wherstead, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP9 2AR
For a full list of facilities and events visit www.jimmysfarm.com
All food photographs: Adrian Rawlinson