Review date: March 2013
THE WHOLE HOG
Lesley Rawlinson visits Jimmy’s Farm restaurant near Ipswich to enjoy local produce at its very best
Farmer, TV Presenter, farm shop and restaurant owner Jimmy Doherty is fast becoming a household name. From the early days of Jimmy’s Farm – the TV programme that followed his then girlfriend (now wife) Caela and he as they set foot on the road to becoming farmers, to the recent Food Fight series hosted alongside his childhood friend TV Chef Jamie Oliver, Jimmy has been stealthily carving a place in the hearts and minds of the food loving public.
Of course here in Suffolk we’re rather lucky as we can reap the benefits of Jimmy’s Farm and all it has to offer as it sits right on Ipswich’s doorstep, just along the A137 at Wherstead, practically in view of the Orwell Bridge.
And there’s no shortage of reasons to visit. The farm and petting farm, nature trail, butchery and shops all add to the visitor experience but my mission, on this rather blustery February day, was to discover what the restaurant at Jimmy’s Farm had to offer and needless to say I was in for a treat.
For those who followed the original Jimmy’s Farm TV series (and in our household we were ‘avids’) the images of long cold winter days, and even longer nights, batting to establish a business while living in a caravan at the edge of a field are conjured from the memory banks. But that was some ten or so years ago and arriving at the farm today I’m hard- pressed to recognise the struggling small- holding of those early days.
At the heart of the guest experience is the restaurant. A farm barn unlike any other I’ve visited it’s a vast, airy social space. Informal and rustic the furniture - a bucolic mix of scrubbed tables, chairs and pews – perfectly suit their environment. The exposed beams and wrought iron echo the working farm around us but although I’ve called at a relatively busy lunchtime there’s plenty of room between settings for families, couples and business people to enjoy their meals without jostling uncomfortably cheek by jowl with the neighbouring party.
Time to peruse the menu. Supplemented by a specials board that added two or three choices to each course the dishes celebrate seasonal, local ingredients. Everyone approaches a menu differently but I generally make my main course selection and choose a starter that I think will contrast or complement, depending on my mood. Tempted by Sutton Hoo Chicken with pasta, broccoli and courgette in a white wine sauce, wooed by the smoked haddock and salmon fishcakes and almost plumping for the Farmhouse Stew my dining companion and I decided that we couldn’t visit Jimmy’s Farm and not dine on free range pork.
With that decision made we gently sifted the options for starters. I spied a pretty bowl of prawn and crayfish cocktail being served at another table (I love seeing how a dish looks before I order) but one of the specials had caught my eye – crispy Red Poll beef with sweet chilli dipping sauce. A tasty tower of well cooked beef morsels with seasonal leaves accented well with the chilli. Across the table parsnip soup was in the running but pipped to the post by lamb Kofta kebabs with a cucumber and yoghurt dipping sauce, another appetizing choice.
And so to the main event. My colleague had chosen the slow roast rare breed pork shoulder with buttered new potatoes and braised red cabbage in a rich jus from the main menu whereas I ordered the Saddleback pork tenderloin, served with the same new potatoes but the accompanying vegetable was curly kale and this time a cider jus, from the specials board. Our eyes lit up at the crispy, crunchy crackling garnish on each and we couldn’t have made better choices. Both cuts were perfectly tender and so incredibly flavoursome. Meat of quality really does speak for itself, when the base flavour is that good simple vegetables and a good gravy are, in my opinion, the only companions it needs.
We were tempted to finish off with a Pigsty Pudding – a twist on the classic bread and butter pudding but swimming in chocolate custard – but still brimming from all the deliciousness that had gone before we opted for a classic vanilla crème brulee, complete with a jolly hand-baked shortbread in the shape of a pig, and across the table warm chocolate brownie with ice cream (again from the specials board) rounded off our meals more than satisfactorily.
Service was swift but not rushed, the restaurant was atmospheric but not noisy and with all that’s on offer right outside the door must go straight on the list for a family visit. In piggy parlance I’d say Jimmy’s Farm ‘goes the whole hog’ for a family treat!
Jimmy’s Farm is now open on Friday nights as well as the usual times. For these and info about special events visit: