FARMYARD Hastings – Sustainable Restaurant with Natural Wines.
We reviewed the Gladwin Brothers’ newest restaurant Sussex in Soho recently, a fine-dining take on their modern European approach, and now I’m in East Sussex at FARMYARD eating delicious platefuls of robustly flavoured food mostly using locally sourced ingredients and displaying European and Asian influences.
FARMYARD calls itself a ‘Sustainable Restaurant & Natural Wine Bar by the Seaside’ and it’s a pretty good description of the 2-year-old site that sits next to the station in St Leonards-On-Sea, a slightly faded seaside town on the South Coast in need of some excitement. FARMYARD and its sister restaurant BOATYARD (in Hastings) are owned by Kate and Ben O’Norum, a couple of refugees from London media careers with roots in the restaurant business who are in danger of becoming the gastronomic saviours of the South Coast, not a part of the country blessed with great places to eat. With bare brick walls, wooden floors, shelves full of wine bottles and piles of logs and the odd ski lying around, the interior has a domestic, friendly and intimate feel that makes it perfect for an informal get-together…
The menu at FARMYARD has a mixture of small plates, large joints available for pre-order and daily specials as main courses, and cheese, meat and vegan platters with plenty of options for non-meat eaters. There is fish delivered straight off the boats in Hastings Old Town, charcuterie from near Lewes, Sussex cheeses, Salt Marsh lamb from Pevensey and beef from Bexhill with lesser-used cuts of meat often used in the interests of sustainability.
If the menu has a radical intent then the wine list featuring natural, biodynamic and low-intervention wines without a London mark-up is breaking new ground for a small Sussex restaurant. With more than 100 bottles on offer ranging from French classics to ‘wild and funky offerings from across Europe and beyond’, and local wines and fizz from Sussex and Kent, it’s a reason for visiting FARMYARD on its own; and they are all available to take home, with biodynamic wine straight from the tap arriving in a few months.
Whilst checking out the menu we kicked things off with a suitably spicy Bloody Mary given extra richness by a dash of ruby port, and a pint of hoppy, unfiltered 3 Legs IPA from Rye with a very pleasurable mouth feel.
We started with a variety of small plates. Tahini smashed aubergine flecked with parsley was moist and moreish with subtle sesame notes coming through.
Pert, sweet-tasting Brown shrimp were served in a mild curry-spiced butter in a little pan and heaped onto some excellent sourdough bread and with the melted butter dripping off it made for a magnificent mouthful.
A sweet-savoury assemblage of salt-baked celeriac with blue cheese, pine nuts, crème fraîche, Sussex brie and truffle honey was a great winter dish with the pine nuts adding crunch to the softer textures.
And salted pollock brandade crostini was lubricated by a saffron aioli that lifted the dish to another level.
Because it was Sunday it would have been rude not go for the roasts. They come served with a cauliflower cheese in an unctuous cheese sauce. On the plate Yorkshire pudding was light with a crepe-like texture, roast potatoes were crisp and it was all topped off with a rich, red wine gravy… and I nearly forgot the roast seasonal vegetables! Roast Bexhill beef came rare and was tender and with a hint of grassiness, with a meaty bone marrow for good measure. It was matched with a glass of Joiseph Roter Faden, a natural Austrian Pinot Noir-like blend of Blaufränkisch, Zweigelt and Weinland grapes With luscious raspberry, eucalyptus and citrus notes
Pan-fried local sea bass was crisp on the outside but not overdone and had plenty of flavour.
We drank a Natural Baglio Bianco Catarrato, 2018 from Sicily which was pleasingly cloudy and had notes of fermenting apples as well as a saline hit. Our other white, a Champalou Vouvray 2018, Chenin Blanc, 2016 from the Loire was full of summer fruit flavours and creamy and lemony.
For desserts we had a scrumptious apple crumble with a caramel sauce and an oat and nut topping. A pear and chocolate torte was dark and intense (so was I …but it was a long time ago) with almond flakes adding crunch and a home-made vanilla ice cream adding light relief. Our dessert wine, a Sauternes Chateau Sigalas Rabaul, Semillon, 2015 from Bordeaux had a light, honeyed flavour and was a delicious finale to the meal.
FARMYARD and BOATYARD are part of the culinary regeneration of the South Coast, a process that has been long overdue, and for that, we should be very grateful. With a genuinely sustainable ethos, a fascinating wine list ripe for exploring and some terrific food they should be your first port of call for informal, high-quality dining in the area.
52 Kings Road,
01424 420 020
Looking for something different? Check out our review of The Gallivant in Rye, East Sussex