09 February 2021, 10:25 AM
  • Alasdair Clifford, head chef of The Barrington Boar, tells Speciality Food about sourcing local food and drink in "the Champagne region of cider country"
How local suppliers light up Somerset’s fine food scene

My wife Victoria and I moved back to Somerset a few years ago where we set up shop in the heart of a rural village called Barrington. I was brought up on the north side of Somerset at the foot of Exmoor, Porlock where the moors meet the sea. It’s a very different landscape in south Somerset; there’s incredibly fertile soil around here so it’s no wonder we have some of the most diverse arable farms in the country, offering everything from organic vegetables, orchards, vineyards and fantastic dairy.

We are slap bang in the middle of what is essentially the Champagne region of cider country. It really wasn’t hard to find great, independent local suppliers and shops around us – most of the ingredients we use are sourced in Somerset, from the local farmers, foragers, butcher, brewers and cheesemongers living within a few miles of the restaurant. Even now, after two years at the Boar, we are still picking up new local suppliers to put on our menu – there’s just such an abundance around here.

Bonners of Ilminster are an award-winning family butchers in neighbouring Ilminster, a five-minute drive away. Clinton and his team have been fantastic at providing us with local lamb and pork and were a real saviour during lockdown, being nearly the only place we could get decent quality local meat to use in our ready meal deliveries. For steaks, we head across to Buxton Butchers which is our favourite place for getting top quality salt-aged beef.

They have a Himalayan salt aging chamber which produces beautifully tender beef. Their traditional family shop in the heart of Winterbourne village sells some really tasty pies and award-winning dry aged meats. We’re really lucky to be local to The Sausage Shed in Isle Brewers, where Ivan and his team make award-winning sausages from locally reared free-range pork. Like most of our producer friends in the area, they’ve been doing well with home delivery, and have been updating their meat boxes for customers in lockdown.

The Longman family have been farmers and cheesemakers in South Somerset for over two hundred years and have total control on their supply chain from the dairy herds in their fields to the delivery of cheese to customers around the south. They supply us with most of the dairy that we use in-house, from their farmhouse Cheddar to their incredible salted butter rolls.

Brown and Forrest Smokery is a small family-run smokery that’s been going for 38 years, and based just a few miles away from the pub in a town called Langport. They produce the finest smoked eel, trout and salmon and do the most fantastic range of smoked pâtés, which Victoria and I are huge fans of. Jess from Brown & Forrest Smokery has been so supportive and encouraging of us from day one and is a regular drinker with us. We encourage our overnight guests to drop by their smokery to take something home.

I can’t talk about independent shopping in Somerset without saying something about cider, and for us, without a doubt, it’s all about Perry’s Cider who have a great farm shop (and museum). George is a really forward-thinking producer who uses traditional cider-making methods and purely Somerset apples (and a bit of pear) from either their own orchards or close by. Their OPA – Oak, Pear & Apple cider – is aged in oak barrels then sweetened with pear juice to create a tannin heavy cider with a lovely sweetness to it. What they do and the way they think is akin to producing wine on vineyards. We use their cider and apple juice a lot in our cooking as well.