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River Cottage Comes to Bristol

The new River Cottage Canteen opens its doors in Bristol later this month combining a stunning architectural refit with a menu which serves innovative and immaculately sourced food. It brings beautiful Grade 11 listed St John's Hall church to its former glory with a conversion that feels industrial and urban yet in keeping with its 200 year old history. Step inside and you'll find no traces of its previous life as a building society. Head chef is Mark Stavrakakis formerly of Bristol's infamous Rockfish Grill and Seafood Restaurant who oversees a daily changing menu of seasonal, local, organic and wild food.   We can hardly wait. In the meantime Country Calling talks to River Cottage about the latest outpost....

When does the Bristol Canteen open and how close is it to being ready now? Turning a former building society into a restaurant must have been quite a feat?

The Bristol Canteen is opening towards the end of February. St John's Court hall is currently laid out as a very ordinary late 20th century Building Society. Visitors would have had no idea of the wonderful Victorian hall that they were in. Great efforts have been made to ensure the fixtures and fittings are made from recycled materials or UK sourced wherever possible. The architects, Bristol-based Simple Simon Design, tried to give an honest and simple treatment to the building that embraces the River Cottage ethos.


Sustainability and locality is an important feature of the RC brand, where will you be sourcing food from and are there any differences here to the other Canteens?

The majority of the food is coming from surrounding areas of Bristol. We adhere to a 50 mile radius for suppliers with our present and future canteens. There will always be small amounts of products, such as spices, that will have to sourced further afield, but we will choose a supplier who is close by.

Our vegetables will be coming from the Community Farm in Chew Magna and we will also use Sunseed Organics based behind Temple Meads in Bristol. Our organic cattle and poultry will come from a variety of sources. Story Farm in Comptain Martin, Chew valley; Stream farm in Bridgewater, which has a co-operative of farmers working the land; Sheepdrove, who have their shop just over the road from Bristol Canteen. Their farm manager Dan, looks after the well being of his animals with herbalistic remedies, growing herbs and wild flowers in the meadows for the cattle to eat.
As we open, more and more small growers, breeders and producers will be discovered. Hidden gems in amongst the wealth of Bristol's countryside. We never rest on our laurels and our door is always open to new suppliers that meet our ethos.

What kind of menus will feature?

Our focus will be on seasonal, local organic and wild, with a daily changing menu that will reflect what's available and in season. The River Cottage chefs prefer the challenge of working with locally sourced ingredients.


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