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Supper with Valentine Warner

Supper with Valentine Warner


Pictures throughout by Tom Thompson

It is Saturday night and my supper is being cooked by Valentine Warner, the TV chef and writer.

We’re at Bread & Flowers HQ just outside Salisbury, the caterers who create gutsy, Southern European and Middle Eastern food for festivals, weddings and private events and who like to put their own spin on things.

Hence the guest chef nights where Martin Simcock cooks in conjunction with a well known chef – Rose Prince, Diana Henry and Lucas Holweg have taken star turns - and tonight Valentine is at the stove.

These evenings sell out virtually overnight, food lovers travelling from all over to sample cutting edge food in what is essentially a dinner party setting and with the added bonus of getting to chat to your favourite chef at the end of the night.

I’m interested to see who turns up to this kind of thing and the answer is a broad mix – newly weds, groups of friends, parents with their grown up children, everyone united by the collective desire to see what Valentine comes up with.

And wow does he deliver.  The evening kicks off with a glass or two of Aspall’s Premier Cru cider, spoons of salt cod salad and some mind-blowingly good deep fried oysters. There’s plenty to go round which is good because this is the kind of food you want to hoover.

There are three dining areas at Bee and Martin Simcock’s (founders of Bread & Flowers) lovely farmhouse and we’re in the Dairy, a beautiful old room which multi tasks as a larder and is lit tonight entirely by candles. The chef nights are BYO and there’s a sideboard groaning with bottles, carefully labelled with our names, though my neighbours offer us a glass of their rosè and soon we’re all  sharing, bottles littering our table like a student dinner party (I’m sitting next to a wine importer – result.)

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Our first course was an unusual and gorgeous goat’s curd and green sauce on sourdough followed by braised octopus with haricot beans which was right up there in last  meal status. So good, so tender you’d definitely want to try it at home – I guess we’ll have to wait for the next cookbook.

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Thick, perfect slices of rolled porcetta came on a bed of pommes purees with purple sprouting broccoli in anchovy butter. This is sensational food.

By now the wine is flowing and despite the fact that we’re all strangers  the conversation is too and the volume has shot up several decibels.

Pudding is a moreish prune and Armagnac bruleè and during coffee and petit fours Valentine wanders around, job done, chatting to guests.

Here in the West Country there’s nothing quite like this – a sort of supper club but with a celebrated chef at the helm and one who doesn’t own a restaurant which means it’s near impossible to sample their food. It’s fun, different and completely irresistible. I wonder who they’ve lined up for the summer?

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