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Summer Feast at Rumleigh: a view from a new Feaster

It's always a pleasant surprise when you have friends who you know for one thing are brilliant at something else. I've known Martin for 25 years, as the spirit that guided Riverford Organic Vegetables from its forming stage through some storming years to become the organic powerhouse that it is today. I knew he could chef and that with Mary they made a great team, but the Feast today blew me away, very pleasantly.


Nursing a numb head after the night before, I woke up over lunch with a lovely bunch of people, mostly repeat customers, who follow the Birland crew wherever they pitch up. The setting this time was Rumleigh Farm, an idyllic place for a Feast close to the River Tamar on the Devon side, looking directly onto the lush Cornish banks. The place buzzes with life and the air was alive with chatty swallows as we gathered in the courtyard. Our dining hall also serves as the swallows' Summer home. I think we gave them plenty to gossip about.


Martin introduced the team as we settled and our Rumleigh hosts welcomed us. Their rare-breed lamb and honey featured on today's menu, along with lots of local produce. Bring it on!


The amuse-bouche was a delicious shot of gazpacho, Summer in a glass, smooth liquor for my delicate palate. Mmmmm.


The starters consisted of what seemed like a dozen plates, of what I have no memory. None. It was that good and that needed.


The mains I remember. The skewer of flame-grilled lamb and spatchcocked chicken (expertly fairly shared by my neighbour, as this is a participatory event), were accompanied by plate after plate of local fare that included Martin & Mary's own artichokes of course, cooked to perfection. There was more than enough for the 12 of us around our table, although we did our best to clear every serving plate. "Leave room for pudding!" was the mantra as we put our knives and forks together finally, clearly ignoring our own advice.


Three puddings were duly delivered, including a delicious chocolate torte cut 16 ways: only 12 people, it all went. I also filled up on the Pavlova - local strawberries sinking into the custard aboard the perfect meringue. Oh my word.


When all was said and done, and lots was said - these Feasts are about conversation and gathering as well as the fare - we were stumped by the volume, fully sated. As a newbie to the Feasts and a friend of the pair behind them, it was lovely to hear the thing declared as "The best yet" and "You've raised the bar guys, where next?", as we dabbed our lips and scrunched our napkins before stepping sleepily out to the bright courtyard again.


Fond farewells Feasters, thank you Mary, Martin, the team and our Rumleigh Farm hosts.




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