After one too many sub-standard service station sandwiches, Rosie Paterson finds the Pythouse Kitchen Garden, a spot just off the A303 worth getting excited about.
Well, not to give the game away too early on, but yes, it is. And not just because when you walk in, there are benches scattered with copies of Country Life (alongside notices advertising local events and attractions).
Pythouse is 15 minutes, if that, off the A303 — a road that I, and likely many others, seem to spend far too much time on — close to West Hatch (of ballet fame) and Tisbury. The building — honeyed stone to match the neighbours, arguably just as pretty, if not prettier than any Cotswolds village — and surrounding area is sheltered by gently rolling hills and valleys. It’s a welcome respite from that notorious road that links London to the south-west, the terrible restaurants and petrol stations that line it, and a much-needed reward if you’ve made it past Stonehenge and the inevitable jams with your temper intact.
In recent years, I’ve re-routed myself via Bristol to the north and the Jurassic coast to the south just to avoid it, but now there’s no need.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden comprises a restaurant and bar — and doubles as an event space (it would be the perfect small wedding venue) — but the real crown jewel is the garden. An 18th-century walled English idyll; fruit trees and shrubs, vegetables, vines and blooms arranged row-upon-row, in pots, beds and borders.
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In the cutting beds you’ll find dahlias, delphiniums, sunflowers and sedum. Between June and November you can grab a bucket and pick a bunch to take home — or gift to someone special.
Lunch is served Wednesday to Sunday (there are also various evening supper clubs) inside the conservatory-style restaurant — scrubbed tables; chairs draped in sheepskin rugs and checked blankets — or, when the weather permits, outside, underneath a stretch tent. Potted plants and cut flowers dot the various surfaces.
The set three course menu (£35pp) comprises home baked bread and veggies to start, all dipped into dollops of fresh butter, a main course with ‘garden gatherings’ (lovely bits from the beds to share) and a pudding. Small plates and drinks are extra; the mains are cooked over British charcoal. It’s the kind of wonderfully English, slightly eccentric and entirely wholesome food that you could eat day-in, day-out and never tire of.
Naturally, the food changes with the seasons, but if the pork belly — sourced from the New Forest when I visited — is available, then please order it. It’s served with minimal fuss: a long sliver, thin layers of fat and thick ones of butter-soft meat next to a perfect circle of black garlic mayonnaise and pile of pickled fennel.
Other highlights included ChalkStream trout and glasses of Sprigster — a non-alcoholic botanical drink, made using ingredients from the Pythouse garden. It’s available to buy from the in-house shop (alongside other bottles and jars of delicious jams, salts and juices).
How to get there
I rented a car from The Out: the London-based car hire service that specialises in Land Rover, Range Rover and Jaguar models. And it’s a must for anyone who lives in the capital and doesn’t have a car, or for groups of friends or families who suddenly find themselves in temporary need of a larger vehicle.
Quickly banish thoughts of standing in line at the Sixt outside Victoria Station, facing huge fines for forgetting to hand back a car with a full tank and paying extra for things that really ought to be included. Simply book the car you want for when you want it via the app and it’ll be delivered straight to your front door. ‘Have you driven one of these before?’ asked The Out representative as he signed a Jaguar F-Type convertible into my care, neighbours hanging out of windows to catch a glance. ‘You’re going to love it.’ he said enthusiastically when I admitted I hadn’t. Live in London? It’s free. Live outside London? There’s a small delivery and collection cost.
Unlimited mileage, additional drivers, insurance (in and outside of the EU), child seats and boot separators for dogs are also included free of charge. Any petrol you owe upon collection will simply be debited from your card. Like Pythouse, it’s a no-brainer.
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