Schools with the best food

Cottesmore School, West Sussex

(01293 520648;

Signature dish: match tea (sandwiches, millionaire’s shortbread, chocolate sponge, carrot cake and scones with strawberry jam)

What they say ‘Life revolves around the dining room. Head chef Austin Morris, a trained pastry chef, lives on the estate and serves the children himself. We have a food council too, where the children can give feedback. Every suggestion is noted, however outlandish. We make our own honey and grow our own apples, figs, pears and plums-the children recently replanted the orchard. We tried to eat fish from the school’s lake, too, but they turned out to be a bit muddy,’ explains Tom Rogerson, the headmaster.

Gresham’s, Norfolk

(01263 714500;

Signature dish: Moroccan lamb tagine with couscous

What they say Mike Strong, catering manager, explains: ‘We were the very first independent school to introduce a waste digester. Last year, the pupil-led school catering committee agreed a waste target, and the reward for reaching it was a “fine dining day”, for which the children chose their own menus. Moroccan lamb and steak came out on top. All meat is reared and slaughtered less than 10 miles away, and on their way to school the day pupils pass the cows that produce their milk and cheese. We have state-of-the-art equipment and probably the finest chefs in any school. As a result, we serve outstanding meals.’

St Mary’s Calne, Wiltshire

(01249 857200;

Signature dish: Sunday brunch (full English breakfast, eggs benedict, cinnamon toast, smoked salmon, baked eggs with spinach and sun-dried tomato butter, freshly baked croissants, pancakes and pastries, seasonal fresh fruit, muffins, omelettes, frittatas, fruit juice and coffee)

What they say ‘We use local and seasonal food wherever possible and listen to all the girls’ suggestions. We sometimes even make recipes that they find in magazines-one current favourite is Nigel Slater’s meatballs from the pages of Country Life. Sunday brunch is the girls’ real treat, which they tuck into while reading the weekend newspapers,’ explains catering manager Linda Thomas.

Hill House, London

(020-7584 1331;

Poached salmon with homemade hollandaise sauce

What they say ‘Our food is fantastic because we spend a fortune on it,’ believes Richard Townend, the headmaster. ‘It’s very important to us that the children are eating the right things. We have five kitchens, as the four year olds don’t want the same as the 13 year olds, or, indeed, the 150 staff. There are 25 menus a week, and 1,200 covers a day. Everything is bought fresh from the market each day-vegetables, meat, fish, you name it. The children love the meals here, and the proof is in the eating. We’re better than any restaurant. In fact, we should have a Michelin star.’

Harrow School, Middlesex

(020-8872 8000;

Signature dish: chicken with chestnut mushrooms and spinach in a white-wine sauce with pappardelle

What they say According to Charles Cornelius, head chef: ‘We have 55 catering staff, who cook 3,000 meals a day from scratch. The biggest challenge is creating a menu that will be liked by as many of the boys as possible, who come from all over the world. When I first came, we had only one modest kitchen, but there’s since been a £2.5 million investment. We now have masses of space, a preparation area and a theatre kitchen, where the boys can watch their food being prepared. We get through 2,500 eggs and 1,000kg (2,200lb) of potatoes a week.’

Ardvreck, Perthshire

(01764 653112;

Signature dish: homemade chicken pie

What they say ‘Each class elects a member of the food committee, which meets with me regularly to discuss what everyone wants. Everything is homemade, right down to the biscuits, and we have fresh fruit, vegetables and meat delivered at least once a day. The children love getting involved, so we try to get them in the kitchen as much as possible to dream up their own creations. As a result, they get on well with the cooks, and often pop in to say thank you. The chicken pie is a firm favourite with children and staff alike-masses of pastry, tons of chicken, it’s just superb,’ says headmaster Richard Harvey.

Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle, London

(020-7584 6322;

Beef bourguignon with stuffed tomatoes

What they say ‘I’m told that one of the most vivid memories that past pupils have of the school is the glorious smell of bourguignon wafting down the corridors before lunch. That’s how good it is,’ headmaster Olivier Rauch comments. ‘We’re very proud of our food, which is all prepared in the traditional French way, and about half of all our ingredients are shipped to us directly from France. Having said that, the children do love foreign-food days-we serve Mexican or American meals, for example, and the chefs dress up in national costume. But when asked what they like best, they say the beef bourguignon, every time.’

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