Andrew Carr taking on The Yurt at Nicholsons in North Aston is a big deal. Big, because Andrew is one of Oxfordshire’s most renowned chefs, and because until now The Yurt has been a garden centre cafe serving nice if predictable food to a captive audience.
This is all about the change, Andrew’s recruitment signalling a new chapter at the upmarket garden centre, as the new dining pods are completed.
Gone is the soup, quiche, coffee and cake culture of yesteryear, and instead we enjoyed a lunch worthy of the best Oxfordshire restaurants as we sat outside the famous tented dining space and soaked up the sunshine.
“being given carte blanche is pretty appealing, it’s a chefs dream really”
Which is what Nicholsons intended by bringing Andrew in, aiming to put The Yurt firmly on the culinary map and make it a destination venue.
Until now Andrew has been cooking consistently brilliant food at the busy White Hart in Wytham, but being given free rein at The Yurt and a better work/life balance (The Yurt is only open daytime Tues-Sat) clinched the deal.
So what attracted him to the job? “I loved the Nicholsons ethos – the sustainability factor is right at the top of the list here, and we use as many local suppliers as possible from North Aston Organics to Mayfield Eggs, Four Seasons Fruiterers and Forge House Bakery.
“And the sustainability runs right the way through the business, so all the food waste goes into a composter and is used to feed the trees and I love that. Even the rainwater is collected and used in the cisterns.
“The menu is mainly veggie/vegan and as seasonal as possible, with a few sustainable fish and meat dishes thrown in. The fish arrives fresh every morning from Cornwall, and we know what boat it comes in on and what time it’s caught.
“Right now it’s all about asparagus and wild garlic – the gardeners bring it back with them.”
“But being given carte blanche is pretty appealing, it’s a chefs dream really.”
And despite Andrew only being in situ for a few weeks, word is already out, 130 passing through on Saturday alone.
“I’ve changed up the menu so there are lots more choices, as well as an extensive brunch menu, featuring dishes such as Turkish eggs, buttermilk pancakes and kedgeree.
Andrew also has plans for some evening tasting menu dinners, outdoor dining options from BBQ to a wood fire pizza oven as well as cooking over an open fire (all of which are then available to buy at Nicholson’s).
Five new dining pods are also being completed for all weather and private dining, to complete the new look and the options available for Nicholsons customers.
Exciting then? “It’s early days but we are keen to see what we can do here. We want to be a name, a successful restaurant, a foodie destination. It was time for a change so it’s refreshing to say the least and yes, exciting. I’m excited about what the future holds.”
The Yurt at Nicholsons in North Aston is open Tuesday to Saturday 9am – 4pm (last orders at 2.30pm) with Brunch from 9am – 11.45am and lunch from 12noon – 2.30pm. It is closed on Sundays, Mondays and Bank Holidays. For more information and bookings go to: https://www.nicholsonsgb.com/yurt/