Worton Garden Cafe

Thick with flowers and bees, butterflies darting around, tables dappled in sunlight, the smell of fresh bread in the air, Worton Kitchen Garden seems like heaven when you first arrive.

It’s hard to find though, perhaps that’s its charm; this secret oasis of food, bucolic vegetation and rewilding tucked away on a farm behind Yarnton and Bladon, down a track, past lots of onsite offices, until you burst out on the other side and wind your way down to the exuberant farm shop bursting with local produce.

the freshly baked blackcurrant and frangipane tart was just cooling down when we arrived

And there, round the corner you’ll find Worton Kitchen Garden, its tables hidden amongst the flowers, orchards and the extensive glass house where you can shelter on less sunny days.

Worton Garden Cafe

We’d heard about new owner Simon Spence, baker and chef, who bought it from the previous owners last year, and is turning it into a little culinary eco mecca where 70% of the menu comes from produce grown on the farm’s 10 acres.

He’s roped in fellow chefs Jimmy Rossiter and Kieran Daniels, and their combined skill is both understated and a huge plus.

The attention to detail and love that goes into each and every dish is second to none

It was our second visit in two days. The first time we’d pitched up on the off chance of some brunch and found some delicious cakes and excellent coffee on offer (brunch is coming in the autumn), the freshly baked blackcurrant and frangipane tart just cooling down. It was worth the wait, as was the homemade sourdough almond croissants, and the chocolate cookies.

Simon Spence at Worton Garden Cafe with his freshly baked blackcurrant and frangipane tart

Returning for lunch the next day, there was a limited menu but we were totally blown away by the excellence of not only each and every dish, but the ingredients used. Quite simply, they sung.

From the dazzlingly good (homegrown) piquant apple juice to the rich duck eggs in the tortilla, the vibrant strawberries in the sorbet, the thick crusts of the sourdough and the varied salad leaves, provenance is everything here and you can taste it in every mouthful.

The tomato soup defied belief

Take the selection plate of pickles – Crown Prince pumpkin, sauerkraut and a beetroot and red cabbage kimchi, all made during the autumn glut, served with homemade sourdough rye bread, distinct and delicious without the sharpness of vinegar one often associates with home pickling. The attention to detail and love that goes into each and every dish is second to none.

provenance is everything here and you can taste it in every mouthful

The confit chickpeas with yoghurt and rice was a delight, the tomato and kohlrabi Sri Lankan curry with rice so good we ordered another portion, as we did with the potato tortilla with mixed leaf salad and a lemon and olive oil dressing.

As for the innocuous sounding tomato soup it was so rich and zingy, so delectable, it disappeared in a trice and that too needed a swift second helping. All simple and unpretentious but bursting with flavour.

The British Saddleback piggies

Followed by a Bounty cake – a rich moist coconut sponge with a chocolate and caramel icing which was so sumptuous we could scarcely believe our luck, more frangipane tart, the East End cheesecake, plus a selection of ice creams and sorbets, which couldn’t have stood out more if they tried – the strawberry sorbet literally bursting with summer, the glorious banana ice cream wonderfully lacking in that manufactured fake yellow colour and sugary sweet taste.

Worton Kitchen Garden is a really special place that deserves more recognition

Simon then showed us around afterwards, winding through the ancient orchards beginning to profer Mirabelle plums and apples, through to the Indian Runner Ducks which eat the slugs, the fields of flowers and vegetables, courgette flowers peeping through, and then on to the piggery where British Saddlebacks ran up to greet us.

Simon Spence at the front of the Worton Garden farm shop

Worton Kitchen Garden couldn’t any more idyllic, visionary and ecological if it tried, it’s dig/no till organic farming, home mulching, eco loos, rewilding and hedgerow building, all taking place without any song and dance. It’s a really special place that deserves more recognition and I, for one, will be frequenting it as often as possible. I hope you will too.

Worton Kitchen Garden is open for takeaways on Mondays and Tuesdays, full service on Wednesday-Sunday 11am-4pm and then dinner on Fridays and Saturdays 4pm-10pm. It also hosts concerts, talks and theatrics, as well as private events. For more details go to https://wortonkitchengarden.com

Simon Spence baking his sourdough bread