I have been to a fabulous new restaurant/cafe twice in ten days (it must be good!) and I want to tell you all about it.
As you can see it is called Chalk Valley and is situated at 37 London Road Southampton SO15 2AD, which is in a stylish part of the city, with easy on street parking outside.
The owners, real food devotees Will Buckley and Sarah Jane Fairey, invited me to lunch after they read one of my blog posts and I have to say it was one of the best lunches I have ever eaten! Ribeye steak with a super fresh salad, an amazing truffle sauce and a pepper sauce too, plus superb pickles … I was in heaven.
If, like me, you find grabbing lunch out a bit tricky, due to your exacting dietary standards, you can now relax as Chalk Valley’s modern fast-food menu has pasture raised beef with the option of a gluten free bun or no bun at all. Many of the condiments and salads are organic and along with straight fries, they also do sweet potato chips.
Knowing the quality of the food, the nutrient density, the freshness and the happy origins of the meat matters to me and a lot of other people these days. For a new restaurant to meet the growing demand for really good food that is ethically produced, with sustainability at its heart makes perfect sense. To put it on the high street as a café, bar and grill was both courageous and a stroke of genius, thrusting these ideals right into mainstream view.
This Bar and Grill conceals its extraordinarily high standards behind a veil of high street accessibility. Despite its top notch quality no one could feel intimidated in the warm, friendly and inviting café environment. I loved the wall frieze manifesto, I loved the young chaps taking the orders, as though this level of quality were something the world is used to, and I loved the food and the totally sustainable ethos behind the way it was served. This is food from five star ingredients, made available for all, which is my idea of a genuinely Good Thing.
The mural flowing all down one side of the café declares the farming ethics behind the Chalk Valley menu. The beef, pork and lamb comes from their own farm which they declare is ‘beyond organic’.
When Will and Sarah first contacted me and invited me over to Chalk Valley I immediately googled the restaurant to find out more. Much to my delight, on looking through their website I found, a couple of articles by the great Graham Harvey – the very same Graham Harvey who was my keynote speaker at our Grass Fed Meat Revolution event held in Chichester in autumn 2013. It transpired that Will and Sarah Jane are friends with my other main speaker too, Sir Charlie Burrell, the man behind the stupendous Knepp rewinding project! (see my article on the event here). So the brains behind Chalk Valley Bar and Grill are clearly right up my street!
The main theme of this eatery is the super high quality 100% grass fed organic nature of their beef, lamb and buffalo meat, and their pasture reared pork, chicken and eggs. My understanding is that it is all from their own farm which is in the Test Valley, a chalk downland environment, hence the name of the café.( Please read the article by Will Buckley on the subject of the importance of our precious British chalk downlands here.) The other theme is the promotion of fast, tasty, accessible, pomposity-free, youthful and healthful food that ticks all the boxes.
I was so exited to be there on the first occasion that I clear forgot to take any photos, so this necessitated the task of going there again, today, with Keir, and indulging in one of their top burgers (the one called Chalk and Cheese for me – using goat’s cheese as an option, and bacon) which was served in a crisp curled lettuce leaf, while Keir went for the pork hot dog (served in a long cos lettuce leaf) and sweet potato chips to share. Relish, in all senses, was had, and boy was it good. The tea was served in really nice pots, and was made with proper leaf tea which was full flavoured. And I was even provided with a tea towel to use as a cosy, as I do like my tea to be kept hot (as anyone who knows me will testify).
Following a polite request, I was allowed into the kitchen to meet the chefs, two busy young men, clearing up as they went along (rule number 1 in my mum’s kitchen) and I was pleased to see that the area where the local artisan buns are toasted is kept quite separate from where the burgers and steaks are cooked, meaning that even those who are very sensitive to grains should be able to eat here safely. (Obviously I would make it clear when ordering that you are strictly grain free – but as far as I could see they are very capable of keeping you safe from any grain contamination).
Chalk Valley interior
Pasture-fed beef burger
Tea for two
Hot dog & sweet potato chips
One of the items discussed on my first visit, which I hope will soon take its place on the menu, is the special faggots that Will has devised with his chefs. Like haggis and sausages, faggots traditionally contained offal, partly so that no part of an animal went to waste, but also to get the prized nutrition of organ meats into the diet in an appetising form.
I have been banging on about offal for years now, as have other researchers such as Dr Terry Wahls (Associate Professor of Medicine at University of Iowa) who never travels without dried offal to see her through, and to which in part she attributes her cure from galloping multiple sclerosis. So my heart sang when these bundles of nutrition were mentioned. Let me know when they make their debut, Will, and I will be down in a flash.
Like me, Will Buckley is one of the nose-to-tail food advocates, which as well as being part of our ancestral tradition, is the only really decent way to approach an animal based diet. Eating in harmony with ones genome in this way seems like an altogether sensible way to live, I am sure you will agree, and this is where the science is leading. So it’s “back to the future”, and why not? To a Medical Herbalist and Clinical Nutritionist like me, it all makes complete sense.
Thank you Will and Sarah Jane for a superb lunch. I look forward to many more as I am determined to try every dish on your menu.