Visitors from all around Devon and Cornwall, and even passing by, since it’s pretty close to Exeter. Quicke’s cheese is kind of a big deal if people understand the process of care involved in producing it. More of this can be found by reading our interview with Mary Quicke MBE . Suffice it to say that the team at Quicke’s are passionate about taking the products of the sun, soil and water of their part of the world and produce amazing food with them. Eating in the farm kitchen, you overlook the very fields on which the dairy cows strut their stuff, and then get to eat the result. Which is pretty fly.
From elderly local farmers to young friends who’d crossed Devon, even a chilly February Monday saw the place pretty packed, so the team are certainly doing something right.
In one word
Amid rolling hills and green pastures, Quicke’s farm encompasses 1500 acres of the Devonshire countryside. It’s a working farm, so there may be any number of farming activities taking place as you dine. Recently, Mary has set up the farm kitchen, following an inspirational visit to San Francisco. Her idea was to create a dining space wherein visitors can see the land from which it all began.
The actual farm kitchen sits inside a large marquee with a space heater. It was when the tops of the moors were dusted with snow that we visited, and the very first croci were pushing their way into the world. But that space heater kept us warm as we ate and drank.
With a small team of nine cheese makers, and several other key players on board, the ethos amongst the staff is well communicated: from the farm manager to Mary herself, and from the waiting staff to the chef, everyone seemed to really take pride in everything Quicke’s stands for. With an ethos of treating their animals and people well, and commitment to sustainable farming, Quicke’s are really quite special.
Unsurprisingly, given Mary’s adoration of her native Devon, and commitment to localism, everything is locally sourced wherever possible. So we thought it’d be rude not to have a cider. It was the ‘tache’s birthday after all. Just outside of Exeter, Sandford Orchards have a farm where they make delicious, fresh pressed ciders without concentrate. Naturally, I tried the Shaky Bridge at a cool 6%. Apple-y and not too dry, this was a good choice as an all rounder. Heron Valley produce award winning cider, juices and sparklings in deepest Devon too, which are all on sale in the Kitchen and the Shop. Organic pressing of heritage apples seems to be their forte. These would deserve their own review, but it’s great to see that everything is chosen to support the local economy.
Having recently been converted to trying the odd bit of meat here and there, all Mary’s enthusiastic talk of her cows had me craving beef, but the menu choices reflect what is in season at that time, and I wasn’t yet brave enough to try the wild venison or boar. The ‘tache opted for a warming lamb stew with farm fresh potatoes and veg. We didn’t know it yet, but the energy procured from this meal was going to be vital for the afternoon.
It being a cheese farm, I decided to try the Quicke Platter. Comprising of Mary’s own salad with three different Quicke’s cheeses, a locally produced chutney and a pickled egg, this was a perfect lunch meal, and looked amazing. Being all natural, I was lucky enough to get a double yolked egg, and some edible flowers from Mary’s garden, which made the presentation beautiful.
The vintage cheddar was unlike anything I’ve tasted before with a complex depth of flavour, deriving from the vintage cultures and cloth binding. An elderflower cheese brought out the beefy flavour and is making my mouth water just writing about it. (What is it with me and beef this year?)
All lunches were under £10, the platter just £7.50, and the portion sizes were very reasonable, which made it a really good value for money place, with the added experience of being literally in the middle of where the magic happens.
Quicke’s also make ice cream, and so when a generous warmed brownie, topped with ice cream made right there was on offer, naturally I had to do my duty and have a taste. Often disappointed with desserts, this was a delicious and hearty brownie, which kept me full for our fun in the snow!
Each person we spoke to had a genuine passion for what’s being achieved on the farm, and seemed happy and confident to talk about the food and values of Quicke’s.
Being able to watch the farm working and knowing that everything on the plate came from within a few miles of the farm, if not actually on it is a really marvellous experience. Connecting visitors to their food and its sources is one thing, and as a country girl, it connected me to my past and values that form the future.
The need for fuel
Being an amazing snowy start to February when we went, we hadn’t anticpated getting stuck on slippery black ice on Dartmoor after visiting Quicke’s on our way to do some other reviews (coming up). Thankfully we’d bought some incredible cheese and crackers from the farm shop, and the ‘tache was all warm from lamb stew, which made it the most beautiful traffic jam either of us have ever experienced.
Mary’s own ideas about the need for fuel form the basis for one of her future projects: an anaerobic digester.
Luckily, products can be bought from their online shop at http://www.quickes.co.uk/index.php?pg=onlineshop
Tel: 01392 851222
Quickes Traditional Ltd
Newton St Cyres