We find ourselves back in Wiltshire on a sunny afternoon. The destination is close to the village of Tisbury in south-west England, where we were just last month at the historic Compasses Inn. Pythouse Kitchen Garden is a little gem of a find, hidden prettily in an 18th-century three-acre walled garden.
The setting is idyllic and the epitome of the English countryside. Imagine birds singing and bees buzzing and foraging the flora splendour. The vast gardens are alive with life and colour, and the building is a sizeable ‘potting shed’ with timber facias and a centuries-old red brick.
The gardens are very much at the centre of the entire enterprise, which includes a Glamping Village, events venue and a rather delightful lunch spot. Since its humble beginnings as a tea room, the Pythouse Kitchen Garden restaurant has received much acclaim. A quick Google reveals glowing reviews from some of the best food writers and critics in the UK, and it continues to thrive under the direction of restaurateur Piers Milburn and head chef Darren Broom. Those who know about PKG would likely prefer us to keep their secret, and we’re (not) sorry for sharing the joy.
At PKG, there is a sustainable and seasonal approach to cooking and gardening. Head chef Broom works closely with head gardener Annie Shutt to create synergy in their garden-to-table principles. The majority of vegetables and fruits are grown on-site and, if not, sourced locally. There’s a big emphasis on cooking on fire too, where meat and fish are hand-picked from local producers. With over 17 years of experience, Broom has worked alongside some of the most well-respected chefs in the country, including Marco Pierre White and Michael Caines. He has a passion for the wild and foraged ingredients and enjoys incorporating them into his dishes.
The restaurant is currently only open for lunch and offers a generous and exciting menu. It’s not the type of lunch to enjoy in a hurry, and should be savoured over time. We sit in a large old potting shed, with an abundance of light and unassuming decor of woodblock prints, botanical drawings, plants, and a mishmash of tables and chairs. Somehow, though, it all feels elegant, relaxed and rather lovely. There is seating outside under a canopy with comfortable textiles of woollen blankets, sheepskin rugs, and an abundance of flowers from the garden.
The food is seasonal and local, but also innovative and wholesome. It’s generous, too, in volume and passion for beautiful home-grown produce. The menu showcases an abundance of vegetables, and the protein-based ‘mains’ change with the seasons expertly prepared over a real fire. We start our long lunch with a Sage Secret Garden cocktail with their signature non-alcoholic Springster botanically infused aperitif, fino sherry and rhubarb. It tastes like summer over ice with aromatic fresh sage.
Our ‘starter’ comprises homemade sweet and sour pickles with mustard seeds and fennel alongside chunky potato bread and devilishly creamy butter with a side of crispy and flavoursome cauliflower cheese croquettes. The Chalksteam trout with heritage tomatoes is a hearty dish of fish with crispy skin on a heritage tomato broth that is intensely tasty. The sweetness of the tomatoes comes through the tangy broth, and the little nasturtium capers add excitement to the dish. Then there’s the epic venison, skillfully cooked over fire, and comes with a fantastic beetroot and rhubarb ketchup that packs an exciting heat. We also love the trio of vegetable dishes, a real showcase of quality ingredients and complementary flavours.
With our bellies full, we had the chance to explore the gardens and wander around the stunning rural setting feeding our eyes and souls with foxgloves and poppies, lupins, other wildflowers and herbs such as lemon verbena, sage and fennel. Head gardener Annie Shutt keeps the 18th century walled gardens in their traditional splendour and clearly loves what she does. And if, like us, you’re a little obsessed with the wild, you can follow Annie’s Tales from the Garden blog. From June onwards, visitors can even pick their own flowers from the garden to take home.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden also offers glamping for those who’d prefer to stay a little longer. There’s a cosy shepherd’s hut for two or five bell tents set on-site in the private garden just below the flower beds. The bell tents need to be booked together, ideal for parties and celebrations. The Glamping Village is very much self-contained, and has multiple fire pits, places to sit and relax and a fully equipped kitchen/dining room.
And, if you’re staying a while and not rushing back to the hustle and bustle, we’d highly recommend hiring electric bikes from Cranks and Planks in Tisbury. They’re fast and fun, and if you’re interested in exploring the local area, there’ so much to see and plenty of beautiful pubs to pop by.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden is an enchanting spot rich in charm with a capital ‘C’. The menu is created with a love for respectful cooking and beautiful ingredients. It’s a truly wonderful escape that will feed the soul and the belly.