Long before I opened Lamberts over thirteen years ago I knew that my restaurant would offer locally grown, seasonal food and I have stuck to this ideal even though the reality of sourcing good British ingredients has been far harder than I ever imagined. There simply isn’t enough to go round.
Restaurateurs and chefs are notoriously territorial about their suppliers – in fact many chefs refuse to reveal where they get their ingredients from. We, however, have always name-checked our suppliers as we see them as key to the success of our restaurant. Without these wonderful people our dishes just wouldn’t be the same. By ensuring the tireless producers behind the scenes enjoy wider recognition, we hope to encourage restaurants making the extra effort that such ideals necessarily involve.
With very few exceptions, the ingredients we use in the kitchen come from small British suppliers. We want to show the diversity of British produce as well as minimising our carbon footprint. So whilst our menu in September features dishes made with chanterelles and plums, we don’t normally use produce commonly associated with overseas cooking. For the same reason we only offer fish from sustainable stocks found in the waters around the UK. You won’t find caviar, salmon (farmed, organic or Alaskan) or trawled fish on our menu (which is a method that has had a detrimental effect on other stocks and the environment), but we do offer delicious mackerel fresh off the day boats in Cornwall and dover sole landed at the MSC certified fishery out of Hastings. We’re not saying we are perfect but we feel that it’s worth doing something rather than nothing at all.
Some of our suppliers are organic but we would rather use premium ingredients grown in the UK than organic which have been flown half way around the world from poor farmers or trucked over from southern Europe with less but still significant environmental impact.
That our farming industry is in crisis isn’t news to anyone, but hopefully the fact that it’s becoming increasingly less socially acceptable to air freight food around the world, might hopefully be the catalyst we need to encourage more sustainable agriculture and ensure we are able to meet the growing demand for good, honest, natural food at home.
Huntsham Farm – spearheaded by the inimitable Richard Vaughan, Huntsham Farm provide Lamberts with all of our pork. Utilising every part of the animal – ‘nose to tail’ not just minimises waste, it also allows us showcase unfashionable and lesser known cuts to our discerning customers. Richard’s Middle White pigs are viewed as some of the best in the entire country – indeed, he is the sole supplier to Simon Rogan’s one and two Michelin-starred eateries Fera & l’Enclume.
Ben’s Fish – fresh, as local as possible, and completely seasonal: Ben’s Fish do things just as we like to do at Lamberts. Based at Mersea Island, their name is synonymous with quality. Whether it’s beautiful native oysters for our biannual Oyster Festival, hand dived scallops for those in the know or some classic lemon sole for a Friday night dinner, Ben’s are our go-to supplier for excellent seafood.
Forge Farm – ‘Squash Man Greg’ Klaes as he’s affectionately known here at Lamberts is a man of principles, growing only organic produce using sustainable farming methods at the farm he and his wife Kate run in Oxfordshire. Although best known for his squash, his multicoloured corn, squash flower honey and a number of other treats regularly find their way on to our menu.
Lake District Farmers – known in the trade as the ‘hidden pearl of the Lake District’, and for very good reason too. Rare breed beef and sheep are the order of the day here, and regulars at Lamberts know only too well that Herdwick wether or Longhorn rump are a cut above the standard fare you usually find in restaurants. By establishing and nurturing relationships with over 50 farmers in their area and developing their own breeding program, Lake District Farmers are able to supply meat products that satisfy even the most demanding of customers.
Rustic Cheese – finding the very best artisanal dairies and supplying some of the biggest names in the restaurant trade, Rustic Cheese are an integral part of what we do here at Lamberts. Not only supplying the cheeses that we use in cooking, but also those we offer as standalone dishes; their Drunken Burt has a near mythical status on our menu, and that’s for one reason only – it’s very, very good.
Sussex Gold – one of the hardest things about cooking seasonal British food is finding a decent alternative for olive oil. We use an absolute stunner in Sussex Gold Extra Virgin Rapeseed Oil – cold pressed British oil that marries together seasonal flavours wonderfully.
Watts Farm – growing over one hundred of your own crops has two major advantages: you can cut out the middleman, and always be in control of what you can offer. Watts Farms are an incredible company to work with for those reasons, and their seasonal fruits and vegetables are such an important part of the menu here at Lamberts. After all, what is a Sunday Roast without the veggies?