Pythouse Kitchen Garden Shop and Cafe

The construction of Pyt House {as it was once called}, between Newtown and Tisbury in south Wiltshire, was begun in 1805, to the design of its owner Mr. John Benett. It stands imposing in distant parkland, with an Ionic columned portico and wide bay windows. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, in “The Buildings of England” {the Wiltshire edition published by Penguin Books in 1975}, describes the walled gardens as “sumptuous”, as indeed they are, even on the cold and wintry April day we visited them.

Now called “Pythhouse Kitchen Garden Shop and Cafe” the business is a separate entity run by Mitch Earl, who looks after the café that sits at one end of the sloping fruit and vegetable garden that would have once fed the Georgian household. The gardens would have been part of the early 17th Century Hatch House, most of which was pulled down in 1770. Of the parts that remained, architect Detmar Blow made alterations in 1908.

What you enter, through new wrought iron gates separating the car park from the gardens, is a veritable community hub and so grateful are the locals for its existence they urge me not to tell anyone for fear of marauding herds descending by the coachload in this bucolic enclave. I, of course, proceed to take scores of photographs, for a silent bugle is of no use at all.

On one side of the café there is a very useful little food shop, stocking so many things that you might feel tempted to buy a whole dinner party here. Breckland Orchard Juices, Belvoir Fruit Farm Cordials, Fenton Farm Eggs, Garofalo Pasta, Cartmel Sticky Toffee Puddings, Clipper Teas and Hope and Greenwood confectionery sit alongside fresh fruit and vegetables dug straight out of the garden. There is also a range of fresh meats and charcuterie which are from the 1000 acre estate around Pythouse, owned by Lord Henry Rumbold. The shop was once his potting shed.

The dining room part of the café, which seats approximately 22 people in total, has a garden mural painted by Michael Dillon, for when the winter months are cold and dark and the barn doors cannot be opened. The café showcases local artworks and there is a table full of magazines and business cards to promote local small businesses.

There are wooden tables, wrought iron chairs, stone floors and a wood-burning stove to keep you warm. Plenty of magazines and chatty locals will keep you occupied while you wait for your lunch. There is also free Wi-fi, so you could bring your laptop and do some work while enjoying a coffee and freshly baked, seasonal fruit cake.

The food is fresh, simple and gutsy, with bold flavours and respect for the outdoor larder from where most of the ingredients come from. Chef Matt Trendall has been here a year and makes the very most of the boxes of spring greens, herbs, carrots and rhubarb that Head Gardener Heather Price deposits by the kitchen door for him to turn into the lunchtime Menu.

We ate “Carrot and honey soup”, “Apple, Pythouse greens and black onion seed tart with mixed leaves”, “Hummus, flat bread and Pythouse Greek salad” and “Pythouse Lamb burgher on sourdough bun with chunky chips and a spicy tomato and caramelised onion chutney”. Pudding was a fragrant “Rhubarb and custard tart with ginger crème fraiche”. With ingredients that have a total distance of about 50 metres at most to travel it is no wonder the taste is still so alive and intense. You will find it difficult to accept cling film wrapped supermarket produce after your visit here.

Outside there is a marquee for bigger parties and events, and in the grounds of the kitchen garden there is a tent which houses “Daisy and Kim’s Shop”. In the spirit of frugal recycling and upcycling, friends Daisy Campbell and Kim Todd have created an exemplary second-hand clothes shop for children and mothers, featuring nearly new designer clothes and accessories. When you step inside you could be forgiven for thinking that everything was brand new, their eclectic style is so chic and tightly edited. You will be stunned. How clever of them to align themselves with Pythouse, as in the spring and summer the plant nursery and café will be teeming with visitors, the sorts of visitors who are more than likely to wear brands like Marilyn Moore, Jackpot, Great Plains, Orla Kiely and Toast.

The loos are housed in wooden sheds just outside the boundary of the wall. Worry not, they passed the strict bugle inspection, and there is even a nappy changing area for babies.

This venue is a bold example of how exciting, well run country businesses can become destinations in their own right, regardless of rural isolation. You are miles away from anywhere here, yet there is plenty to occupy all your senses: beautiful vintage gardenalia, birdsong, flowers, rows of immaculate organic vegetables, friendly staff, quirky details. Pythouse Kitchen Garden Shop and Café stands as an example to all of what can be achieved, even on a cold and rainy day.

Further information

Pyhouse Kitchen Garden Café and Shop:

Follow the team on Twitter: @Pythouse

Similar Posts