The Tickled Pig in Wimborne

In the face of widespread recessionary caution and uncertainty, it is heart-warming to see a new enterprise take off with flair and energy in the world of food and drink. Foodie Bugle readers may well remember Jez Barfoot and Matt Davey as the Chef partnership behind Deans Court’s indoor and outdoor events in Wimborne. A year ago in June they took their love of excellent provenance and honest cooking to create a new restaurant in the heart of the town: The Tickled Pig, an eaterie seating 50 people on two floors, with private events and cookery courses added to the list of their offering.

At the heart of the endeavour lies a near obsessive quest for the very best ingredients, which are then cooked, baked, cured, carved and served simply, carefully and with minimum fuss. From Wimborne, family butchers SJ Harvell and P Keating {both establishments trading since the beginning of the last century} provide the restaurant with meat: on offer on the menu are fillet steaks cooked with butternut puree and salsa verde, braised veal with garlic mash and open pork sandwich with radicchio and hazelnut salad. Fishmonger John “The Fish” of Bell’s Fisheries provides the menu’s smoked trout, which is served with soft boiled egg and baby gem lettuce, cod fillets, that cooked in vermouth with bacon and hispi cabbage and hake, prepared with chorizo and cider. British artisan cheeses include Waterloo Soft, Barkham Blue and Child Okeford, presented on a wooden board with homemade sea salt crackers and quince paste.

Cider  is sourced from nearby Purbeck Cider and beers are sourced from Corfe Castle Brewery. Ice-cream is from Buttercup and Daisy, artisan producers of ice-creams and sorbets from nearby Tisbury.

Growing food and DIY charcuterie is also at the heart of The Tickled Pig’s business plan, with the restaurant’s own kitchen garden cultivated in Pamphill and its young herd of Oxford Sandy and Black pigs at High Mead Farm. A small, neat herb garden has been planted in the courtyard garden of this 17th Century building, which was once a tea room.

To round off your epicurean journey around Dorset’s best food suppliers, barista Tom Cooper shows you how he creates the pig’s face milk froth on top of his cappuccino, using just air bubbles and the spiky end of a milk thermometer to etch patterns. Needless to say, like many food obsessives, they pay great attention to coffee making, sourcing their beans from Has Bean.

The Tickled Pig is a friend and family affair – the wives of the two chefs are both involved in the front of house, finance and administration of the business, and new recruits are found through friends, suppliers, locals and customer word of mouth.

The success behind this buzzing venture is an example to all aspiring restaurateurs for several reasons. Firstly it shows how creating a space that is clean, light, bright, uncluttered and modern ensures that footfall from the road is attracted into the building. Menus typed on brown paper, wooden chairs, polished flagstones, light, white paint, clean surfaces, cakes in the window, a sparkly, shiny bar: why can’t all provincial restaurateurs come here for a lesson on interior design?

Secondly, prices are kept reasonable: breakfast treats range from £1.50 to £4, lunch time dishes {including soups, salads, tempura, sandwiches, pasta and starters} range from £6 – £8. The most expensive dishes on the menu are no more than £16.50, which is outstanding value for money for cooking of this level.

Thirdly, the food, drink and class offer changes seasonally and with deliveries. From courses, to outdoor catering, weddings, private parties and buried fire pit cooking, the team reach out to the wider community around them. This is a hub, mobile, educational and destination business all in one.

Along with its West Borough neighbour, Number 9 Restaurant Wimborne, The Tickled Pig shows what can be achieved when smart, business-minded foodies graft and grow, turning this quintessentially English market town into a very viable foodie destination.

Further Information

The Tickled Pig:

Follow on Twitter: @TheTickledPig1

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