We’re delighted to welcome back La Petite Bouchée to the Exmoor Food Fest for the third time, and after another busy year wowing customers and winning the odd award we’ve got Anita-Clare Field, Chef/Patron here in the hot seat to answer questions about food, the festival and what her guilty pleasures are.
Tell us about La Petite Bouchée and where we can find you?
We’re located in Witheridge which is equidistant between South Molton and Tiverton, on the very edge of Exmoor. We certainly get moors weather here !
Our arrival here in Devon is well documented across the Devon press, so I’ll try hard here not to be repetitive. La Petite Bouchée is our 22 cover brasserie, built into the back of our property. We opened here in May 2017 after two very successful years in London with our beloved HY Citroen Camper Van and a lot of life under canvas. The dining room has a warm and friendly ambience, the decor is unpretentious and the food, typical brasserie food cooked with Devon’s finest ingredients, most of which is homegrown or sourced locally within a 15 mile radius. Caroline, my wife who is an award-winning author and I jointly own La Petite Bouchée. Caroline has an extensive knowledge of wine and is actually a trained pastry chef. She entrusts our future to me, and I run La Petite Bouchée on a day to day basis. Fate, luck or what you will blew Mr and Mrs Linzi and Nigel walker our way one freezing March afternoon in 2017 and with their extensive knowledge and huge experience in hospitality we are team La Petite Bouchée. I just worked from day one. Here we are entering our third year here with a lot to look forward to this year.
You’ve won a few awards since you’ve been here?
Yes, I guess we have. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response to La Petite Bouchée. We’re very proud of our achievements. It’s very much a team here, a well oiled machine, Linzi, our incredible FOH often describes it as one brain. Which is good because mine is addled most of the time ! We’ve got our third Taste of The West Gold Award this year and we were also finalist this year in the Best Restaurant in the West Country Category, we were delighted to be in such illustrious company, and to lose to such a worthy winner in Jamie Rodgers at Twenty-Seven was not a hardship. We also won the LUX-Life Best International Restaurant, Devon award for the second year running and shortly before Christmas we were finalists in the Devon Tourism Awards for Best Restaurant/Bistro award and we won a Bronze which we were ecstatic about. We were up against The Burgh Island Hotel, Harry’s Restaurant, Exeter and The Angel A Taste of Devon in Dartmouth. Imagine that, Little old us, in Witheridge, open two evenings a week, just mind boggling ! We’ve also won awards previously with Food and Drink Devon and Devon Life.
So you’re back at the Exmoor Food Fest for the third year running, what is it you like about the festival?
When we first arrived in Witheridge, we looked around at all the various festivals and events across Devon and we were immediately drawn to Exmoor Food Fest because of the locality. Sourcing local ingredients and supporting local business is so important to us as well as being able to offer our community and surrounding areas the opportunity to enjoy La Petite Bouchée at the festival prices. We’ve met some really fantastic people in the last three years both guests, fellow chefs and restauranteurs. Everyone taking part supports and promotes each other’s offerings, well we do at least.
Tell us about your food this year?
The food we serve at La Petite Bouchée is French brasserie style. No frills, locally sourced ingredients with big flavours. For me less is always more ! The menu for the festival this year really sings that out loudly. We’ve got classics like French Onion Soup, Chicken liver Parfait, Moules Frites, Steak Frites.
We’ve also got snails on the menu this year served traditionally with garlic butter, and our meaty ham hock terrine, made with only natural ingredients and “soft like butter with the most beautiful flavour” – that’s actually a comment from a customer last year. We’re introducing a Côtelette of Pork this year which will be served with peas and baby onions. Our seasonal fish dish is pollack with in a seafood sauce, made with homemade shellfish stock.
For our vegetarian and vegan customers we have in addition to the soup, a Vegetable Pâté which is served with french toast, Roasted Confit Tomato Galette and a Winter Vegetable Coulibiac served with a light wild mushroom sauce.
The desserts this year are a traditional Tarte with walnuts and a salted caramel glaze and a Tarte Flambée topped with apples and cinnamon. So hopefully something for everyone !
Who are your culinary influences ?
The person who fuelled my passion for food and cooking was our amazing Mama, she was a fabulous cook and she always served the most amazing food. She taught me about tasting and using my instincts, to experiment with flavours rather than always following a recipe. I really wish she was here to see what we’ve done in the last 5 years, she’d be stunned and I hope proud.
Other culinary influences are of course Raymond Blanc, self taught and very much influenced by his own Mama, and Michel Roux Jnr. Female chefs who blow me away are the amazing Sophie-Anne Pic and Dominique Crenn. I seriously admire Claire Smith and I love Daniel Galmiche and Stéphane Reynaud, and I can’t wait to go and try Little French in Bristol owned by Freddie Bird, who I appeared with on Channel 4’s Hidden Restaurants with Michel Roux Jnr.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Simple, a seriously wicked ‘dirty kebab’ with lashings of chilli sauce. My idea of heaven. It’s a rare treat these day as I have to drive 12 miles to get one !
We evolve our menus, customer experience and vision all the time, nothing is cast in stone. We have a very tight environmental policy which encompasses carbon free dining, zero waste and only supporting local business, I can see that developing a lot more in the future. Who knows, these ideas always seem so pop into my head at 3am in the morning, I mean, look what happened the last time !