What is Hartley's Kitchen?
Most foodies in Somerset will know that Paul Hartley is our very own celebrity; author of The Marmite cookbook which has sold 385,000 copies and it’s sequels Colman's Mustard, Lea & Perrins, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Lyles Golden Syrup, HP Sauce and the Bovril cookbooks, regular presenter on BBC Somerset and founder of www.breakfastandbrunch.com.
Paul’s bubbling personality and his infectious enthusiasm for his new venture and for all that is good about Somerset food greet you immediately you walk through the door into the 19th century barn with it’s glowing log burner and sunny atmosphere that is Hartley’s Kitchen. Within the first five minutes the strength of Paul’s relationship with his wife Lynda is equally obvious. Together for 29 years, they are still openly affectionate and genuinely appreciative of the other’s talent and hard work.
I wonder what drove them to embark on such a demanding project. “Lynda used to make chilled and frozen prepared meals for our deli – from the best local ingredients we could find. When we sold it she needed somewhere to store the meals so we looked for a double garage” explains Paul, “Last Summer Richard Lyons showed us this 200 year old barn with no roof and it snowballed from there”.
Over the next 6 months the Hartley’s renovated the barn, adding the log burner, creating the café, with full disabled access and building the first floor kitchen. With Paul and Lynda’s determination, reputation and cooking skills it was always going to come good, even in a recession, but I ask if he has any advice for those not so experienced. “Do you all you can to cut down on waste” he says “spend wisely – for example there’s no merit in buying second hand electrical equipment, it will just breakdown or fail to deliver, but there are areas where you can save a great deal, we bought all of our tables and chairs at car boot sales and the whole lot [8 sets] cost less than £200!”.
But, back to the original question – what is Hartley’s Kitchen?
For everyone from walkers to bikers - in fact anyone who enjoys a relaxing, home cooked meal and a good conversation.
Open Tues-Sun, serving delicious all day breakfasts made from the best local produce, much sourced from Stables Farm shop next door and others such as Mitchard’s Black Pudding from Radstock and Barber’s Butter from Evercreech. Don’t just think traditional British though, it’s on the menu of course, but there are also fruit croissants, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and on Sundays a special which could be kedgeree, kippers or scallops and bacon.
The lunch menu changes every day, inspired by the food Lynda may be cooking for her catering business or the cookery school. On the day we visited there were 12 choices ranging from golden winter vegetable soup, to wild boar sausages with mash and onion gravy and chunky beef chilli - which was delicious! There’s always a selection of Hartley’s renowned pies too – cold cutting varieties such as chicken and apricot and traditional hot ones like steak and mushroom.
Hartley’s Kitchen sells Lynda’s range of prepared meals, the pies, soups and cakes. The freezer is a round the world cooking tour! There are the trademark North African influenced dishes such as lamb tagine, traditional British favourites like cottage pie and roast beef, as well as Indian, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Thai and Malayan dishes.
Mondays are cookery school days. The courses are with 3 tutors sharing their culinary experience with a maximum of 10 students of all ages. They start with coffee and breakfast at 9am followed by a morning session in the kitchen. Lunch is around the table eating what they have all cooked with a glass of Somerset wine. Then back in the kitchen for 2pm to prepare supper for two to take home complete with all the recipe cards and a Hartleys Cookery School apron – what a perfect day.