River Cottage – Whipsnade Zoo
An exciting new collaboration between Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo has brought a new dimension to feeding time at the zoo. River Cottage Kitchen and Deli sees the food writer and campaigner team up with the UK’s largest zoo.
River Cottage Kitchen and Deli is a unique restaurant where visitors can enjoy delicious lunches. The finest seasonal ingredients that have been ethically and locally sourced are at the heart of delightful new menus. The experience doesn’t stop with delicious food, however. The rustic restaurant overlooks the picturesque Chiltern Hills on one side and the Zoo’s herd of white rhinos on the other side.
Premier Hospitality recently sat down with River Cottage Chief Executive Stewart Dodd to find out more about this venture:
“We work with Levy Restaurants, which is a subsidiary of Compass Catering. Compass Catering have the catering contract for everything at Whipsnade and they approached us to work with Levy to open a River Cottage Kitchen and Deli. We know Whipsnade Zoo quite well because Hugh has worked alongside ZSL in his campaigning. We felt positive about working with the Zoo because of that historical relationship.
“There are several food outlets at Whipsnade and one of them was called The Lookout, which was opposite the rhino area. It was a fairly standard food offering café and the head of Whipsnade was keen to put in a much more appropriate restaurant which delivered organic, seasonal, local produce that we work with.
“We worked with Roy Westwood from Forward Associates who stripped the entire building back to its raw starting point. We have exposed concrete floors, exposed ceilings and exposed brick walls which gave us a blank canvas. Our restaurants are very simple and we’ve worked with Another Country to develop tables and chairs. In all our restaurants we tend to have a wood fired oven and a grill so there’s no gas in the venue.”
The restaurant is a small, intimate destination with approximately 60 indoor covers. In the summer however, there is scope for a further 50 covers in the large outside area.
Guests can graze on an appetising menu of grilled flat-bread, organic hummus and hemp seed dukka for starters. Roast spiced cauliflower, split peas and crisp onions; baked lamb meatballs with pickled lemon and yoghurt, are just some of the meals available. Deserts provide the perfect finish, guests can opt for hazelnut pavlova with roasted apples and custard, and much more.
“For us, it’s fantastic to have this partnership with the zoo. It allows Hugh to continue his great work with ZSL, his research and his conservation. This is a new venture for us because it’s a captive audience. We’re not persuading someone to come to our restaurant. It’s a different challenge but a really exciting one for us.”