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Meet the Suppliers - New Forest Salads

3rd Sep 2018

When you think of a professional kitchen you don’t usually associate it with words like flexibility or fluidity, perhaps you think more about pressure, precision and planning? Well, in The Terrace kitchen, something special has been developing for the last decade. It does involve award-winning skills and professional precision and expert insight, but it also gives a great deal to nature and having confidence to let go to rigidity and give-in to fluidity, imagination and ultimate creativity.

Welcome to The Terrace Restaurant at the Montagu Arms Hotel, where growing and nurturing doesn’t just happen in the garden.

Meet John and Catriona Kennard, the people behind New Forest Salads and the special couple who for the last 10 years have grown a loyal partnership with our very own Head Chef Matthew Tomkinson. A partnership that has been, and will continue to be, shaped by the seasons.

Just 4 miles away from The Montagu Arms Hotel at New Forest Salad, John and Catriona cultivate seasonal produce, growing it as slowly as possible, for optimum flavour and texture – nurturing it until it’s ready for your plate.

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John and Catriona’s paths crossed whilst John studied for his Horticulture degree and Catriona took a step into Landscape Management, since then they established a wholesale plants business which developed and diversified into the business we know and love today, New Forest Salads.

Head Chef Matt was their first customer, and with a premature belief that he would expect pristine produce they set to work but quickly discovered Matt’s true motivation – full flavour and freshness. So, now when they deliver the cabbage, they don’t worry about its aesthetic perfection, they know that the chefs will gather around instead to marvel at how “squeaky” they are.

John and Catriona take great pride in their produce, and due to the acidity of the soil in the New Forest there are limited vegetable farms, so their growing takes place in raised beds in polytunnels for ultimate conditions. They also take a reactive approach to growing, allowing the season and climate to dictate what will grow. This enables them to try a bit of everything rather than restrict themselves to particular crops or varieties.

They are certainly not precious about heritage varieties either; John and Catriona have grown Mizuna and Pak Choi in winter, ‘Sungold’ Cherry Tomatoes in summer, as well as Black Krim Toms too, (which Matt makes the most amazing consommé from). Quite simply, if it grows and tastes good, they will grow it! And you know it will be squeaky-fresh.

Matt loves working with the seasons in this way, which is why he chooses not to order anything specific from John and Catriona, instead he too takes the responsive, flexible approach, waiting to see what they deliver and then moulds his menu to work around nature’s best offerings. This way of working takes the pressure off both Head Chef and Supplier; New Forest Salads needn’t produce to specific demands because when harnessing nature sometimes things do go wrong, and Matt’s menu can remain flexible and reflective of the season and the New Forest.

The loyalty and trust that makes up the relationship between Matt, John and Catriona is clear for all to see; the couple understand Matt’s passion and his loyalty to them means they would anything for him.

John and Catriona describe Matt as “a dream to work with” because of the trust he has in them. He doesn’t dictate what they must produce, he respects their expertise and recommendations, believing whole-heartedly in working with carefully chosen suppliers for that very reason. Matt is also truly passionate about supporting small producers and is committed to continue to do so.

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Matt considers the quality of John and Catriona’s vegetables to be exceptional: “I had never had compliments about the vegetable accompaniments to my dishes until I started using their [New Forest Salads] produce. It deserves to be treated with the same level of care as your meat.”

But what is exceptional also, is the mutual respect both Chef and Supplier have for the expertise of the other. Only time, insight and trust can grow such a partnership, and we’re delighted and proud to see it continue to grow in the form of the award-winning cuisine we are able to produce at our Terrace Restaurant at The Montagu Arms Hotel.

The restaurant is open to residents and non-residents daily for lunch and dinner. Whether it's for a celebration, executive meeting, private birthday dinner or afternoon tea - For places to eat in Hampshire, The Montagu Arms is the perfect spot.

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