Eating at Groobarbs is a bit like eating at a wedding. A wedding where the happy couple really care about seasonal produce and you don’t have to listen to speeches.

You share a table of up to 12 with people you don’t know (unless your own party is big enough to fill it), get no choice about what you’re eating, and can get up and wander about the grounds in the leisurely gaps between courses. The grounds, in this case, are 6.5 acres of market garden owned by farmed David Fryer and wife Becky. On the July evening we visited, fennel, broccoli, peas and chard were growing abundantly in neat rows, providing supplies for the field kitchen as well as the couple’s veg box business. It is a life-affirming setting for a restaurant, and a trick has been missed in not having tables outside for summer evenings, but there is very little else to quibble about here.

Groobarbs has pulled off a rare feat in offering good value, delicious food and a non-tokenistic commitment to local and sustainable produce. This is an unusual combination indeed, and the world needs more of it. Specifically, it needs more of the salt baked beetroot we had for the third of our five course set menu (£33.50 at dinner, £29.50 for lunch). This was the standout dish of the night and the point at which the food really started to sing. Preceding it were Field Kitchen nibbles – including a tangy gazpacho and perfectly pleasant houmous – which were nice enough, and roasted carrots with sumac and sunflower seed dukkah. The latter were certainly tasty – harvested recently from Groobarbs’ bigger farm a few miles away in Great Budworth – but the purple and golden beetroot that came next was a level up. Sweet and earthy, paired perfectly with salty whipped feta and a crisp fennel seed breadstick, it was the kind of dish that would have led to plate-licking if strangers weren’t in such close proximity. 

Belly pork with Dunham Massey cider was equally delicious, served with potato salad and wet garlic pulled from the ground just outside the restaurant door, and a simple desert of berries with almond crumb and the world’s creamiest yoghurt was a well-pitched conclusion. The local sourcing did not stop with the site-grown veggies. The drinks list was packed with regional offerings – Staffordshire wine, Cheshire beer and spirits, and really good non-alcoholic ale from Sale-based Drynks. The meat came from about five miles away, the teas were Cheshire and even the flowers on the tables grew just down the road.

Owner David says that the purpose of the restaurant is to showcase his vegetables in order to promote Cheshire’s declining farming sector, and in turn to promote other local suppliers too. A laudable aim, but it would be worth little if the food was no good. Happily, it is good. If I could change anything – other than the folding IKEA chairs which added to the evening’s wedding vibe but not to its comfort – it would be the prolonged absence of meaningful carbs. The three early dishes were flavoursome and fresh, but it was almost two hours in before potato salad arrived with the pork and, from this greedy perspective, it would have been easier to savour the lighter early offerings with the simple addition of a bit of bread or somesuch. Next time, I will have a piece of toast beforehand. For there will be a next time. This is the kind of place that makes you think it would be nice to get a group of friends together. Or the family. The joy of a wedding feast, without the hassle of a wedding.

By Fran Yeoman

All images courtesy of Groobarbs

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For more information about Groobarbs Field Kitchen, High Legh, Cheshire, click here.