New Sussex restaurant walks on the wild side

A new restaurant serving ‘wild’ meat opens this week on the Knepp estate near Horsham in West Sussex – England’s largest rewilding project, where herds of cattle, pigs, ponies and deer roam free.

Wilding Kitchen Restaurant is set in a converted 18th-century barn next to a new courtyard garden, where produce is grown using regenerative agricultural methods. The opening menu’s headliner is a 700g Old English Longhorn tomahawk steak for £85; other items include braised fallow deer shoulder served in a tortilla.

Sir Charles Burrell, ancestral owner of the 3,500-acre estate, abandoned traditional intensive agriculture in 2001 and allowed it revert to nature in a project traced by his wife, the writer Isabella Tree, in her 2018 book Wilding. The project’s recent successes include the reintroduction of nesting storks in 2021 and the birth this year of two beaver kits – the first in Sussex for 500 years.

The new restaurant is run by their son Ned, a recent graduate of the Ballymaloe cookery school near Cork, along with head chef Bradley Adams, formerly of Wiston wine estate’s restaurant Chalk.

The historic barn has been converted using reclaimed materials from the estate and is designed to encourage wildlife, with swallow and bat boxes in the eaves, stork nest platforms on the gateposts and even mud pools for house martins in the courtyard. The building is heated by ground source pumps, and the site collects rainwater in a pond to be ‘water-neutral’.

While the animals on the estate are not farmed, the absence of natural predators such as wolves means they have to be culled to prevent over-population. The carcases are butchered on site for sale in the estate’s shop and now the restaurant – and Knepp insists that the animals’ free-roaming, healthy lifestyle results in better meat.

Because their diet is entirely natural, the meat is positively good for human health – high in omega-3 and CLA which is said to help combat cancer and diabetes, high in beta carotene and vitamins E & B, high in calcium, magnesium and potassium, and low in saturated fats.

Because they are free to browse and are ‘slow-grown’ – ie not fattened unnaturally fast on grain and protein – the meat from our animals is denser and richer, with that characteristic ‘marbling’ of fat which gives fantastic texture and taste.” 

Wilding Kitchen Restaurant is open for lunch on Wednesday to Sunday and for occasional evening events, the first of which takes place tomorrow. The café is also open daily from 9am for breakfast, lunch and light bites.

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