Yeo Valley: A ‘Michelin star quality’ canteen?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 08 June 2015 | UPDATED: 15:34 08 June 2015

Yeo Valley canteen, Rhodyate, Blagdon,

Yeo Valley canteen, Rhodyate, Blagdon,

Archant

IS THE Yeo Valley staff canteen in Blagdon really ‘the best canteen in the world’? Mercury reporter and food fanatic Grace Earl went to find out.

The Yeo Valley canteen: how it works

The canteen is open to members of the public from 12.30pm-2pm, Monday to Friday.

Main courses can cost up to around £12.

The canteen often hosts themed days, such as Roast Wednesdays and Fishy Fridays.

Booking is essential. To reserve a table, contact Jill on 01761 461425 or email events@yeovalley.co.uk

“IT’S not just about the food. It’s about the whole process of cooking.”

These were the words of Jason Eland, head chef at the award-winning yoghurt manufacturer Yeo Valley’s staff canteen.

Jason had taken two minutes out of his manic pre-lunch schedule to offer me an insight into what made working in the heart of the Blagdon farm so wonderful.

The Yeo Valley canteen was unlike any other canteen I had ever visited before. Light, airy and unbelievably spacious, the bespoke eatery offered spectacular views of Blagdon Lake and the Mendips.

Views aside, the canteen stood out in numerous other ways. Its food, which has been described as ‘Michelin star quality’ by several restaurant critics, had gained such a stellar reputation that management decided to open it up to the public in March.

It did not take a genius to work out that bringing a packed lunch to the office was not the done thing at Yeo Valley – and with good reason. The company’s 120 workers can tuck into a light lunch for £2, or a larger meal for £4.

Yeo Valley canteen, Rhodyate, Blagdon,Lucy Tothill and Abi Smith.Yeo Valley canteen, Rhodyate, Blagdon,Lucy Tothill and Abi Smith.

Typical dishes included asparagus, soft poached quail egg, confit of tomato and deep fried polenta for just £2, with plenty of home-made cakes and treats up for grabs too.

Jason said: “I’ve been here for a year, and I love the diversity of the place. It is everything you could possibly want as a chef.

“We go back to the basics of cooking as we use whatever is in the fields around us. It’s all about using produce and cooking sustainably. If you wanted we could take you out to the fields where your food was grown. I could point out of the window at the field where the cow your steak came from was reared.”

Yeo Valley’s focus on organic produce was something which applied to all aspects of its business – it was not just about yoghurts. All products served in the canteen were either organic, locally produced or from an ethical source, with no waste going to landfill.

Manager Jerry Naish explained: “Sustainability is at the heart of what we do.

“If you take a steak, for instance, we would never just cook a steak and waste the rest of the animal, so it means our chefs are really creative. And I think that’s really reflected in the quality of our food.”

Yeo Valley canteen, Rhodyate, Blagdon Grace Earl.Yeo Valley canteen, Rhodyate, Blagdon Grace Earl.

As I sat down to enjoy my lunch, I couldn’t help but agree.

The Yeo Valley team had turned a simple burger and chips into something glorious; the burger, which had been cooked to order, was juicy and plump, and was an excellent contrast to its devilishly sweet brioche bun. My chips, meanwhile, were gorgeously seasoned and beautifully fluffy inside.

As no meal is complete without a dessert, I opted for a chocolate brownie with home-made ice-cream.

But what made my lunch all the more enjoyable – in all honesty, it was quite possibly the greatest burger I’d ever eaten – was knowing my food had been grown in the fields around me and had been created with the utmost love and care by some incredibly talented cooks.

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