A new decade for dining, we’ve turned over a new leaf and introduced something quite special to our guests.
2020 Àclèaf was born and Head Chef Scott lets us in on the inspiration and why’s behind the new restaurant at Boringdon Hall.
From tiny acorns do mighty oaks grow goes the saying; Àclèaf is our way of turning a new leaf, and in which from our past Acorn hospitality award winners and history of the “enchanted place on the hill”, an oak leaf or “Àclèaf ” as they would have said when Boringdon Hall was being built seemed so fitting. With Gaia watching over us, this naturally inspired restaurant will see us bring our guests together, help them engage in one another’s lives and be present in the moment they share with us. When asked to define a style of food, this becomes tricky. Àclèaf isn’t following the rules, it’s setting an example, it’s a culture and a lifestyle. Tying a style of food to this seems against what we want to achieve, so you could give it a broad spectrum of contemporary and flavourful. The style is simply the best produce we can get our hands on, cooked honestly and served simply. Truth with elegance is our style. We have taken this outside of the kitchen and into the dining room, re-evaluating everything from the décor, to the place settings. It is important that our elegance is transmitted through every angle and place settings are key to that; minimal, clutter free and interesting. We decided to play with the way the tables were set. Stripping back any unnecessary items which weren’t necessarily needed on the table, ensuring guests can feel at ease, comfortable and spacious; a place to simply enjoy the food.
Àclèaf serves dishes and produce that have had maximum focus on each individual element. All building and working together to highlight the main ingredient, keeping our playful elements and nostalgic influence. Dishes are served with sophistication, we call this… truth with elegance. The journey of Àclèaf started last year; jotting ideas, phrases and memories at every chance. Sketching dishes while planning every detail. The mighty oak was central to every decision made, making sure it always came back to that as a root, including our dining room. When dining it’s important that all the senses play in harmony with one another. Ensuring you’re comfortable and relaxed to fully immerse yourself in the experience. In this day and age, we are all guilty of being passive, distant and full of worry at times and the result is not being present in each other’s lives in this world, its nonstop hustle, it’s go harder push harder, get more juice. We want to help our guests focus on each other for a few hours, good food and wine certainly goes a long way to washing any troubles or thoughts away.
Years ago the way people communicated and talked to each other properly was generally over food, a lavish banquet or a pot of stew cooked over the open fire, but always at the forefront of those meals, was bread, the idea of, offering, sharing, and breaking bread freshly baked bread and letting the butter slowly melt into it is the ultimate in comfort, if food could hug you, this would be it. Why four courses? This is a realisation of how I want a dining experience to feel, when in the industry and going out to eat in different restaurants, hotels and brasseries, if the team finds out you’re a chef or a waiter or in the industry, the hospitality seems to level up and it makes you as a guest feel great, appreciated and welcome. Everyone loves being a VIP, right?... but this is a problem, everyone always says “all our guests are VIPs” but, at Àclèaf we really mean it. If you have chosen to celebrate with us or even chosen to spend a few hours of your life, in a world where time is so precious, with us and put that trust in our hands then of course you are the most important person in the room. Three courses felt too abrupt for us to get across our true level of hospitality, it felt rushed, I wanted to introduce a unique experience that can allow us to showcase the best of what’s available and really help our guests allow themselves some time to be looked after.
Cheese is a big part of my life, I love cheese and whilst I appreciate cheese isn’t for everyone, I encourage our guests to try our selection. We’ve worked hard to provide a selection of local and French cheeses that are diverse in the way they are made, what they are washed in and how the cow/animal has lived that produced the milk. All cheese is so different. Our cheese board isn’t made up of the same cheeses you will find everywhere in the South West, this isn’t because of our ignorance to what is around us, it’s because we want to offer our guests that unique experience. We have some incredible port vintages to go along side, but my personal recommendation is to try the plum sake, or a vintage Champagne and see how diverse the world of cheese can really be.
When designing the dining room our Creative Director Gayle Nettleton had a clear goal in mind. “I wanted to create an elegant restaurant with top quality finishes and a simple colour scheme which doesn’t overpower the diner and allows the food to also shine. The light fittings were important. I love the organic shape of the branch wall lights - though the statement chandeliers are a particular favourite of mine. The artwork features prints from the Royal Horticultural Society which include many items on Àclèaf ’s menu such as cranberries.”
The look and feel of our menus mirror the food and philosophy. Every menu displays a print of a log stump on the front and back of the menu. This print was created from an oak log stump found within the grounds of Boringdon. With a new identity, the stamp conveys the handmade and natural approach which originates from the kitchen, while also portraying how a dining experience at Àclèaf is one of a kind, rather than a copy and paste, or reading from a script, mirroring how each print of the log stump is - truly original and unique. The stamp continues to flow through our ideology, feeding the two different menus. The stamp becomes whole when menus are placed on top of one another portraying how they intertwine, however still work individually. We hope our guests take something from the experience and take the menu home with them as a memento. We strongly believe that a menu is the single piece of paper that gives the world the most pleasure. It was important for us to create a restaurant that reflected our food, letting it shine and excite the guest at the upcoming experience, as well as translate our personality and ideology.
Sourcing the very best of each element to help build our dishes, working closely with suppliers near and far was the focus. When looking for suppliers it was important that they share the same passion for food we do. We source our duck from Creedy Carver Farm in Devon; their use of traditional free-range farming techniques and a cereal based diet aid the duck’s leisurely growth rate which helps promote a great tasting succulent meat leading to a wonderful eating experience. Our dedication to produce hasn’t ended with our food, wine can truly make a dish sing. Complimenting or contrasting in just the right way can turn a great meal into an unforgettable experience. Our English-led wine list really hopes to do just this. Working closely with our suppliers to fine-tune the balance of wines to suit everyone’s tastes and pallets while also enhancing our food. It’s important for us to not overpower our guests with a 200-page wine list, hoping the experience of reading the wine list is one full of excitement with consistent surprises rather than one full with dread. One vineyard we’re particularly proud to have on our wine list is Gustbourne, an innovative house from Kent striving to create the best wines in the world. Our herb gardens are also a perfect example of how to invest in great produce and a great way to extend our kitchen into the outdoors, bringing the chefs outside when it’s in full bloom and showing them what fresh herbs taste like is something to behold. The difference fresh thyme, bay leaf or rosemary can make is second to none as all the herbal notes and oils are retained. There’s nothing better than adding thyme to a sizzling pan and hearing it pop as the flavour bursts out to infuse.