The Farmhouse at Redcoats
Redcoats Green is a hamlet in north Herts, close to Hitchin and surrounded by good walking countryside. I went to the The Farmhouse at Redcoats for lunch with my cousin Jacqueline on a fine day, pre-heatwave, when the lupins are looking splendid, and the grass is green.
Comfy and country. This Grade II listed farmhouse dates back to 1480. The wood is warm; the beams have a patina. This is a building that has lived a good life.
But what’s this? Dark blue walls? Arty food photography printed on fabric and hanging in The Old Kitchen, now a private dining room? Lighting made from colanders? What you need to know is that last year, The Farmhouse at Redcoats was acquired by the brilliantly innovative Nye family business Anglian Country Inns. This was a Very Good Thing Indeed. The Nye family knows its onions when it comes to running pubs and inns and bars and coffee shops and basically anything that involves food and sometimes beds.
Ellené Nye is responsible for the look and feel of the interior transformation of The Farmhouse. She is married to one of the Nye brothers and she is a designer and stylist and also owns the Hermitage Rd & Co interiors shop in Hitchin. If this is all sounding like a formidable dynasty, it’s actually extremely real and friendly. If you meet the Nyes they are a proper family who love giving people great hospitality experiences. On arrival at The Farmhouse they started work on the main house – home to 12 bedrooms, the bar, the conservatory restaurant and private dining rooms. And this year, Spring 2018, the renovation of the barns was completed. There are now 15 additional bedrooms, and a beautiful party barn for 120 guests. This is now a serious contender as a wedding venue.
SCOFF & QUAFF
We ate in the conservatory. The bread is absolutely delicious here: sourdough made every morning with The Farmhouse‘s own starter. My cousin was the designated driver and stuck to water, and I’d had a bit of a week of going out, but I tried the house white and very good it was too. My cousin had mackerel and it was perfect; apple and beetroot together are a great companion to oily fish. Each mouthful was light and zingy and the samphire made me think of the other businesses run by Anglian Country Inns in Norfolk. Brancaster oysters are also on the menu.
My smoked duck had an intensity of flavour and while I wouldn’t have thought of combining it with Caesar salad, it worked, and again the combination of textures made for interesting tastes and discussion. Despite feeling hungry and the duck tasting so good, I would have been happy with half the amount.
Main courses. My cousin chose beef and I went for sea bass. Both dishes looked beautiful and we did a respectful amount of ooo-ing before getting stuck in. The beef was rich and perfectly cooked and the potatoes were mashed with hearty chunks. Great colours and intense flavours and we liked the cabbage and heritage potatoes. Sea bass was pan fried to perfection and the crisp skin was an appropriate contrast with pillowy parmesan gnocchi. Pea shoots and purple sprouting broccoli were a good addition. All in all, we were very happy. The chef here is Sherwin Jacobs who was at The Fox at Willian before (another Anglian Country Inns venue) and he is clearly someone who enjoys feeding people well.
A short breather and on we went. Jacqueline was up for a piña colada in a pudding: the tropical fruit posset, and I should add that she has professional posset making skills. My eyes alighted on evaporated milk ice cream. This led us to sharing memories of our grandparents and the happy days of jelly mousse made with evaporated milk. When the posset arrived we thought there was a mistake because it was in a porridge bowl. But no, this was the posset, and in a quantity that could have been shared between two or even a family of four. I tasted it and while it was refreshing and fruity, it lacked the pleasing judder of a light posset. We agreed that a small pot would have been far better.
The chocolate fondant was very good: oozy and with a pleasing contrasting crunch from the pecans. I didn’t quite get the evaporated milk 70s memory that I’d hoped for, but overall it was an excellent pudding.
After all the eating, we needed some exercise. We had a good look around the garden and then were given a tour of the newly renovated barns. It was great to have a snoop, and with such a beautiful and big space, you immediately want to have a party.
The Farmhouse lends itself to events because you’re deep in the countryside so you could crank up the music and dance all night, but at the same time you’re close to Luton airport and Hitchin is only 3 miles away by taxi and you can be at Kings Cross in 30 mins. Jacqueline and I started talking about where the guests could spill out, and how you could wander around the garden, drink in hand. As well as the main barn there is the Cowshed Bar that definitely does has the potential of an urban club in the countryside by night.
In addition to the 12 rooms in the farmhouse there are now 15 new rooms in a converted barn and we visited some of them and what we saw we liked a lot. It’s Ellené Nye again. She has created boutique hotel bathrooms in rooms that have been designed with humour and warmth: each one is slightly different. Lots of light and lovely wood mixed with velvet and linen in gorgeous colours. There’s even hand painted wallpaper. It’s all very high spec and the reception area feels great: lots of modern lighting and it’s got a new carpet and paint smell. I have a hunch the breakfasts will be good, too.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
The Farmhouse at Redcoats is a real destination. This old building has been transformed with thoughtful design and with quirks and twists and colour. There’s a great feeling of space, both indoors and out. I like the choice of small dining rooms and the fact that you can wander over from the main house and have a drink in a former cowshed. The food is prepared and cooked with care and creativity and there are some absolutely delicious flavours to be enjoyed.
GOOD FOR: Relaxed midweek lunches and lazy long weekend lunching and dining. It would be good to come and check out the private dining spaces if you’re planning a get together. The Old Kitchen has room for up to 8 people and The Victorian Room is for up to 22 people. And of course it’s great for anyone who wants to have a big party in a barn.
NOT FOR: You need a car to get here although it would be quick and easy to come here by taxi from Hitchin which is only 3 miles away. I can’t actually think of anyone who wouldn’t like it here. We were there for a midweek lunch so there weren’t any children, but knowing Anglian Country Inns, I’m sure that kids would be very welcome.
THE DAMAGE: The prices are fair for the quality of food, attention to detail, attractive presentation and attentive service. Starters from £7.50 and mains from £15. Lunch set menu 2 courses £19 and 3 courses £24. Puddings £7.
The Farmhouse at Redcoats, Redcoats Green, near Hitchin, SG4 7JR