As you turn off the A27 just west of Chichester and head towards Fishbourne, Nutbourne, and beyond, I always think the pace of life goes through a gear change. The countryside flattens, everything slows down, the smell of the sea fills the air, and it feels ever so slightly like the land that time forgot. And it’s in this gentle part of our county that you’ll find Westbourne and the newly established South Coast Supper Club hosted at Our Back Garden.
The concept behind the South Coast Supper Club is refreshingly simple: to bring together interesting people in a beautiful setting, to enjoy great quality and locally sourced food, and to help people reconnect with each other and our environment.
Our Back Garden
Our Back Garden is 24 acres of family-run rare breed farm. The family rather eloquently describe themselves as “caretakers of their environment” and they have alpacas, Sussex Red cattle, and sheep. They also have water meadows with the chalk stream River Ems and its trout, water voles, and kingfishers. The family is working hard to preserve the land and its wildlife and have recently installed an aquaponics system which is a method of aquaculture where waste from fish is used to supply nutrients for plants and vegetables which in turn purify the water. The farm produces its own produce, has a shop, and even a Shepherd’s Hut (more of that next week).
The Supper Club
The Supper Club came about when Laura Barker of Our Back Garden met Alice Passingham during lockdown. With a background in fashion, Alice’s passion is dressing tables which she clearly does with great flair. She was looking for the perfect place for people to come and enjoy great food, drink and to learn more about the local area. And an idea was born.
The Blue Fig
The Blue Fig Deli provides the final piece of the puzzle, in the form of Janie Horlock. Janie is a local chef, specialising in farm-fresh ingredients, old-fashioned techniques, and healthy flavoursome dishes. Her role is to serve up the three-course meal and wine pairing, cooked on-site and delivered with personal table service.
So, let’s eat
Dinner with the Supper Club truly is an off the beaten track experience to be savoured. You arrive down a rustic farm track and sparkling wine is served as you wander in amongst the alpacas and meet your fellow guests. The tables are beautifully dressed, with handwritten menus and local flowers.
For my part, I was seated in between two inspirational ladies, one of whom is part of the Final Straw Foundation (a local charity committed to cleaning up the environment), and the other who is the equally innovative founder of the Wild Tea Bar, which combines cake, wellbeing and sustainability. It was great to see those two connect and pool their resources as the alpacas looked hungrily on.
Our menu included home-cured salmon served on rather beautiful seashell-shaped, locally made plates, tender braised brisket with produce from the nearby Tuppeny Barn, and a divine elderflower jelly. Our sommelier explained the wine choices as the sun slowly set and there are not many places where you can enjoy superb dining and company while a newborn alpaca frolics in the grass beside you.
All over Sussex, people are changing their lifestyles in order to do what they can to be kinder to our environment. The pandemic of the last 18 months has been dark, but out of that, it’s inspirational to see women like Laura, Alice and Janie creating something wholesome, interesting and uplifting. If the Supper Club is about life’s simple pleasures, then it’s also equally about wellbeing, sustainability, and a little bit of luxury. And don’t we all deserve that?
The South Coast Supper Club events cater for 10 to 20 guests and you can find out more on Instagram @southcoastsupperclub, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/southcoastsupperclub. Or you can contact Our Back Garden or Blue Fig Deli.