It’s been a long time since I studied for my French GCSE, which was apparent when I became confused with La Ferme’s name. I remembered ‘ferme la bouche’ meant ‘shut up’, which I thought was maybe a bit harsh on potential diners. However, a quick conversation later, the penny dropped, and my ignorance was revealed: ‘La Ferme’ means ‘the farm’ and the menu and ethos of the restaurant became apparent. Fresh, seasonal and artisan ingredients are used by head chef Guillaume Dunos (Young Chef of the Year 2017 finalist) creating smart, modern versions of rustic French classics in a relaxed dining setting.
This produce-focused approach is clearly working; La Ferme has expanded from a collection of market stalls dotted around London, to a restaurant in Farringdon and now this, a second restaurant just opened in affluent Primrose Hill. We arrived on a cold, wet spring evening and, pushing the heavy curtain aside, were welcomed by a warm, candlelit dining room. The sweet, pine smell of the newly laid wooden floorboards and wicker bistro chairs mingled with the steaming plates sweeping from the kitchen to expectant diners.
At table we were served a glass of Deutz champagne each to sip on while our waiter explained the 3 types of menu that aim to cater for all tastes and budgets: Menu de La Ferme, which is mainly comprised of small plates of traditional French nibbles like charcuterie and escargot for between £2 and £17 (for a sharing plate); Menu du Marché, which is a set menu that changes almost daily depending on what’s in season and good in the market; and finally the Menu du Chef, which is a high-end 5-course tasting menu that changes monthly.
On meeting Guillaume himself, it was decided that we would try a selection of dishes from both the Menu du Marché and the Menu du Chef.
We started with a classic French charcuterie platter of Jambon de Bayonne, salami, pate de campagne, bresaola and pale prosciutto. It was served with tangy pickled cornichons and generous slices of baguette.
Our next starter from the Menu du Marché was a fresh salad with a goma yuzu sauce and fresh grapefruit chunks, topped with a piping hot cushion of golden-fried rocamadour goats’ cheese. The sesame, citrus salad was a great accompaniment as it acted to balance the gooey, melted cheese.
The starter from the Menu du Chef was hardly a traditional one. The ravioli was made not from pasta but from al dente rutabaga swede. Inside and dotted around the plate were perfectly smooth blobs of white beetroot and yellow turnip purée. Underneath a large pile of katsuobushi shavings was a pool of sour buttermilk foam and sweet walnut crumble. This unusual but well balanced dish was finished off with nutty argan oil and a dark and tangy sumac dressing.
Our first main course was volaille supreme. The golden chicken breast (with wing attached) was served on a melange of leek and tiny dried raisins and pieces of apricot, which gave small bursts of sweetness. The chicken meat was moist and tender and was accompanied by a fantastically rich cream sauce and topped with red amaranth.
My favourite dish of the evening was our second main course, the seafood trio. Perfectly cooked mussels, prawns and clams were served in a deep marinières sauce. The scorsonere had creamy white flesh and tasted of the sea, while the chervil root purée offered comforting, chestnutty starchiness. The dish was finished with vivid green sprigs of salty sea purslane and microgreens as well as dark slithers of seaweed.
My plus one’s favourite dish of the evening was the roasted pigeon dish from the Menu du Chef. Pink and perfectly cooked it was glazed in a rich sauce and accompanied by some interesting textures and flavours. There were starchy slices of hélianti root that were topped with peppery herbs, there were cubes of toasted brioche topped with a pigeon offal mousseline and black garlic, and a rich creamy sauce with lemon caviar scattered throughout.
After polishing off our mains, we were taken upstairs to the Deutz champagne bar upstairs to enjoy our desserts. It’s a small area filled with low couches and an array of hanging greenery decorating the large sky light above. It would be a nice space to enjoy an aperitif, although we struggled with the low couches as we were quite full and were leaning over to sample our desserts.
First, we were brought a slice of decadent equatorial chocolate ganache served with crumbled speculoos and nuts and a light vanilla and passionfruit custard, prettily topped with edible flowers.
No French evening would be complete without a cheese platter, and this we enjoyed with slices of bread and chutney. The goats’ cheese with the grey rind was a particular favourite and certainly disappeared the quickest.
Our final dish from the Menu du Chef was cool caramelised Canadian apple and calvados gel, which gave a subtle boozy, apple hit. Underneath was a lovely buttery, almond biscuit and on the side a fragrant cardamom cream foam.
La Ferme Primrose Hill gave us some incredible dishes; from the classics like our charcuterie and volaille supreme from the Menu du Marché, to the more unusual and experimental dishes showcased in the Menu du Chef. Each plate was well balanced, offering a modern take on provincial French cuisine, but most of all, each dish was delicious. The apparent care in the selection of ingredients translates into great food that even someone of my rusty GCSE French knowledge can appreciate.