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BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 31 May '19
Sarah Mead, the creative force behind Somerset’s Yeo Valley Canteen, has taken the valley to London
This article first appeared in our spring ’19 issue of MyGreenPod Magazine, The Organic Revolution, distributed with the Guardian on 31 May 2019. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox
When Yeo Valley opened its canteen to the public, visitors said it was ‘possibly the best staff restaurant in the world’. Since then Sarah Mead has pored over plans, paints and menus, and opened Yeo Valley Café in London.
‘The day we flung open our café doors was the culmination of many hours of hard work and last-minute rushing about’, Sarah tells us. ‘But the team pulled together and we got there.’
Yeo Valley Café at 20 Queensway, just a few metres from Kensington Gardens, builds on the dairy company’s tradition of welcoming visitors with food.
Roger and Mary Mead first opened a small tearoom on the farm back in 1972. Its reputation grew, and in 2012 rumours of mouthwatering Yeo staff lunches led to the staff canteen opening to the public. It has been busy ever since.
‘Regulars at our Yeo Valley Canteen in Blagdon will recognise the breakfast favourites we’ve brought to London’, Sarah tells us, ‘including Warm Scotch Pancakes with Greek Yogurt & Seasonal Fruit Compote and a Denhay Bacon Butty on Fresh Farmhouse Bread.’
The menu, devised by Yeo Valley food ambassador Paul Collins, includes regularly changing lunches; examples include a Holt Farm Rare Roast Beef Sandwich with Organic Crème Fraîche & Horseradish and a Broad Bean, Pea and Ubley Feta Salad with Fresh Mint. There’s plenty of tea and cake, too.
A taste of Somerset
Championing organic and celebrating the best of British produce, Sarah and the team are taking some of their favourite Somerset producers to London as well as sourcing fresh produce from local suppliers.
While the glorious valley view would be trickier to transport, rest assured that if you’ve ever visited the canteen in Blagdon, you’ll feel right at home.
‘We know that millions of people are familiar with the Yeo Valley name and the quality it brings’, Sarah explains, ‘but fewer people know that Yeo Valley is an actual place – a very beautiful place – where one family has been steadily building an organic dairy business and welcoming new friends since 1961.’
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Yeo Valley’s open-door policy
This isn’t the first time Sarah has invited the public to take a closer look at how Yeo Valley operates; every year 50,000 visitors get to take a closer look. Sarah and her team spent 18 years transforming 6.5 acres of land into one of only a handful of ornamental gardens in Britain to be certified organic by the Soil Association. Everyone’s welcome to take a stroll around the Organic Garden, visit the on-site tea room and chat to the gardeners.
Sarah’s also the creative energy that fuels Valley Fest, the go-to festival for incredible organic food, great music and anyone who loves a party.
The café is one more example of the family-run farming and dairy company’s commitment to sharing organic goodness with the public. ‘As we now have a small number of staff based in our little London hub, it seemed they should enjoy great food, just as our staff in Somerset have done for years’, Sarah tells us. ‘By that same token, it’s important that we extend our Somerset welcome to friends in London and those visiting from outside the city.’
Yeo Valley Café is open 07.30 to 18.00 Monday to Friday, and 08.00 to 17.00 at weekends. Expect the warmest of welcomes from the team.