Zak Smith leaves the Big Smoke behind to experience the Cotswolds' latest culinary sanctuary before the Notting Hill set get there
In the tiny village of Southrop, a brood of houses and fields in the vast expanse of the Cotswolds, lies arguably the 'foodiest' destination in Britain.
Thyme is a love affair between a local resident and a set of once dilapidated farms, barns and cottages, and it will become, the owners hope, the eco-foodie option for those eschewing the yummy in-vogue Soho Farmhouse.
The original 'hook' for Thyme was the culinary school. Featuring a beautiful open plan kitchen for day long classes and demonstrations, the school has become a long standing feature on the Cotswolds' social scene, as well as establishing itself as a go-to for niche, top-end corporate away days.
With a kitchen garden bursting with fresh produce that surrounds the property, there could hardly be a better place to learn to cook. As we arrived, the chef had just starting preparing a piglet for what he assured me would be the most beautiful bacon, and as I watched the lambs graze in the fields, it became pretty evident where the ragu was coming from.
Thyme's rustic setting
The culinary school, a pet project of the property's owner Caryn Hibbert, has over the past few months morphed into a full hospitality offering; evolving from private cottages for holiday rentals, into a fully functioning luxury boutique hotel, with huge plans for 2016, including a luxury eco-spa.
Rustically English with a tinge of Bohemia, the property was quaint and homely, which on a cold winter's day felt utterly appropriate. Log fires, shaggy rugs and handmade wooden furniture helped to create a home like warmth that attested to the fact that Thyme is family owned and run. It's impressive they were able to muster such a feeling as at the moment the project is at the start of a transformation, and as such, it wasn't bursting with visitors.
The biggest draw has to be its pub: The Swan. With Thyme and its farm producing 95 per cent of the restaurant's fresh produce, the food really has to be tasted to be believed. Having taken a walk through the kitchen garden, seen and touched the ripe Jerusalem artichokes and fresh oka, it was deliciously gratifying to then see all of it, that night, in my bowl, with a dash of truffle oil, in what honestly was one of the most outstanding soups I have ever had the fortune of consuming.
By utilising local produce, Caryn and her team have managed to create a most extraordinary culinary destination, a destination without so much as a street light for miles. What made the story even more magical was that much like the once dilapidated estate that Thyme now inhabits, The Swan was once one of many dying local pubs until it was lovingly revived by the Hibbert family.
Thyme is now well and truly on the Cotswolds' map as an unfussy and secluded destination and worth a visit before the stampede of Notting Hill registered Range Rovers appear, because without doubt, this is the next 'in' foodie hotspot.