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Guy's news: Riverford comes to London

After a few years of dithering, I finally got my pub in London. It was simple in the end; I married a publican. Geetie Singh opened the Duke of Cambridge in Islington in 1998. Raised in a commune and appalled by the food she served as a waitress, Geetie was determined to put her scrupulous ethics into practice; the Duke was, and remains, the only organic pub in the UK and the Queen even gave Geetie an MBE in recognition of her efforts.

Last week a charming and highly complimentary Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, members of the food glitterati and sundry friends and customers of both businesses came to the opening of Riverford at the Duke of Cambridge. The pub was a forest of cardoons, cabbages, radicchio and leeks; the food was fantastic but the vegetable cocktails stole the night. My favourite, ‘Farm Fury’, was a take on a Whisky Sour cum Old Fashioned where radicchio extract replaced the bitters; an inspirational elixir providing inebriation and purification at once.

Many restaurants and pubs make vague and mostly spurious claims about their sourcing; I was recently assured by a waiter that all their chickens were wild, produced within London and exclusively slow plucked. Wow; do they think diners are really so gullible? At the Duke everything is 100% organic or wild and until last week, the only imported fruit or vegetable on the menu was a lemon. Geetie and I argue about this still and we will compromise a little, but at least 90% of what we serve will still be UK grown. The beer is fantastic, and Benoit our genius in the kitchen is no madder than most chefs. In addition to exceptional food, wine and beer, there will be a produce market every Saturday (perhaps soon to be accompanied by brunch), supper clubs and cookery classes from the New Year. Find out more here.

Benoit has had cardoon fritters on the menu every day but he isn’t going to use them all before winter closes in. They are more tender and less bitter than I have managed to grow before, and make a fantastic simple gratin. I cannot bear to see them wasted, so the last 500 or so can be added to your box at £4 each, complete with my gratin recipe, on a first come-first-served-basis.

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    Guy Singh-Watson

    Self-confessed veg nerd, Guy Singh-Watson has over the last 30 years taken Riverford from one man and a wheelbarrow delivering homegrown organic veg to friends, to a national veg box scheme delivering to around 50,000 customers a week. Guy is an inspirational, passionate, opinionated and admired figure in the world of organic farming, who still spends more time in the fields than in the boardroom. Twice awarded BBC Radio 4 Farmer of the Year, Guy is passionate about sharing with others the organic farming and business knowledge he has accumulated over the last three decades. His video rants have provided a powerful platform to do this, with a video on pesticides going viral on Facebook to reach 5.6 million views and 91,000 shares. His weekly veg box newsletters connect customers to the farm with refreshingly honest accounts of the trials and tribulations of producing organic food, and the occasional rant about farming, ethical and business issues he feels strongly about.  

    Can business be a force for good?

    Guy Singh-Watson on why he chose employee ownership to protect the future of Riverford.

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