River Cottage is all set to open in Bristol early next year after clearing the final planning and licensing hurdles.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen venture will take over a 19th century hall near the top of Whiteladies Road, and follows a sister restaurant opening in Plymouth late last year.
Having built an empire covering East Devon, Dorset, Plymouth and Bath on food provenance, the company will invest a six-figure sum restoring the 4,000 sq ft former church.
“We are delighted to confirm our intentions to open in Bristol and are pleased to have completed the licensing and planning applications processes,” said Rob Greacen, managing director of River Cottage Canteen & Deli.
“We are excited about the opportunity at Bristol. It’s a fantastic building. The location is great, close to the Downs, but still part of the city and it will be great to join a vibrant new community. We will look initially to create new jobs and to work with local food suppliers, to source and develop fantastic produce.”
In keeping with the River Cottage ethos, the canteen will offer freshly prepared seasonal, local, organic and wild food, on a daily changing menu.
And aside from the 40 staff employed at the restaurant – including head chef Mark Stavrakakis, who has worked for Rockfish, just yards up the road, and park Street’s Goldbrick House – up to 90 per cent of the food will be sourced from within a 50-mile radius, providing income for farmers and producers in the area.
“River Cottage believes passionately about where food comes from and how it is produced and wants to support local producers, the local economy and reduce the miles your food has to travel,” said development chef Andrew Green, echoing sentiments from Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall.
The TV chef said: “We have a great opportunity to source the best ingredients and create some fantastic food in a unique location. Bristol is an exciting place to be part of and a great opportunity.”
The St John’s Hall building is being renovated by Bristol company Simple Simon Design, based at the city’s Paintworks business estate.
“We are delighted to be designing the interior of the new River Cottage Canteen Bristol.
“The hall is laid out as a very ordinary building society. Visitors would have had no idea of the wonderful Victorian hall that they were in.
“We’ve tried to give an honest and simple treatment to the building that embraces what the River Cottage ethos is all about.”