Fever Tree had, very kindly, invited Jennifer and I, along with several other publishers, writers and journalists, to enjoy an ingredient-hunting experience on the Worcestershire and Herefordshire border. On this particular occasion we were going to be treated to a lovely lunch at the Michelin starred Pensons restaurant, and that old saying came to mind: “It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it!”
This was, due to the previous week’s relentless rain, potentially going to be more of a mucky job but we’d come prepared. The aim being to introduce us to one of their newer products and to understand the connection between British growers and a brand that prides itself on the quality of its ingredients.
We would be sampling their quintessentially British Sparkling Cloudy Apple and the much loved Limited Edition Damson and Sloe Berry Tonic (we can’t lie, we’re big fans of their Light Mediterranean Tonic).
Pensons’ farm-to-fork ethos is very evident with one of the best kitchen gardens we’ve seen in a long time…
“Fever-Tree began in 2003 with a meeting of minds and one simple premise: if three quarters of your G&T is the tonic, wouldn’t you want it to be the best?” At least that what it says on the website. I must confess, as someone who would buy any old tonic, I remained sceptical until someone pointed out the artificial sweeteners and generally unpleasant chemicals that pervade most of our drinks these days.
So, prior to us accepting this little jaunt, I had a good look over the Fever Tree website and I have to say I liked what I saw and liked what I read. The founders, Charles and Tim, are walking the talk. Their commitment to not using PET plastic also caught my eye and their genuine concern for the environment impressed us.
Jennifer rocking the rural landowner look (sadly no land)…
Suitably attired for an unusually wet October in Herefordshire, we arrived at Pensons, a Michelin ‘green-starred’ restaurant in the grounds of the Netherwood Estate and met our hosts: Chrys and Ash from Fever Tree and Peta Darnley, Netherwood Estate’s Managing Partner. We hit it off immediately, with everyone. We do enjoy this part of what we do – meeting new people and discovering hidden gems. Everyone who attended was good company and, throughout the day, we all found out a few interesting things about each other and the world. We like being in the company of bright people who “know stuff” – every day’s a school day and this one turned out to be especially educational.
Liz Knight (below). Her knowledge of wild foods is impressive – we could have listened to her all afternoon…
Peta was the perfect host
After a welcoming cuppa, we were introduced to Liz Knight, our forager and guide, for the pre-lunch excursion into the fields and hedgerows around Pensons. I mentioned earlier about every day being a school day – well, Liz was fab, giving us really interesting bits of information about edible berries and leaves, and nuts (who knew Hawthorn berries are edible?). Obviously, it all falls apart if you don’t know what it looks like, so please don’t go “consuming” unless you really know what you’re doing. I know a little but I’m a dribbling toddler compared to Liz. We found her passion for foraging infectious and a joy to be around. She runs day and half day courses throughout the year and if this experience was anything to go by, we’ll certainly be joining her in the future.
Back to Pensons for lunch and before our starters arrived, we were treated to a few autumn mixer creations by Fever Tree’s resident drinks expert Wayne Stephenson with Liz adding a dash of knowledge about possible variations using foraged fruit. Most enjoyable.
The three-course lunch at Pensons as we’d hoped was incredibly good. Everything about this beautiful restaurant exudes quality: the interior is stunning and food equally so. I could ramble on trying to describe it, but you really have to experience it. Every course was superb, the wine selection was perfect and the service – impeccable. We would definitely return. If you’re a foodie, Pensons should be on your radar. Head Chef Chris Simpson and his brigade can be justifiably proud. Sustainable gastronomy at its best. We absolutely loved it.
After lunch, we drove a short distance to Stocks Farm, a 200-year-old hop and fruit farm. This historic apple-orchard actually supplies Fever Tree hence the introduction. We enjoyed a walk through the orchard and, afterwards, a chat with Ali Capper in her beautiful farmhouse kitchen.
If you’re going to warm your tummy, then only an Aga will do…
Ali’s a fascinating lady with an amazing career (although her very cheeky dogs and cool cat did their level best to outshine her). Ali’s family has owned Stocks Farm since 1962 so she really knew here apples.
All in all, this had to have been one of the most enjoyable press trips we’ve been on in a long time. Chris and Ash were lovely. Liz was bonkers and brilliant, and a huge thank you to Peta for making us so welcome at her gorgeous restaurant. We met some interesting people, got to taste some amazing food and drink and learned a lot – not just about Fever Tree, but the countryside, produce, and the processes and people involved that make Fever Tree a really great brand. A real tonic.
Just as a footnote, you can stay at Pensons. there are rooms.
Pensons Yard, Tenbury Wells WR15 8RT
01885 410 333
Visiting Monmouthshire and herefordshire?
Check out Wye Life. Yes it’s one of ours.