Devon and Somerset http://escapethecitytours.co.uk
As I wriggle to pull in my rainbow trout, Chris instructs me: ‘Let out the line; give him some breathing room until he tires.’ It’s not bad going having hooked a big ’un on my first time fly-fishing, but then Chris, owner of the Bellbrook fishery, is a good teacher. When finally we draw my shimmering rainbow trout into a net, Chris shows us how to finish it off humanely – a blunt bash on the top of its head isn’t pretty, but it is effective. ‘Farm to plate’ is a way of life in this remote corner of Exmoor, one of Britain’s most overlooked national parks. We’re down for a Food Safari, a tailor-made trip run by a lovely couple called Joanna and Alan, who have brought some of the best local produce together with one of the area’s most gifted chefs – Jack Scarterfield of Porlock’s The Culbone. After a picnic lunch in the sun it’s time to pack up and head to the kitchen, via a wild walk between two pretty little villages.
In a breathtakingly beautiful corner of Exmoor, The Culbone is a restaurant with rooms; and its regular weekend cookery classes show off the best of its prime produce sourced from Somerset and Devon. Laid-back Jack does some of the boring bits – that is, chopping – while we sip prosecco and pick his brains on the best ways to cook trout. We are allowed to help wherever we like. When it’s time to gut, clean and fillet my trout, I wield the knife while Jack talks me through the steps. He’s an excellent cook, so from the smoked haddock, salmon and corn chowder to the monumental chocolate pud, the meal is superb – including my trout, pan-fried simply with butter and samphire.
Next morning, we’re up to visit Simon David, at his 89-hectare farm on the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate. We traverse his land spotting deer, wild ponies and pheasants, before meeting his happy herd of red ruby Devon cows. Back in the kitchen, we see what a difference Simon’s superior handling makes to the beef’s taste. We help Jack create a meat feast of dreams, kicking off with a beef carpaccio with Devon oak cheese and truffle dressing. The pièce de résistance: the best Sunday roast I’ve ever had. Whether it’s Jack’s skill or the brilliant beef I don’t know – but I’ll be back again soon. AM. Two-nights’ accommodation, activities, meals and transfers, £430pp (£490 with return by car from central London).