An Evolving Story
How best can I tell the story of Thyme, who we are, what we are, what we do and what is important to us?
Firstly, I use the word "we" because we are a team: a diverse and symbiotic working family; a community bound together by a beautiful environment, a fascinating journey and ethos. Architects, craftsmen builders, designers, chefs, an enthusiastic front of house team, administrators, gardeners, lawyers, accountants, animals, wildlife, flora and fauna, artists, farmers, local producers and suppliers, scientists, family and friends - and of course our guests - all play their part. Through the restoration of our magnificent barns and inextricably linked to the land and the people that they have always served, they now tell the story that is Thyme.
And how best to simply illustrate this story than through one of my favourite dishes on the menu at The Swan at the moment. A splendid salad of bitter leaves, crispy pancetta, deep yellow yolked eggs from both our quails and hens and a creamy dressing.
The leaves are Cicoria ‘Grumolo Bionda”, an Italian bitter chicory leaf, a little bit different from what one might expect. They are soft, bitter, buttery and grown like a cut and come again salad leaf. The pancetta is homemade, from our happily home-reared pigs, dry cured with fresh herbs it is thinly sliced and served crispy and salty and a little bit sweet, a perfect contrast to the bitter leaves. The dressing is made with the yolks of our hens eggs and topped with our homemade sourdough croutons and a few fresh bright nasturtium flowers to add a tiny hint of a mustard.
So there you have it: a dish that tells a story, that needs team work to make it happen, starting with the fertile, alluvial soils in our kitchen gardens, surrounded by the wildlife of the historic water meadows. An Italian salad leaf, grown adjacent to pigs and poultry, harvested by our gardeners, prepared by our chefs, served by our front of house team in our beautifully restored historic buildings to be enjoyed by family and friends from around the world.
The fact that the leaves are Italian is important as Italy is where the story starts with my great, great great grandfather, Alessandro Bertioli who travelled to England in 1830 with his friend the artist Rossetti. A musician and composer for the piano and the guitar, we have found his work filed safely in the Bodleian library in Oxford. When you call Thyme to reserve your Thyme’s Table dinner, your meal at The Swan, your room for the night, your cookery class or your party, you will hear his Sonatina, played by his great, great, great, great grand daughter Luísa.
So from memories of the past and understanding the value of family, history, preservation and conservation we can look to the future and realise the importance of evolution and constructive change; to be outward thinking and to not harbour exaggerated romantic ideals of the past, but an optimism for the future, progress, science and rigouress process, art and beauty all rolled into one. Sustainability we know is paramount, but what is it, what makes something sustainable? It is certainly complicated, an inter dependant relationship between the environment, society and the economy, the three pillars referred to in many certification systems such as that of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. There is also a fourth pillar, future generations and the need for long term thinking. I certainly hope that we are building a sustainable platform, that enriches those who contribute and will ensure the survival of our beautiful barns and our community that is Thyme for us and future generations to share.
The Swan has just been awarded ‘Best Pub Restaurant’ in The Cotswold Life Food & Drink Awards 2016. We have been awarded a three star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. The projects at Thyme continue to evolve, we will soon be able to reveal our exciting plans for wellness and more …