I was honoured and excited to attend the launch party of the Chalk Valley 100% grass-fed burger bar in the centre of Southampton this week.
William Buckley and his wife Sarah Jane Fairey and their team, welcomed suppliers, supporters, local dignitaries, friends and family to their new 40-cover restaurant on London Road.
Sarah and William own and run the Bossington Estate at Stockbridge. Both are passionate about producing food that is natural and nutritious, from animals that have been well cared for. They see the launch of the burger bar as a way of taking this ethos right through the food supply chain and passing it on to consumers.
Last year, William travelled the length and breadth of America visiting farmers and retail outlets there, where the concept of eating ‘grass-fed’ meat is becoming much more mainstream. He believes it won’t be long before this happens in the UK and possibly even Europe, too.
The menus created by head chef Jay include signature burgers like Chalk and Cheese (beef patty, cheddar and nitrate-free bacon – 4oz for £7.50) and Grazin’ Amazing (lamb patty, raita and caramelised onions – 4oz £6.95).
Or you can build your own burger with 100% grassfed meat of your choice, a bun, brioche or for those avoiding carbs – an iceberg lettuce wrap, and then top it off with anything from watercress to goats cheese or salsa tartufata.
All the ingredients are seasonal, local and organic. All Chalk Valley meats are free-range; humanely raised; gluten, GM, antibiotic and hormone free. Vegetarians are also catered for.
Even the fittings and fixtures conform to the ethos – from the funky lights sourced by William on e-bay, reclaimed scaffolding boards used for the tables, and the copper bar made from old water cylinders. All food waste will be composted, and take-away materials are made from plant resins or recycled paper. It all looks stunning and has a lovely atmosphere. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the design and detail.
“If people want to come here because they know the food tastes good and feel it is good value – that is fine,” William explains. “We are not going to preach or lecture anybody. But for those who are interested in the story behind our burgers, we have all the information they might ever want.”
At the launch party Graham Harvey congratulated William and the team for their vision and hard work. He reckons humans have been eating grass-fed meat for 450,000 years and are highly adapted to eat it – which is not the case for meat from animals fed cereals. He urged everyone to enjoy the burgers and know that by doing so, they are also helping make the countryside great again.
Pasture-Fed Livestock Association
William is an enthusiastic member of the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association, which brings together British farmers committed to producing high quality meat and dairy in a more natural way.
“It is really exciting to see this happening on one of our city’s high streets,” says Russ Carrington who runs the association.
“We have several approved suppliers – farmers who meet our standards and who only ever feed grass and forage crops to their animals. But Chalk Valley is the first retail outlet we have certified, as they can prove that all their beef and lamb comes from animals that have never been fed on cereals or other non-pasture feeds.
“Using our Pasture Tracks system, diners can scan a QR code on the table with their smartphone, and trace their burger back to the farm and animal it came from.
“We really admire the commitment William and Sarah are making here, and their belief that consumer demand will grow quickly. By telling other livestock farmers about this, we hope to encourage many more producers to give up feeding cereals, and focus on finishing their cattle and sheep off grass.”
Chalk Valley burger bar is open from 11.30am to 10.30pm seven days a week at 37 London Road, Southampton, SO15 2AD. Follow them on twitter @chalk_valley