Little-known restaurant deep in countryside named among Europe's best

Grace Ross, front of house manager and Richard Stevens. - owner
-Credit: (Image: Nottingham Post/Marie Wilson.)

A restaurant deep in the heart of the countryside has been named one of the top new spots to eat in Europe. Restaurant Jericho has been included in the 30 highest new entries on the 2024 Europe Top Restaurant List compiled by the Opinionated About Dining website.

Ranking in 19th place, it joins restaurants in some of Europe's biggest cities such as Milan, London, Copenhagen, Barcelona and Munich. In a stark contrast, Restaurant Jericho is off the beaten track on a family farm in Plungar, a village in the Vale of Belvoir, Leicestershire, close to the Notts border.

In a unique dining experience, diners all arrive at the same time for an imaginative menu, cooked over wood or charcoal, that has been created out of the wealth of unusual fresh herbs, fruit and vegetables grown literally outside the door in the two-acre kitchen garden - and locally sourced meat.

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The menu changes based on what is seasonal and fresh. Pig skin and birch, parsnip chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard), aged sirloin with whole crop silage and brassica and artichoke, whey and White Stilton are the kind of dishes diners can expect served in the rustic restaurant or at the kitchen bench. There's space for just 12 and chefs do not cater for pescatarians, vegetarians, vegans or dislikes.

The OAD listing followed a visit by mystery diners. The restaurant, which opened in 2022, is run by Richard and Grace Stevens, who said they were "thrilled and humbled" by the accolade.

Richard said: "They have certain people who travel the world and go and eat in a lot of restaurants and give feedback to OAD. We'd no idea they'd visited. We serve everybody the same. One of my friends sent me a screenshot of the new Top 30.

"It's fantastic. It is hard work and great to get some recognition and get ourselves on the map, as in someone recognising what we're doing here. We are sticking to our roots and we're very local. It's very much about where we are.

"We've got braver. We are very much led by the ingredients we've got on the day and going back to nature, rather than buying silly ingredients out of season. We only use what we can get locally. We won't push wholesalers to go and buy it from Mexico."

Restaurant Jericho in Plungar village
Game bird liver and damson served with the 12 gauge cartridge used for game shooting at Restaurant Jericho

The lamb, beef and pork come from Launde Abbey and the chicken is from Botterill's, both in Leicestershire. Whole chickens are delivered, allowing chefs to get creative with hearts and livers.

Richard said: "It is championing local producers but we are very much hardline with it. If we haven't met them in person we won't deal with them. In the autumn we were very game-heavy from a guy who lives in the village and shoots locally.

"The path we have taken is we are giving a taste of our surroundings and it has to mean something to us. We don't use fish on the menu anymore and there's no truffle or caviar. Everything is cooked over fire now, we have got rid of gas and electricity."

A 20-course menu is served on Friday and Saturday nights, costing £105-£120 a head, with the option to pair wines for a further £70. Everyone arrives at 7pm. "It's very much an experience. When the weather allows it we finish off with everyone sitting around the fire and having the last course outside," said Richard.

On Wednesdays and Thursdays a ten-course "work in progress" menu showcases the techniques being developed. It costs £35 per person.

Previously, the restaurant at Orchard Farm had been Dickie's Farm Dining, a steakhouse using meat from its own butchery. The stars of the show were Belted Galloway sirloin and Aberdeen Angus rib steak, which diners described as "out of this world".

But Richard decided to put Dickie's to bed after a successful run of five years. Coming from a family of livestock and arable farmers going back to the 1700s, he said it was the right time to change. "A farm upbringing instils practicality and passion, a stubborn resolve and the creativity to use what we have got," he said.

Last year Restaurant Jericho was featured by A Chef Abroad, Neil Walker, on his best of the UK food tour with the likes of acclaimed Michelin-starred restaurants Ynyshir, L’Enclume and Moor Hall.