Eco Eating: Platform - Meet The Farmer

Ben Norum
By Ben Norum Last edited 103 months ago
Eco Eating: Platform - Meet The Farmer

Platform Dining Stairwell resize2.jpg
Platform, Tooley Street
Having recently eaten at Platform on Tooley Street, the only thing we liked more than the food itself was the concept. Platform isn't unique in claiming to be all about sustainable food and working closely with producers. They've gone a step further, though, and really put their money where their mouth is by setting up a cross-shareholding with the farm that provides all their meat.

Londonist spoke to the farm's owner Barny Butterfield to hear his take on the idea and the explosion of apparently eco-eateries that have hit London.

You earn your keep from selling to supermarkets. It’s often said how poorly farmers like yourself are treated by the “big 4”, how do you feel about this - do they treat the small farmer as badly as the press would have us think?

Probably worse, although it is a mixed picture - some are better than others. It derives from the unspoken mantra that price is more important than quality or ethics.

Would you like to cut your ties with the supermarkets? Do you see Platform as a way for you to do this?

Yes and yes. Obviously I'm walking the tightrope by being upfront about the way in which I feel supermarkets often behave, whilst still selling product to them. However I feel that it is up to the supermarkets to properly appreciate and cherish what British farmers do for them and the country.

Do you have a say in the menus at Platform, or simply provide the ingredients?

I'm a food lover, but my expertise is in producing the highest quality ingredients - I'm amazed to see the variety of dishes the chefs turn out from my animals.

The menu at Platform adheres to the “Nose to Tail” approach made famous by Fergus Henderson. What cuts of meat or offal that are served are you a particular fan of - what would you recommend as a “hidden gem” or bargain option?

OK, my number one is 'Tag' or 'Tag end' of beef, this is the end of the rump into the pelvis, ask for it on the bone, it looks a bit lumpy and you get a large blade of bone, but once cooked the bone pulls away and you are left with the most superb good value roast.

Do you have a favourite dish on the menu at Platform (we know it’s always changing...)?

Any slow roasted pork, with crackling. and if I can be really honest -the beefburger! A burger entirely produced from the fore-quarter of a month-hung Devon Ruby Red Beef steer is extremely hard to beat.

When you’re in London where do you eat out other than Platform? Do you have any other favourite spots?

Not a hobby I get to indulge in very often but I've always enjoyed the Anchor and Hope in Waterloo. One of the major reasons I wanted to get Platform up and running is because so many places I'd eaten in felt so far removed from the farmer and grower.

Platform insists on always mentioning the breeds of meat which are served. What’s your view on the sudden explosion of “rare-breed” meats? When so many restaurants claim to serve Gloucester Old Spot or Aberdeen Angus can they really be rare? Are they all the real thing or does it just sound good on the menu?

Menu claims are easy to make and very hard to prove. This is one of the strengths of Platform. We know precisely what people are getting, because we grow it ourselves! It isn't always the restaurants fault - if they are buying from a contract but I wouldn't refer to either animals as 'rare breeds' They are native breeds, and they produce great quality meat; much better than fast fattened commercial animals. If demand for better quality has increased supply of Gloucester Old Spot pigs, then lucky old diners!

What is your view on organic? Would you go out of your way (and pay extra) for certified organic produce or do you feel local is more important?

I regularly buy organic and expect to pay more for something produced without the wholesale use of chemicals and artificial fertiisers. I do think both are important. If something is local you can know its provenance, but there are lots of farms local to me who I would never want to buy from. Just because someone is local doesn't stop them from using chemicals and medicines which you wouldn't want to eat yourself. However equally with organic, I'm not in the least interested in an organic apple which has been air-freighted 11,000miles. For instance I only eat local seasonal organic veg, but will eat my own non-organic free range chicken and pork - because I know they are ethically reared and raised, and I don't use un-necessary medicines or synthetic treatments. I would say if you want to be sure, buy organic.

What do you think of Borough Market, which is opposite Platform? Whilst it’s still considered a foodie Mecca, many claim it’s now too much of a tourist attraction, too expensive and has too much emphasis on food-to-go rather than ingredients? Do you visit it when in London?

I think that Borough has been a victim of its own success, and like many European markets has become a destination to go and look at rather than a place to shop. What the stall holders offer is always going to be lead by what people are asking for. I know there are other farmers' markets doing well in the capital. I still find it an inspiring place, and you're not going to persuade a farmer to say that anything is "too expensive"! We need markets full of specialists justifying price with quality. If the quality was poor then there could be a question to answer, but its usually fantastic, and if you want the very best, you've gotta pay.

Platform is at 56-53 Tooley Street, SE1 2SZ, open from breakfast through to dinner. Visit www.platformse1.co.uk

Last Updated 27 May 2010