At a time when reducing your food miles and knowing the source of your ingredients has become part of the foodie’s unofficial Ten Commandments, a sprightly new sandwich shop called Farm Collective pops up with a promise to use seasonal ingredients from UK farms, and do it in an ethical way. The result is a dynamic new enterprise where you can not only buy a high quality butty, you can also buy into what they stand for.
To people of a certain age the Farm Collective may sound like yet another ‘90s indie band has reformed and reinvented themselves for the noughties, but don’t be fooled, there isn’t anything other than food and drink on the menu at Farm Collective. With a position on the apex of Cowcross, Charterhouse and St John Street in Farringdon, Farm Collective is very much in the heart of the City. It jostles for custom with loads of familiar and trusty high street names, so it’s a good job that it has plenty of unique selling points. From the key message about knowing where every crumb of food they produce comes from to the well-pitched pricing and the amiable service, you can rest assured that this is not your average lunch.
There’s limited outdoor seating for balmy days, whilst inside there are high stools and counters at either end of a narrow shop which allow customers to sit and enjoy their lunch in relative peace. If you’re at the front door looking in, the till and hot service area take over the right hand of the room, with the left dedicated to the fridges for all the chilled food and drink. It’s fairly simplistic but this is a business where the food does the talking.
A friendly welcome greets you on arrival. You may even be attended to by one of the proprietors; this is a very much a hands-on affair. The staff go about their jobs in a good-natured way, it seems like they’re made to feel like a valued part of the business and this results in a cheery feeling all round.
Sandwiches make up a good proportion of their trade, but the salads, breakfast options, cakes and hot dishes (such as soups and pie and mash) make this much more than just a convenient fix. One look at the menu really rams home the point that a lot of care, thought and attention has been poured into the concept, from the branding-savvy design to the in-depth food descriptions, which note where the main ingredients have come from. This means you will find Dorset free range ham next to Westcombe mature cheddar, Dartmouth smoked salmon alongside Roebuck Farm beef.
Despite the quality, seasonally sourced ingredients, the prices do not balloon as a result. You could even go so far as to say they’re very reasonable. The fact that the sandwiches start at £1.80 for free range egg mayo is a good example of this. And the prices hit an affordable ceiling at £3.60 for the beef and horseradish, or the field mushrooms with slow roasted tomatoes (one of three veggie options).
Seeing as they take pride in using indigenous ingredients, what is more quintessentially countryside than a good old ploughman’s? Farm Collective’s ploughman’s costs £4 and it is a joy to eat. The Dorset ham is a thick slice of rosy pink ham which is of superb quality and has a subtle, salty flavour without any of the watery consistency you find in lesser cuts. An accompanying chunk of Westcombe cheddar from Somerset has a sharp, slightly bittersweet lingering aftertaste. You will also find creamy homemade coleslaw, a tangy little plastic tub of chutney, a few crisp, juicy slices of apple and a handful of grapes on a bed of leafy garden salad.
Farm Collective hold their hands up when it comes to their coffee. The British Isles are not fertile ground for coffee beans so instead they have one of several partnerships with other companies. Lattes, cappuccinos and Americanos are £1.70 or £2.10, depending on the size, and the latte is presented with pretty patterns on its foamy surface. Underneath the froth there’s a real kick from the caffeine for those in need of a daily pick up. Cold drinks include the very respectable Belvoir and Innocent brands but try the James Edwards lemonade cordial. At 80p a pop this is a lovely thirst-quenching drink that has a well-balanced taste of acidity from the lemon and doesn’t have any of the nasty astringent taste that’s common to lemon-based drinks.
The Last Word
Don’t be surprised if you see Farm Collective taking over sites across Central London. With an ethical ethos that’s sure to appeal to both ardent foodies and the environmentally-conscious, success and expansion is definitely on the cards.