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Amazing Eight at Gazegill will provide organic inspiration for chef Doug’s solo leap

Off grid, zero food miles, farm to fork. Buzz words all for a genuinely sustainable restaurant almost worth it for the view alone – across Designated Biological Heritage wildflower meadows to mighty Pendle Hill. Welcome, finally, to Eight at Gazegill, dream project of organic farm groundbreakers Ian O’Reilly and Emma Robinson. It will fully open in the spring.

The culmination of several years planning came with yesterday’s announcement of Doug Crampton as Chef Patron of Eight at Gazegill by Doug Crampton. It’s quite a coup. Doug has spent the last decade helming James Martin’s eponymous Manchester restaurant inside the 235 Casino. 

When I last reviewed it for Taste of Manchester in 2019 I wrote: “Which brings us to Doug, nearly six years heading up the kitchen yet still overshadowed by the branding. His talent deserves to be celebrated because his serious contemporary cooking is the equal of most rival offerings in the city. Smoking, pickling, fermenting, sourcing, seasonality, foraged materials – a lot of boxes are ticked. The end product is food combinations that make sense on the plate with a surprise wow or two.”

Those skills, first honed at the hugely ambitious 3AA Rosette Anthony’s Restaurant in Leeds, will now have access to some remarkable raw materials. Gazegill’s own organic meat and dairy plus access to a web of like-minded suppliers across the Ribble Valley and nearby Yorkshire Dales. I expect some inspirational results.

Husband and wife Ian and Emma are custodians of 250 acres of unspoiled farmland, with hay meadows and more than 50 species of wild flower and herbs, that has been in her family for 500 years. Of course, there has been an upgrade in the roads in that time – tarmac replacing rutted mud. Yet there’s still a good chance you’ll have to hit the car wash if you travel there on a primeval weather day via the single track lane by Howgill Beck.

So getting to the new farm restaurant will all be part of the adventure. I’ve been doing the run sporadically for years to buy naturally reared meat, usually stock bones and offal, from their Gazegill Organics butchery and farm shop. 

I’m not alone in my patronage. The’ve recently won the Countryside Alliance Rural Oscar for Best ‘Local’ Food & Drink Retailer in the UK. Couple this with the most stringent animal welfare provision (100 per cent antibiotic-free for a decade) and high ranking in Natural England’s environmental stewardship scheme and you realise what a special place this is.

Their herd of rare breed shorthorns are given at least 250 days outdoors a year. The rest of their time, when the weather is foul, is spent in straw barns where the animals feed on the cut from summer, meaning they get their 100 per cent grass-fed diet all year around.

Visit their website to read in depth about the farm’s organic ethos and approach to traditional breed husbandry, including their ‘closed herd’, which ensures traceability of their cattle.

Gazegill also offer a hugely successful mail order meat box service and a waiting list for their raw milk deliveries, but I can’t resist motoring over the tops from Barrowford to stocking up, then continuing via Gisburn to another of the North’s unparalleled food destinations, Courtyard Dairy at Austwick 20 minutes further on.

So what to expect at Eight?

The restaurant’s octagonal shape was somewhat inspired by the fact that there are eight festivals to a pagan year, which “is all about looking after nature.” Teaching the next generation about the importance of organic production has always been important for Gazegill. In addition to the restaurant Ian and Emma are also planning to build a children’s play area.

With the launch of Eight my future visits won’t be so fleeting. There are two major selling points for the new 100-cover restaurant that has been several years in gestation. First those eco-friendly off the grid credentials. It’s called Eight because it’s octagonal, a 100-cover oak structure with large Pendle-ready picture windows, the whole space powered using stored solar energy generated on-site by a wind turbine and solar voltaics. Wood-fired and tandoor ovens will be central to the open kitchen cooking. Private dining pods will even have their own grills.  On sunny days the outside terrace can host a further 60 folk.

Doug’s own plans are to make it a ‘destination restaurant’, he tells me, using both the panoramic dining room and the outside terrace, equipped with green eggs. So much will be prepared on site. More casual brunches will feature sausage, using Gazegill’s nitrate-free pork. The farm, with three on-site butchers, may resume making charcuterie. The menu will take advantage of the huge range of organic meat, but “We won’t be too fixated on organic fruit and veg. With fewer suppliers the emphasis will be on fresh is best.”

There are further bi plans for the future at Gazegill. Doug explains: ““The whole ethos of organic and indeed Gazegill is to put more in than we take out. This most important ethos is central to how Eight will operate and source produce. By mid 2024 a 250kw solar array will provide the entire needs of the farm, the farm shop and restaurant in terms of electricity. Add to this the offsetting of the use of oak in the construction of Eight by a commitment of the farm to plant 250 trees a year for 10 years and you will begin to get an insight into the bigger picture. Eight is a very exciting opportunity to highlight home-grown produce on a plate and on the farm, this is just the beginning…”

Prior to Eight’s opening in spring 2024 they will be holding some special one-off taster events at weekends throughout December. More details to be announced shortly…

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