20 Oct Bird & Carter Fonthill, Interview with Annie Bird
This month we’ve been chatting to Annie, who along with her husband, Joff, founded the fabulous Bird & Carter business. With the already extremely successful farm shop in Wilton, a week before lock down Bird and Carter Fonthill opened its doors.
Not only do they serve delicious coffee, cake and ‘Friday Late’ supper, they now have 5 newly furbished B&B rooms and a click and collect service. This new venture has certainly brought a new lease of life to Fonthill Bishop!
F- What inspired you to go into the food and hospitality business?
A- We have both always loved to cook and bake and so it was a very natural thing set up our own food business. Now we have a team of very capable chefs translating our love of food on to the plate. Having spent some time in the French Alps we were particularly keen on selling hunks of cheese and charcuterie which we now sell at our farm shop just outside Wilton and at Fonthill. This part of the business is very exciting as the Brits are getting very competitive in cheese making and offer some fabulous cheese alongside some of the French and Italian classics.
F- How long have you been running the Bird & Carter Enterprise?
A- We set up our first Deli in Salisbury in 2006. It has been 14 years of hard graft and lots of fun too. Now we have our Farm Shop which opened in 2011 and focuses on cheese, meat, store goods, homemade cakes, quiche, pie and salads. Bird & Carter Fonthill has a restaurant and 5 bed and breakfast rooms. So from a team of two, we are now 20 and have a fabulous team behind us.
F- You both work incredibly hard running the Wilton and Fonthill premises, how to you balance this with home/family life?
A- We have two children, Ava is 9 and Pip is 8. They go to the local primary school and have a lot of fun on their bikes and walks with our spaniel Captain Oates. Our team allow us to maintain a good work life balance so we can spend lots of time with the kids after school and at the weekends. They are very good at popping in to the shops to check on the team when we are not there. We only live a mile away from Fonthill which helps. Our favourite thing to do is a nice long dog walk followed by a roast on a Sunday when neither of us work.
F- How has the recent Covid-19 pandemic effected the way you run your business?
A- The secret to trading during these uncertain times is adaption. The farm shop transformed very quickly into a food box hub with orders coming in over the phone and by email and then customers collecting from the car park. We sold a lot of flour, eggs, meat, cheese, sausage rolls and chocolate! The café at our farm shop has not reopened during the restrictions on space and free movement around the shop. We have continued with the retail side of the business here and have tremendous local support, so we have our customers to thank for that. Fonthill had only just opened 9 days before lockdown so we turned that into a mini food box hub which kept us going until we were allowed to safely open the café. We bought a stretch marquee and this allowed us to open up for breakfast lunch and tea. Table service and a restricted menu has meant that it is now a restaurant with a gorgeous menu of homecooked seasonal produce. This marquee has now moved to over the terrace and sides have been built on and heaters installed so we can continue trading over the winter months. The chefs are very happy and energised now that we are able to cook food and have a service again. Now that we have to limit the bookings to 6 and wear masks I think that it is very clear what you can and cannot do during lockdown.
F- What drives you and your business?
A- We both continue to invest a lot of hard work into running both businesses. Mary our Manager at the farm shop has a lot of experience and has taken a tremendous amount of pressure off us. Fonthill bedrooms have been busy with guests choosing a holiday in England and that has been the new part of our business which we have enjoyed. During these difficult times we are driven to get it right and offer our customers a friendly service and good communication.
F- How do you decide what to put on your menus?
A- We get together with our team of chefs regularly to decide what to put on the specials menu each week. They pick something meaty, something fish and then something veggie/vegan.
We also do Friday evenings at Fonthill with a set menu which we let the chefs decide on. Depending on the weather this has often been a bbq or a lovely warming dish for those colder evenings.
At the farm shop we cook all the classics; quiche, sausage rolls, scotch eggs, pie and lots of cake!
F- What is your favourite item on your menu?
A- I loved the veggie gnocchi with homemade pesto and charred cherry tomatoes! Also the pan fried pigeon breast with mushrooms, lardons and lamb’s lettuce was very popular. At the moment we have a warm chicken salad with tomatoes, garlic and chilli butter, cannellini beans and leaves which is fresh and light.
F- The rooms look stunning, what was your inspiration/vision with that area of the business?
A- We completely made over the 5 bedrooms at Fonthill. We wanted a stripped back, clean look and so with the help of local stylist Lou Eastham we came up with a Scandi-Rustic theme. Once the bed frames had been chosen we were approached by local furniture maker Matthew Burt who then offered to design Scandi dressing tables and mirrors which look fabulous. We got rid of the carpets and put a wood floor down and then used reclaimed wood timbers to get the rustic feel to one wall in each bedroom. Finally, we painted the walls white to have that clean fresh look and then used another local craftsman at Compton Marbling for all the lampshade for that pop of colour in each bedroom. Then the Eric Ravilious prints in each bedroom offer that dream like local countryside shots that complete the look.
F- Christmas is fast approaching, is there anything we can be looking forward too?
A- Oooh yes, now the heaters have been installed at Fonthill we are looking forward to some warming food on the menu. We hope to bring the classic fondue to the menu and also a winter ploughmans with a gorgeous cauliflower cheese soup, savoury scone, chunk of Twanger cheddar and some sliced apple. Tartiflette is something else we plan on putting on special, along with some other winter hearty pies.
Bird & Carter Fonthill
Farm shop, cafe and B&B nestled right in the middle of the Estate.
Delicious food served in the cafe and gorgeous comfy rooms.
T: 01747 445 644