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‘We’re just trying to bring a bit of joy to people’: Cambo Gardens adds dates for outdoor wood-fired feasts due to high demand

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The estate and country gardens in Fife has scheduled a series of events after receiving more than 300 booking enquiries for an original feast set for 40 people.

Cambo Gardens and visitor centre has announced it will run a series of outdoor “wood-fired feasts” in October and November, having added dates due to demand.

The events will be catered for by Gillian Veal who runs the visitor centre cafe at the attraction at Kingsbarns in Fife, along with The Parlour cafe in Dundee.

For Keri Ivins, director of the Cambo Heritage Trust charity which runs the gardens and visitor centre, the outdoor feasts are an opportunity to give people something to look forward to amidst the ongoing and recently toughened restrictions on movement and hospitality during the pandemic.

She said: “Every year, or the last couple of years, we’ve been part of the Scottish Tree Festival; Visit Scotland lead it and it’s about getting people out in the autumn. Usually we do events that are about attracting big numbers of people to do things but obviously this year is a bit different.

“We’d been thinking about something we could do within the restrictions that are in place and Gillean Veal who runs the café here had recently invested in a Dragon wood-fired oven, so we thought it would be nice thing to do some outdoor evenings around and if we keep everything in the open air then that should hopefully be safer for people to come out and enjoy.

“We’re just trying to bring a bit of joy to people and companionship. So Gill had been experimenting with the oven and creating pizzas and flatbreads and everything she could try, so she said, ‘Why don’t we do the whole menu from this wood-fired oven?’”

Fairy lights and firepits will make for a warming outdoor atmosphere for the wood-fired feasts.

To keep diners warm in the autumn evenings, Keri and the team have installed outdoor heaters and there will be 12 firepits.

She explained: “We’ve got lots of courtyard areas around our visitor centre so we’ve covered an area and filled it with fairy lights and fire pits, and this will be the location where people can come and enjoy a bit of food.

“Everyone who comes will be under cover if needed and we’ve got about 12 firepits and infrared heaters that should keep everyone warm.”

The initial response to the idea of the wood-fired feast was so strong that the team have now added additional dates.

Keri said: “We put out the date for the first one, which was due to be last Saturday, and we were inundated with people wanting to come along. We were aiming for 40 spaces, and we had about 300 people get in touch. Then the storm was forecast for the weekend so we thought rather than push it let’s do a series of dates, so we’ve scheduled five dates running from a week on Saturday [17 October] so all the people that have enquired will get to come, and we’ll have lots of spaces available for others too.

“My colleague has been phoning round to take the bookings, and people are saying to her, ‘It’s so nice just to have something to look forward to.’ It just shows you, we all need that. Something good for the soul round the fire with good food.”

The menu will feature seasonal produce from the Cambo garden and from local producers, with a mezze feast of flatbreads, dips, pickles and roasted meats and vegetables all cooked in an outdoor oven.

Keri added: “Gill has been around all the local suppliers, David Lowrie Fish, East Neuk Market Garden, the bakery at Bowhhouse, Scotland the Bread, and we’ve got a lot of produce from our gardens. We have a huge heritage orchard in our walled garden and we have an apple press so we press all the apples to make juice, so we’ll have hot spiced apple juice. So it will be something seasonal and good for the soul, and one day we’ll hopefully be able to add music, too.”

Guests at the wood-fired feast can enjoy their food in stunning surroundings

Cambo Gardens is part of the Cambo Estate, run by the Erskine family, with the Cambo Heritage Trust which operates the walled garden and visitor centre established by Sir Peter and Lady Catherine Erskine.

The visitor centre opened three years ago following extensive restoration of the Stables area, with Gillian Veal then taking on the cafe.

Keri said: “She’s been here nearly two years, and because of her love of vegetarian cooking and local foraged ingredients she’s the perfect fit and takes inspiration from all  that we have here.”

Scheduled dates for the feast are as follows. To check details and to book visit the Cambo Gardens website.

Saturday 17 October

Saturday 24 October

Sunday 1 November

Saturday 7 November

Saturday 14 November