Hidden garden given new lease of life

Top London restaurant Novikov is restoring Brent Eleigh Hall 2 acre walled garden to provide fruit, veg and herbs for its London restaurants.''Pictured: Charlie ANL-150929-150248009
Top London restaurant Novikov is restoring Brent Eleigh Hall 2 acre walled garden to provide fruit, veg and herbs for its London restaurants.''Pictured: Charlie ANL-150929-150248009

A beautiful but neglected Victorian walled garden is being given a new lease of life after a top restaurant decided to take it on to grow produce for its London eateries.

Nestled in a countryside paradise, Brent Eleigh Hall is a glorious Grade I listed country house.

Hidden behind the grand facade in its grounds are two acres of beautiful but decaying Victorian walled kitchen garden.

However, it is now being brought back to its former glories in a unique collaboration between Mayfair based Novikov Restaurant & Bar -which has both an Asian and Italian restaurant - and Brent Eleigh Hall’s new owners.

Novikov’s ambitious plan is to restore this would-be paradise in order to provide its own kitchens with the very freshest fruit, vegetables and herbs possible.

Novikov has appointed as head gardener,the appropriately named Merriel Gardiner, a green-fingered maestro who has already woven her magic in impressive locations, including the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.

Mrs Gardiner is assisted by her team, some having worked in the grounds for nearly four decades, and Cubby the one-eyed cat.

She is coordinating the project that will see the vegetables, fruit cages, fruit trees and three listed greenhouses restored to their former glory.

Already there are artichokes, asparagus, apples, strawberries, raspberries, pears and beans – not to mention vines and a peach house.

Charlie Munroe runs the micro-herb side of things, having moved up from Devon to take on the project and now living in the village.

“It’s all about the relationships with the chefs and what they want. I try different things and see if they like it,” he said.

He added that it was all about knowing where the ingredients came from.

“We cut it and by that evening it’s in the kitchens. We get it to them fresh, it isn’t sitting there wilting.”

Mrs Gardiner’s passion and enthusiasm is already touching the team at Brent Eleigh Hall, as well as the Novikov chefs.

Marco Torri, head chef at Novikov’s Italian Restaurant, has recently taken receipt of the first bounty - fresh leaks, still encrusted with soil.

A huge supporter of the project, Mr Torri is liaising with Merriel at every turn, even supplying her with seeds from Italy while the Asian Restaurant’s Jeff Tyler works with Mr Munroe to find even greater depths of flavour for his Asian fusion menu.