Butchers and Graziers Since 1888, Philip Warren suppliEs beef to restaurants the length and breadth of the country and ARE renowned for the exceptional quality of Their herd. Fifteen Stories joined PHILIP WARREN and his cattle ON Bodmin MooR.
- words & images by beth druce.
Of all the legends surrounding Cornwall, The Beast of Bodmin is one of the most entertaining. Back in 1978 there were rumoured sightings of a phantom wild cat, with consequent reports of slain livestock. Almost 40 years on this seems unlikely, however should there be any truth in the story, the purported giant feline would find a veritable feast in Phillip Warren's cows.
Fifteen Cornwall’s relationship with Philip Warren was nurtured by Jackson Bristow, Fifteen's Junior Sous Chef and originally a graduate from the Cohort Five apprentices. Bristow's passion for meat and the integrity of animal rearing led Fifteen Cornwall to work closely with Phillip Warren to ensure that they were able to use both the prime cuts as well as more unusual cuts of meat in the kitchen, which is part of the restaurant's nose to tail ethos.
I meet Warren on a misty Cornwall morning at his farm on the Moor, accompanied by Jackson Bristow, and another Fifteen Chef Tom Vose. "The business is still run on the original lines" Warren explains about his family Butcher and Grazier in Launceston, that goes back 137 years. "We do it all" he says, "from pasture to plate".
The farm is about three miles from the shop in Launceston town, located on exactly same spot as when it first opened back in 1880. "The idea of a farm shop is not some new idea, it is the old way of delivering produce direct to the public" Philip explains, busting the myth that farm-to-fork eating is a fashionable, new phenomenon. "But where ours is different is that we are helping some 100 small farmers around Bodmin Moor and the Dartmoor margins get their very traditional old native breed stock into the market place, as supermarkets have distinctly different requirements of size and age, compared to a traditional local butcher".
While the day-to-day management of the business has now been passed over to Phillip's son, Ian, Warren is still very much engaged with the cattle, with whom he shares a warm bond. The breeds comprise Old Type Angus, Hereford, Welsh Black, South Devon and White Park, however to farm Bodmin Moor beef the cattle must have be born on the Moor in order to have tick resistance. "We call them Heinz 57s. All breeds, mixed over generations, but with one common denominator; first class, proper beef".
Whilst many are familiar with Bodmin Moor from the TV series Poldark, with its rugged character and wild terrain, what is it, I ask that makes this stretch of Cornwall so amiable to the cows? "Bodmin Moor is the warmest and wettest uplands in Great Britain. The south westerly winds blows in with salt laden rain helping to neutralise the very acid grasses on the moors, which makes it more edible. The Moor also has many species of old grasses lichens and various legumes, coupled with a longer growing period then the colder Moors further north". This, Warren explains, ensures that the cattle can live and thrive in this climate. "Native breeds have thicker hides then continental breeds , and as such are much healthier outside than in warm, modern sheds".
After our hike over the moor we visit the shop where I am cheered by the presence of both young and old queueing up for their weekly purchases, while on the other side of the country someone is sitting down to enjoy Phillip Warren's meat prepared by the country's best chefs. I ask what it is that distinguishes the flavour of Warren's beef? "There is never a constant in this, so you have to aim for the highest probability" Warren notes, explaining how the majority of their cattle is from the old Celtic breeds from the Bos Longifron section of bovine. "These cows have smaller frames and small muscle bundles which greatly enhances the taste of their meat. We also use cattle that are fed a predominantly grass-based diet. Science is telling us it is healthier for meat eaters to consume this type of meat because of the Omega 3 in it. We feed the cows grass because the bovine rumen (the first stomach of a cow) is not, by nature, designed to cope with being grain fed, and the cattle need to chew their cud to get the right gut flora working. All this gives good, healthy livestock".
"Ah" continues Warren. "And then there are the cooks of course. There is a very old saying, the butchers are sent by God, and the cooks are sent by the devil". Words to live by.