6th June 2022
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, Will and Bella Butler tell Josephine Taylor about their growing foodie business
It started with flowers and grew from there. Now West End Flower Farm and Restaurant is a thriving success story, serving locally-sourced, quality food in a beautiful rural setting.
The place has a relaxed family feel about it, and Will and Bella Butler are the friendly hosts, living and working here with their three children aged seven, nine and 12.
The land at Upper Froyle, Alton, has been farmed by Will’s family since his great-grandfather moved there in 1918. Will and Bella moved there in 2017, deciding to forego food production in favour of flowers.
Initially selling at the farm gate, the couple moved into the restaurant world almost by accident – a table selling flowers to visitors became two, then a shop, and then a small café selling coffees was introduced. In 2019, noticing a lack of quality independent restaurants around them, the couple took the plunge and built their “glass box” – an elegant, airy venue that is teeming with diners on the sunny day we visit.
Was it a leap of faith? “I don’t think we knowingly leapt – we fell,” laughs Bella. “It was a natural progression – I don’t think we really realised the ambition of what we were doing while we were busy.”
Will adds: “We made a conscious decision to go for quality – there are a lot of places you can get a coffee and a sandwich and it’s far harder to produce fresh, quality food.”
The food comes courtesy of Ollie Moore, previously sous chef at the Michelin-starred Black Rat in Winchester and now in charge of an ever-evolving menu using ingredients like cress, duck eggs and even flowers from the farm.
Food is sourced as locally as possible – on the day we visit the offering includes Isle of Wight tomatoes, home-made focaccia made with herbs from the garden, foraged wild garlic, and buffalo mozzarella from Laverstoke Park Farm. For both food and flowers, organic principles are followed – no pesticides or herbicides here.
The pandemic forced the couple to offer sidelines including flower workshops and a June festival of ‘flowers, fun and music’ which was such a success it has become an annual fixture, due to take place on June 25th this year. The couple also cater for private parties, flower workshops, small weddings and drinks receptions.
It’s hard work, but the couple clearly see it as a labour of love, relishing the setting and the way that work and family life blend into each other.
“It’s all about our surroundings, sustainability and deliciousness,” says Bella. “We possibly have a little less downtime than other people - but we’re OK with that.”
Josephine Taylor is an associate in the agriculture team at the Romsey office. Please get in contact if you would like more information.