We recently had a delightful dining experience at somewhere called The Salt Box in Surrey. Rather than try to describe the entire experience, here’s a few lines from their website:
“The Salt Box is a celebration of seasonal food and open-fire cookery through the coming together of people beneath the trees, creating delicious food from nature’s humble ingredients. We celebrate locally sourced and wild ingredients through our wide range of courses and dining events, in the great outdoors surrounded by crackling fires.”
You can also get a flavor of the experience from The Salt Box on Instagram.
We had a brilliant long lunch sat beneath the open sided shelter while being cooked for on open fires. Naturally I took a few photos to record the occasion and thought it’d be an interesting challenge to try to capture the scene in watercolour.
This didn’t feel like a natural choice of subject for me but, in some ways it felt like another one of those rites of passage for a watercolour painter. I’ve seen and admired many paintings by the likes of Joseph Zbukvic and Alvaro Castagnet of busy restaurant kitchens, filled with smoke and steam, glinting pots and pans, chefs’ in their whites and blazing heat from the stoves.
This felt like my own personal nod in that direction:
There’s something quite paradoxical about trying to depict fire in watercolour, so it’s perhaps not surprising that I found it quite tricky too! I tried to paint this as loosely as possible but I fear the experience may have burnt me as much as it looks like the chefs’ hands are being burnt. I can assure you that flambeed chefs’ fingers were not on the menu!
There are, however, some elements in this that I quite like; mainly those where the painting is quite simple and loose! I quite like the bucket for instance, and the old kettle. I also think that the roof of the building came out ok, with enough texture and variety to perhaps suggest some smoke swirling about. The hits of yellowy white in the roof are supposed to represent light bulbs that were strung randomly across the ceiling. They didn’t work out quite as I’d intended but we live and learn!
Putting the painting aside, we had a fabulous time at The Salt Box. The ethos, food, service, hospitality, and ambiance were all wonderful. If you’re within striking distance of Surrey and looking for something slightly different – I can highly recommend it!