Wild at heart: chef William Hamer bring his taste of outdoors to Ardkinglas Estate

For top outdoor chef William Hamer alfresco dining is more than a summer novelty, it’s primal. 

Everything is stripped back eating in the wild, says William, who explores our connection to the land through his wilderness supper clubs.

He has taken his pop-up restaurant, The Wilder Kitchen, to Ardkinglas Estate where diners are treated to a culinary journey around the historic estate on the shores of Loch Fyne in Argyll, before enjoying a five course meal cooked entirely over fire.

The chef has always been fascinated by fire, and it is a crucial part of his culinary ethos. 

‘Fire has always been a fascination of mine and I believe I speak for most people in that regard,’ William explains.

‘It connects something deep, a primal incentive to gaze into it and explore its wild ways.

‘Eating in the wild ignites the senses and creates a connection with the land you are standing upon,’ William says.

‘Everything is stripped back to its most natural and you are free to eat as you please, gazing at whatever catches your eye – you feel the warmth of the food, gaining an insight to how our ancestors ate many hundreds of years ago. 

‘When you eat in a restaurant, you feel how the chef and the team want you to feel, which can be a beautiful experience but one we have come to know all too well. 

‘Eating in the wild is unpredictable, It’s a movement and is ever changing – this is what I love.’

Guests of his latest supper club are taken along the shores of Loch Fyne to enjoy canapés before journeying into the 18th century gardens of Ardkinglas Estate to marvel at the array of wild flowers and hidden pathways.

From there diners are taken to the walled garden (weather permitting) or to a charming glasshouse lined with old growth vines, before being treated to a five course meal served at a communal dining table. 

‘Here at Wild Kabn Kitchen, we are constantly exploring the connection between food, fire and nature with an aim of showcasing this unique relationship throughout the dishes that we create,’ William said. 

‘The concept revolves around a culinary journey around the Ardkinglas Estate Gardens, where we explore wild ingredients and converse about the Scottish wilderness. 

‘We eventually approach the rustic greenhouse where established grape vines hang from the ceiling as you dine by candlelight. 

‘There is also the Fig Room, where guests are invited to dine amongst the large leaves and sweet and savoury aromas of the figs themselves. 

‘The dishes that I create are inspired by the fire and the wild landscape of Argyll. 

‘With meat  so closely associated with fire, I’m trying to inspire a new mindset behind open fire cooking – showcasing vegetables and their magnificent reaction to the burning embers.’

William believes people are turning away from the traditional restaurant experience and looking for something a bit different.

He said guests have left the supper ‘utterly bewildered’ by the experience having enjoyed the beauty and intimacy of eating outside. 

‘The reaction has been overwhelming,’ he said.

‘Here, guests are taken back by the natural beauty of the place and the privacy in which they can sit down and eat with one another. 

‘I also believe that guests enjoy the connection they can make with the chef, which almost never happens in a restaurant. 

‘Conversations are a large part of the experience, where we discuss the ingredients on the plate and the mindset behind the dishes.

‘The menus I create are inspired by the seasons and what I can source locally. 

‘Connecting with local producers here in Argyll has been one of my favourite things about starting this project – you have to look in unobvious places, beyond the laptop screen and back to the old ways, where word of mouth and knocking on doors was the only way to connect with one another. 

‘By doing this, I have the privilege to use some of the most beautiful ingredients from Jerusalem Artichokes, courgettes, wild strawberries and tomatoes – all grown just a matter of minutes from the outdoor kitchen.’ 

William’s partner, Penelope Rushin, has been growing vegetables in the estate’s greenhouse, using organic methods and soils to grow the produce.

Courgettes, nasturtiums, potatoes, green beans and tomatoes grow in the polytunnel, while in the greenhouse there is an array of grapes and figs.

William hopes to create menus that showcase the ingredients in the coming months. 

Credit: Bill Baillie Photography

‘I plan to continue developing the Wild Kabn Kitchen here at Ardkinglas Estate and showcasing great ingredients, being cooked over the fire,’ William said. 

‘I will always be looking to cook in wild places around Scotland and we have some wonderful events lined up this summer.’

To find out more visit – www.wildkabnkitchen.com

Read more news and reviews on Scottish Field’s food and drink pages

Plus, don’t miss the July issue of Scottish Field magazine.