In Conversation with Matthew Pennington

Meet Matthew Pennington, Founder and Chef Patron of The Ethicurean –– Somerset's responsible restaurant situated in a bountiful walled garden. As we give one lucky person the chance to win some seriously stylish togs from Maze and a spiffy experience dinner at this Somerset jewel, we have a quick natter with The Ethicurean’s main man about sustainability, seasonality and style.

The Ethicurean x Maze

The Ethicurean x Maze Giveaway

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello Maze friends. 

I'm Matthew Pennington, food Author and founder of The Ethicurean restaurant. I've been deeply fascinated by food, flavour and how that intersects with the quality of our natural world. I'm a stickler for gathering – indoors or out – around food and libations alongside the fascinating folk I've met along the way. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant and creative human folk can be when positive and thoughtful. I work alongside my incredible business partner and Chef Mark McCabe, attempting to re-write the rule book on what a sustainable restaurant can be.   

The Ethicurean x Maze Giveaway

What was the impetus for starting The Ethicurean?

The writings of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341–270 BCE, 2291 years ago!) inspired me to form what evolved into The Ethicurean. Epicurus is documented to have lived in a renowned bountiful garden, cultivating close friendships centred around food and seeking pleasure. 

He advocated finding life's purest joys in the unique richness of human encounters. Wisely insisting that simple pleasures create happiness in life. He approved of retiring from public life so that we may explore and pursue a way of living harmoniously with nature. Even in great pain from illness in his early seventies, he insisted the memory and love of his lifelong friends made happiness prevail even then. 

His philosophy resonated with me in the sense that growing food and gathering around it to eat it provides a significant opportunity to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. Every meal should be well considered, for here lies joy! We created our infant business inspired by Epicurus, fascinated by this ethos while caring about doing so ethically. Ethics and Epicureanism had a chance to be thoughtfully combined. 

How much do your surroundings influence your menus?

Our surroundings entirely lead our menu. We have access to an incredible living larder in the walled garden. Even before being fortunate tenants, we foraged and searched the locale for wild flavours – an endless number. We consider all ingredients equal, no matter how humble. Every food component has its opportunity to be at a point of utmost deliciousness, which is fortunate when in the depths of winter, we've not much more than the beetroot. Conversely, for food to be at its best, it is tantamount that the ecosystem it comes from is thriving and healthy. Capture something at its best, grown from healthy soils during peak season, and the taste will be undeniably good.

The Ethicurean x Maze Giveaway

You were one of a handful of restaurants first to receive a Michelin Green Star for your sustainable efforts. Was this your proudest moment at The Ethicurean?

Of course, I'm ever so pleased that the Michelin guide now recognises that sustainability in fine dining is essential for its followers. I also look fondly back to 2011 when the Observer Food nominated us as the best ethical restaurant in the UK. That was an incredibly proud moment too. They put us on the map, and not long after, we were invited to publish our cookbook. We're over twelve years *young as a restaurant and thrilled to be recognised as a leading sustainability enterprise now influencing how food guides review.

What does the future look like for The Ethicurean? What are the plans for 2023?

We are not staying still, and 2023 looks like a unique yet challenging year with plans afoot. While we initially embarked on a project that is a restaurant at heart, we want to tackle some of the broader issues to help build resilient food security in the UK. We are launching a series of Ethi-Life Talks, where we will host conversations with authors, chefs, food strategists and mental well-being groups. This will hopefully raise awareness and aid the movement for sustainable food, something we consider vital to every part of the community.

The Ethicurean x Maze Giveaway

The Ethicurean x Maze Giveaway

What's your personal style when you're not at work?

I'm led by natural materials, fabrics, garments and footwear, with longevity and quality as my utmost preference. I prefer the tones of our landscape and believe layering is essential. I also like to buy things once and revist that piece with each season it was intended; patina and wear is a bonus. I clart around in the wild with my dog and partner, looking for native food and the solace that being outdoors in nature brings, so things need to be well built. Some of my favourite Maze garments are still going strong years on. My now re-waxed yellow 'Sowester was made for rainy inclemency and has saved dinner on more than a few occasions!
I appreciate your interest in The Ethicurean project and wish everyone at Maze a happy and healthy year ahead. You've a remarkable history, approach and a collection that I endlessly pour over. It's those native tones and stuff well-built. Bravo!


The Ethicurean x Maze Giveaway

Thank you Matthew for taking the time to talk to us and give a deeper insight into your fantastic business. With its views out to the Mendip Hills, The Ethicurean has long been one of our favourite places for a spot of lunch. Their seasonal, sustainable approach has earned them numerous accolades and awards and we couldn’t be more pleased to have partnered with them for our latest giveaway.


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