Honest about food, what’s in it, where it comes from, and how it’s cooked, the Honesty Group is a new kind of business that doesn’t sacrifice its honesty and integrity to turn a profit. Founded by Romilla Arber, the Honesty Group was created to prove that in a dog-eat-dog world dominated by big business, you can still retain your principles and ensure the consumer never comes second. By being clear, upfront, and proud about what is in their food, how it is produced and where it comes from, customers are able to make an informed choice and are made to feel valued because, with the Honesty Group, they honestly are.
After becoming a mother and recognising the need to cook healthy food for her family, Romilla became interested in the politics of food, the vital role it plays in our lives, and the effect it has on our relationship with the planet, which is why she runs her business by placing these issues at the forefront, pays her staff a living wage rather than minimum wage, and respects suppliers costs. She has even written a couple of cookbooks: What’s for Dinner and What’s for Dinner – Second Helpings, encouraging readers to cook with fresh, seasonal ingredients rather than rely on convenience foods.
With a goal of serving honest food influenced by the seasons and celebrating the best of British produce, Romilla bought a rundown pub in Inkpen, Hungerford five years ago, and after a stunning refurbishment, The Crown & Garter as its known today was born – the perfect pit stop for dog walkers, cyclists and ramblers exploring the surrounding picturesque Berkshire countryside. The old skittle barn on the site was also turned into a bakery and a small coffee shop, where you could see the bread being made, but since then the bakery on site has been moved to a more practical location in Greenham.
Since then, the Honesty Group has grown to include a cookery school, bakery, restaurant with rooms, and eight coffee shops located in Berkshire and Hampshire, including Inkpen, Kingsclere, Hungerford, Stockbridge, Overton, Greenham, Bucklebury, and Brightwalton. Speaking to Berkshire Life, Romilla said “We’ve tried to open coffee shops in places where we can engage with the community and add real value”. Offering a great environment in which to relax, chat, eat, drink and watch the world go by, all produce sold is handmade by the Honesty Group using traditional methods with no additives, chemical flavour enhancers or preservatives so that fresh means fresh.
You can even order bread online from the Honesty Group or visit their wholesale bakery in Turnpike, Newbury. Employing four full-time pastry chefs, four full-time artisan bakers, and baking 6 days a week, all their breads and pastries are made using local organic, stoneground flour and the doughs are folded and shaped by hand. With new products introduced monthly, choose from an extensive bread and cake range that includes speciality breads like sourdough, Italian rosemary and sea salt and black olive bread, and more traditional loaves such as bloomers, sandwich tin loaves, baguettes, and soft white baps. Some of their loaves are even made with heritage grains that are growing in popularity such as Emmer and Khorasan.
As well as running the Honesty Group and setting up eateries, a bakery, and a cookery school, Romilla also founded The Food Education Trust, set up to promote the benefits of a home-cooked diet by working in collaboration with organisations and institutions across the country. To date, the trust has funded more than 60 projects in total, including building a kitchen in a school.
Also, be sure to look out for our review of The Crown & Garter in our recently released Berkshire Food & Drink Guide 2019 – 2020. Pick up your FREE copy of the guide here or read a digital copy of the guide here.