2021-01-26 SS21 Eagle House3906

Inspiration

Living a philosophy

Living a philosophy

In May 2019, the first Neptune café opened its doors in the heart of Bath’s artisan quarter. Here, our co-founder John Sims-Hilditch writes about the shared philosophy between his world of interiors and his personal passion project, The Provenist.

For some, when they heard that we’d be opening a café, they straight away understood our thought process and were excited that we’d finally decided to do it. I thought, fantastic, people get it and are responding very positively about our move into food and lifestyle. They could see they naturally go hand in hand with interiors, and that we’re invested in much more than just decorating. The progression made sense. Yet there were equally those who questioned it and couldn’t quite understand how and why a brand associated with furniture design and making might also have a clear view on what would make a great café. This reaction excited me too, because it was an opportunity, I hoped, to express the breadth of our thinking.

What Neptune and The Provenist have in common is a shared desire to bring a little added happiness to our communities. We care about doing the right thing, whether that’s creating pieces to stand the test of time as one part of the remedy towards our throwaway culture, or creating dishes that are, of course, visually appealing and delicious, but also balanced, nutritional, seasonal; the reason being to help make it easier not only to enjoy excellent food but also to feel well, perhaps even better, as a consequence.

Having once been an asthma sufferer, I developed a very personal interest in diet some time ago. After a bit of extended research, I chose to follow the blood group diet because I’ve found it suits my mind and body very well. Having previously never thought about what I ate, I became very aware that food affects health and wellbeing. This personal, vested passion in food, combined with Neptune’s purpose of creating happiness through creativity, turned out to be the perfect recipe for starting our own foodie world.

Knowing where to begin was actually not quite as daunting as you might expect. a) We had our viewpoint and knew what it was we wanted to bring to the table. b) Feedback over the years has told us first-hand that this is something people have wanted us to do. There was pent-up demand, an appetite so to speak. And c) our reason for opening The Provenist wasn’t about competing or finding a niche. It was about doing what felt right for us and setting sail in that specific direction. Visually appealing, delicious and nutritious food turned out to be only half of our culinary creative effort however. It started some time ago that I’d hear people, when eating out, asking, where has that bread, that fish, those salad leaves come from? We’re becoming increasingly interested in the quality and sustainability of what we’re consuming, be it clothing, cushions or a cup of coffee. We want to know the source. For these very reasons, we decided to get behind the provenance of our dishes, hence the name, The Provenist. I wanted us to scour first the locality and, if necessary, further afield to unearth those growers, farmers, fishmongers and so on who care about what they do in the same way that we care about furniture making and materials. We believe that the passion and commitment of the farmer comes through in the taste and nutritional quality of the product. As we’ve deepened our research as The Provenist, so have we found ourselves unwilling to participate in a food supply chain that’s completely lost touch with these vital principles. We want to join the movement against unthinking food production and champion carefully sought ingredients that we can turn into something delicious.

We hope that The Provenist will grow and grow as we nurture it in the way that it deserves. We started our pilot café at Neptune HQ in Wiltshire a few years ago. Here we trial recipes and can put good food at the centre of our culture – I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to walk through and see people enjoying our incredibly satisfying lunches or a Clifton Coffee with one of our sensational beetroot brownies, all sat together as a community in vibrant conversation rather than sandwiches alone at a computer screen. And then a couple of year ago, we hatched our first edition at Neptune Bath – our first to enter the big wide world. And we have The Provenist at our second Neptune store under way with the third in the planning phase. The world is our (carefully sourced) oyster.

If you’re ever in Bath, be sure to pop in and see us at The Provenist. Until then, you can find out more here