Daphne Tilley is a name known well amongst the restaurant world and synonymous with quality produce carefully selected to ensure your taste buds are truly experiencing the magic of proper PGI Welsh lamb. Her environmentally friendly premium lamb is reared with care and indeed love, to go straight from the farm to your fork. With loyal London clientele, it’s clear there is something fantastic about Daphne’s, whether it’s the Snowdonia mountain range air, their refined diet or the care, we talk to lamb legend Daphne to ask those all so important questions about what makes Welsh lamb so tasty.
TB: “Shall we start at the beginning? How did the journey start to supply London’s top restaurants with Daphne’s Lamb?” “Well, it started because lamb prices became very poor for farmers. Lambs were around £30 to sell when they were costing £40 to produce. We were supermarket suppliers at the time, but we didn’t end up actually making any money. So, I took some lambs to London... somebody bet me that I wouldn’t do it, so I thought right, I've never been to London before, but I’ll give it a go. We scrubbed up our Land Rover, put some half lambs in poly boxes and visited around 10 restaurants. I looked up which ones were more upper end and set off for London on my own. Of the 10 restaurants back in 2002 I still have half of them now.”
TB: “Why would you say Welsh lamb is better than a lot of the lamb out there today.” “I suspect it’s the bloodline and breeding over the years. It’s in lots of things... Also the weather we have up here with the rain means the mountains are grassier and it’s not such a harsh climate. It’s also very dependent on what they eat, sweet grass and more herbs means there’s more variety for them to graze on.
TB: “How has the industry changed over the years?” “The restaurants we deal with love lamb and are making it less seasonal. Also, the breeding of the sheep has changed over the years in that farmers have improved their stock by buying upmarket good confirmation meatier rams. Gradually they have improved the quality so there’s much more meat to bone ratio.”
TB: “Just for fun, is there anyone you know of interest who has tried Daphne’s Lamb?” “Oh, well our lamb was provided in one of the G20 meetings when all the presidents came to 10 Downing Street. Jamie Oliver cooked for them. We weren’t allowed to say where the meat was going as it was very hush hush. So, I drove it up myself as none of my staff knew who it was for. When I got there, there were two chaps with machine guns on either side and I go ``my gosh what are you doing here” and they said, “to look after you ma’am” as it was such a protected meeting.”
TB: “Wow that’s impressive, with all that pressure would you say there have been some funny mishaps in your career?” “Not so much a mishap but definitely a funny story. I got a call from the Ritz one day asking for mutton for the day after tomorrow. I thought it was a weird request as it usually has to hang for at least two weeks. Nevertheless, I tried anyway as I had a feeling I knew who it was for. I rang up one of our farmers who had a few but they were going to be cut up for his own freezer. I told him that we needed his mutton for a special someone’s birthday and luckily, he agreed, and we managed to get it to the table in time. The chef told Prince Charles he was eating another farmer's mutton when it was delivered to the table! When the farmer was asked if he wanted another one back, he replied to me “no, as long as you pay me for that one.”
TB: “What do you think the future of farming is going to look like?” “I have no idea! This is all a guessing game. They are trying to change the consumption of meat, but I think a certain amount of meat in one's diet is good for one. One doesn’t have to have meat every meal, it’s all a balance. Previously people couldn’t afford meat and I hope it doesn’t go beyond the pockets of people because it’s important. It’s just hard to say what can happen beyond now. At the moment it’s looking quite busy and buoyant. We are going to have to work together with environmental agencies I think.”