ONE of the huge advantages of serving local food is that it can be really fresh.

So fresh, in fact, that at The White Star Tavern, head chef Jim Hayward often finds himself serving up food in the evening that has been picked that morning.

“We have a guy who goes out foraging for wild mushrooms and things like that for us,” says Jim.

“He picks things in the New Forest in the morning and we sell them in the evening.

We never quite know what he’s going to bring. Last year he brought beefsteak fungi.

We thought ‘what are we going to do with these?’ because none of us had cooked with them before. In the end we used them raw, thinly shaved, over salad and everyone was raving about it.We’re learning all the time and adapting to what’s available.”

Local food is key at The White Star and Jim is passionate about serving up as much of it as possible.

The White Star combines a restaurant, gastro-pub and accommodation – and local food is key in all areas, from the jam, butter and eggs for breakfast through burgers and salads to three course meals.

“It’s good for the local economy and for the environment with low food miles,” he says.

“And in Hampshire we have an abundance of excellent produce – we’re not just using it for the sake if it, it’s really good.”

The dining room menu at The White Star closely follows local seasonal food, meaning it changes on a week-to-week basis.

“It makes it exciting and more of a challenge, looking forward to things coming into season, like asparagus, and only using it when it’s at its best,” says Jim.

“We’re really into what’s about from week to week and are always on the scout for new things.”

As well as foraging for mushrooms, their local food expert also forages for sea asparagus and samphire and Jim and the staff pick nettles and wild garlic for their dishes.

They use a wide range of local suppliers, including Uptons of Bassett, Lavistoke Park, Pratt’s Rapeseed Oil, Isle of Wight Blue Cheese, Sunnyfields and Rosary Goat Cheese.

Last year we got our second AA Rosette so we must be doing something right!,”

says Jim.

“Our customers definitely value that we do local food – we get really good feedback on our comment cards. My mission since I came here has been to expand the local food on offer.We’re trying to put Southampton on the local food map.”