Lovers of local food will be in their element in the Café Bistro at Sunnyhills Farm Shop.
To reach the restaurant area, we walked through shelves and shelves of Northumbrian produce and past a deli counter packed with either homemade or locally-sourced goodies, drooling as we went.
There were cheeses to die for, including those from the Doddington Dairy stable, Cuddy’s Cave, Admiral Collingwood and Berwick Edge.
Handmade pies, free-range Scotch eggs, sausage rolls and pasties, home-baked ham, quiches and salads all looked inviting, as did the range of local meats prepared by the in-store butcher.
Preserves, puddings, fresh bread, vegetables, tea, biscuits, Chain Bridge honey ... it was like a mini food festival!
Adding the gift shop at the start, we made a mental note to revisit for some Christmas present ideas.
The eating area was light and airy, like a cross between a barn and a large conservatory.
We knew before we saw the stacked high chairs that children of all ages were most welcome, the miniature pony, llamas and play area outside had already given the game away.
A radio station piped through speakers lifted the atmosphere – it’s amazing what a dose of Andy Williams can do!
The menu was split into two sections – breakfast, served from 9am to 11.30am Monday to Saturday and 9am to noon on Sundays; and lunch, served when the breakfast finished.
We had arrived in time for a spot of lunch. The selection was typical British country café, with the added bonus of an above average smattering of local produce, as you’d expect.
Cold sandwiches, with fillings including Sunnyhills-cured and baked ham with Northumbrian pease pudding, Eyemouth smoked salmon and cream cheese with a squeeze of lemon and black pepper, Sunnyhills free-range egg mayonnaise and fruity coronation chicken at £5.50 to £6.50 dominated the list. Add a cup of soup for £1.50. Then there was a choice of warm bruschetta and hot sandwiches with various toppings at around the £6-£7 mark.
For the more ravenous, we move into the realms of baked potatoes at £5.95 with a choice of coleslaw, cheese, prawn Marie Rose, baked beans or tuna mayonnaise atop.
Platters, quiches, pies, penne pasta, posh fish fingers (medley of fresh North Sea fish goujons lightly breaded and deep fried), omelettes and Sunnyhills beef burger completed the picture.
I also liked the special deal menu – select two courses from it and a tea or coffee is thrown in. Choices included beetroot and orange salad (£7.95), Scottish salmon and dill fishcakes (£8.95), ham, cauliflower cheese and potatoes (£7.50), pineapple sponge or banana split (£4.25).
Having decided we were hungry enough for a couple of courses and eyeing up the desserts for later, I chose ‘Heather’s pie of the day, hand-cut chips, mushy peas and rich gravy’ (£7.95) and my wife spied the ham, eggs and chips (£7.50).
They both arrived promptly on oblong plates, which are all the rage at the moment.
Let’s deal with Mrs L’s meal first. The chips were splendid, indeed hand-cut and tasty, the eggs were as fresh as a daisy and cooked to perfection, lightly heated on top to avoid excessive undone white. But it was the ham that had her in raptures – I had to agree, having sneaked a taste, that it was delicious, not too salty, not too dry.
Mrs L said it had restored her faith in ham after a few bad experiences with supermarket varieties. It was a simple dish but did the job on a chilly autumnal day.
My pie – steak and ale – was not quite up to the same high standard. It was appetising enough and full of flavour but the promised short crust pastry was soggy, presumably after an encounter with a microwave oven. It was a shame because the rest of the meal was spot on – the mushy peas and thick gravy adding to the homeliness.
The dessert that caught my eye won’t surprise regular readers of this column – apple crumble and custard (£4.25). Like the rest of the meal, it was neatly presented, the crumble in a dish dusted with icing sugar and the delicious custard in a stylish jug. Like the pie, though, the crumble was a bit flaccid, truly scrumptious all the same.
My wife raided the extensive cake selection, chose well and her border tart lived up to expectations.
It had been a pleasant visit.
EXTRA SPECIAL TREATMENT FOR YOUNGSTERS
Children are obviously treated well. Under 12s have their own menu for a start (if you can drag them away from the animals and play area outside, that is). Sandwiches served with carrot and cucumber sticks (£2) play a big part, although there’s also soup (£2), half a baked potato (£2.99), sausages, chunky chips with beans or mushy peas (£3.99), posh fish fingers with chips (£4.99), cheesy pasta (£2.99) and farmer’s platter (£3.99). Desserts include ice cream (£1.25 a scoop) and homemade jammy dodger (99p).
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Full breakfast £7.95
Muffin with filling choice: Bacon, sausage, eggs, black pudding, mushroom or tomato £3.95-£5.50
Free-range scrambled eggs with Eyemouth smoked salmon £5.50
Swallows of Seahouses kipper £7.95
Cold sandwiches £5.50-£6.50
Northumberland steak sandwich £7.95
Sunnyhills pork sausages £6.95
BLT sandwich £6.95
Sunnyhills beef burger + chips £8.50
Posh fish fingers £9.95
Penne pasta (v) £6.95
Quiche of the day (v) £6.50
Baked potatoes + filling choice £5.95
Tray-bake cakes £2.95
‘Sunnyhills Famous Scone’ £1.95
Deluxe scone (+ clotted cream) £2.95
Star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food 8
Vegetarian choice 7
Value for money 9
Local food 10
Children catered for 8½
Toilet for disabled Yes
Access for disabled 9
Overall rating 8
Verdict: Most enjoyable.
Contact: 01668 219662; Sunnyhills’ website. Open seven days a week subject to seasonal variations, 9am to 5pm.