Have you ever glanced at a meal arriving on the table next to you and wished you had chosen that?
For me, it’s a regular occurrence – the lettuce is always greener on the other side of the restaurant!
And it happened again when we popped to The Country Barn at Widdrington for a lunch recently.
It was a Thursday, overcast and chilly, nothing out of the ordinary for a mid-December afternoon.
Yet the coffee shop was busy, with several tables of folk tucking into their meals or snacks, testament to the reputation built up at the converted farm buildings.
The eating area is bright, squeaky -clean and comfortable, with solid wooden furniture and padded seats. Ceiling lights and cream-painted walls added to the modern feel. The views onto the farm buildings and machinery remind you that you are in the heart of the working countryside.
We had expected to partake in a quick bite to eat but were greeted by an array of choices that threw us somewhat! A specials board offering of a full Christmas dinner (turkey and all the trimmings) would have been more tempting if we’d skipped breakfast but we both decided to stick with the light-bite route.
It was when the neighbouring table was delivered a delicious-looking festive feast that regret became the over-riding emotion, tinged with a hint of jealousy. And when they unwittingly began to rub it in with noises of delight, we really wanted to turn back time – just a few minutes would have done – and plumped for another Christmas meal!
But there was no going back, we had ordered at one end of the counter, collected our pots of tea in the middle and filed off to sit down and wait for our food to arrive.
First up for both of us was ham broth (£3.50), which was accompanied by a giant slice of homemade bread, and as I sit here writing this, I yearn for it all over again. We were confronted by a bowl of luscious soup, packed with masses of ham cubes, potato, carrot, swede, pearl barley and split peas – it was almost a case of ‘one slice or two’.
The broth was well-seasoned and warming – just what the weather demanded.
A sizeable slab of artisan cheesy bread made the course complete and a meal in itself.
If the butter had been in ramekins, rather than foil, my world would have been complete.
As we were firmly in the festive season, there was no other ‘special’ hot dish on offer, apart from the ‘all-day’ breakfast or sausage and chips. There would normally be the option of something like shepherd’s pie, lasagne or fish and chips on a Friday.
From a range of sandwiches, salads, pâté, quiche and breakfasts, I went for a baked potato (£5.75) and my wife had a panini (£6.75), which came with three of the choice of fillings (tomato, ham, bacon, pesto, mozzarella, tuna mayonnaise, Cheddar cheese, coronation chicken, salami, brie, onion, pickle, sausage, beef, turkey, peanut butter, cranberry sauce and apple sauce – some selection!)
She chose bacon, brie and cranberry.
Similar topping options, though not as many, came with the baked potato and I selected coronation chicken. It turned out to be very creamy, pleasantly spicy and not at all chicken-shy.
The potato, however, was a bit disappointing, being small, shrivelled through re-heating and over-cooked, the skin being very dark and soft.
The panini received the Mrs L grin of approval. She also ordered a side bowl of chips (£2.75) – they were chunky, handcut and scrumptious.
Both our dishes came with a decent, crunchy salad, coleslaw and, strangely, crisps!
Despite some tempting-looking homemade desserts, cakes, bakes and scones, we had been defeated and opted for a stroll around the gift shop upstairs and the farm shop across the courtyard, where all the food served in the café can be bought to take away.
I had been impressed with the quantity of home-cooked items and the presence of an on-site butchery meant the meat was fresh too.
In fact, the menu boasted that the beef and lamb used is from Widdrington Farm. Can’t beat that for a low carbon footprint!
The Sunday lunch is also a popular feature of The Country Barn dining experience. Judging by the clean plates on the next table, the roast turkey had gone down a storm and it would be worth revisiting.
WHOLESOME HOME-COOKING FOR EVERYONE
The welcome had been warm and friendly, although the part-self-service system was off-putting to a degree. None of the food was overly inventive, although it was presented in a neat, inviting way. It could be described as plain but wholesome and catering for all tastes. Christmas tunes added to the atmosphere while we were there. The coffee shop opens 10am–5pm, Tuesday to Friday; 9.30am–5pm on Saturday; and 10am–4pm on Sunday.
SELECTION FROM THE MENU
Deluxe farmhouse breakfast £7.99
Standard farmhouse breakfast £6.50
Vegetarian breakfast £6.25
(with free tea/coffee; available until 3pm except Weds 2pm and Sun 11.30am)
Sausage and chips £5.99
Sausage, egg, beans, chips £6.50
Bacon, egg, beans, chips £6.50
Widdrington Farm beef £5.99
Tuna mayonnaise £5.25
Warm garlic mushroom (v); goats’ cheese with pear & walnut (v); black pudding with poached egg and pancetta; ham; cheese (v); turkey; beef.
Cheese (v); tuna mayo; baked beans (v); prawn mayo; ham; bacon & brie (£4.75 - £5.99).
Star ratings (out of 10)
Quality of food 8
Vegetarian choice 7½
Value for money 8
Local food 9
Children catered for 8
Toilet for disabled Yes
Access for disabled 9
Overall rating 8
Verdict: Home-cooking that leaves a satifying impression..
Contact: 01670 760181; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website |http://www.thecountrybarn.co.uk|www.thecountrybarn.co.uk|Link to the Country Barn website|