Georgette McCready escapes to the country, takes in the views and tries some delicious treats on offer at Castle Farm Café
Much as we love Bath we loathe its traffic jams, particularly those caused when roads are closed for repair and you’re left fuming helplessly in a slow moving queue. So, how nice to turn off the Wellsway and find yourself literally within just a few minutes, surrounded by fields, woods and rolling countryside.
We have just recently discovered, via the local grapevine of those in the know, this delightful rural haven at Midford. When I was told there was a new café at Castle Farm, the place that grows organic veg for the excellent Acorn vegetarian restaurant in town, I had half expected a homespun kind of set up with some wonky pastries and mismatched tea mugs.
Instead, after wandering up through the fecund vegetable garden and when you finally tear your eyes away from THAT view – English countryside at its verdant best – you find a photogenic Sunday supplement scenario. A large barn, its door welcomingly open, its interior a spacious café, with cakes under domes on the counter and an open kitchen with a pizza oven and a real life chef working away.
It turns out that said chef, Steve Yates, used to work down in Bath at Acorn and has also worked at The Bath Priory and at Sienna in Dorchester. He’s recently become a parent so the hours at Castle Farm are better suited to family life. Lucky us to have him here, I say.
All the staff are friendly and welcoming and they look so healthy too, which must be down in part to working in such a beautiful, relaxed setting and, of course, to eating all this burstingly nutritious food, most of which has travelled a mere few yards from fork to fork.
We settled outside at one of the bench tables with a refreshing ginger beer and elderflower pressé, courtesy of Somerset based Lovely Drinks. Cyclists who arrive at the café via the steep uphill route from Midford are offered a free cold drink on arrival, by the way, and all dogs too are offered a refreshing drink of water.
This is the kind of place you can bring the family dog, the rumbustious children and great granny who can’t hear too well in the clattering environment of so many city establishments. The menu caters for all and is meticulous in its thoughtfulness for vegans and the gluten intolerant. It’s also kind on the wallet – no dish costs more than a tenner (aside from the mezze platter which is £14.95 for two people).
You want decaf? Soya or almond milk? A cosy blanket to wrap round your knees? A box of toys? Café owners Rob Eldon, Sarah Kelloway and Richard Buckley (he of Acorn fame) have been considerate in every detail.
There are pizzas, organic fresh-as-a-daisy salads, soup of the day and the tempting sounding Finest Cheese Toastie (£6.95) made from sourdough bread, organic Glastonbury Cheddar, organic onion and served with pickled mustard and salad. The children’s menu includes a mini soup with sourdough (£3.50), handmade, fresh pizza and chips (£4.95) and a cheese toastie with salad or chips (£4.50) – a selection to please both picky kids and their health-conscious parents.
The specials (£9.95 apiece) were a tomato and red pepper risotto and homemade farfalle pasta. Like all good gardeners, the cafe makes use of whatever’s in season on site. So the risotto contained the farm’s own courgettes and tomatoes, adorned with fresh salad leaves and pretty orange nasturtium leaves. It looked very beautiful and tasted delicious too.
The inhouse pasta was equally aesthetically pleasing, a picturesque mix of runner beans, goats cheese, lightly caramelised hazelnuts and piquant large capers. We were filled with joyful holiday mood, eating delightful food in this most relaxed and peaceful setting.
Service is always with a smile and the team are always happy to talk about the ingredients’ provenance. The eggs in the tortilla, for instance, are from the farm’s chickens, who have settled in happily to rural life after unhappy careers as battery hens.
The cakes – we couldn’t resist the counter display – are also worth the journey out of the city. They’re made by Harriet of Bakes, Cakes and Makes and the Organic Cake Company. Missy B tackled a melt-in-the-mouth chocolate brownie (£2.75) and took half of it home to see her through the rest of the day.
I was curious to try the vegan chocolate cake (£3.75). Could it really be as good as a conventional dairy and egg bake? Oh yes it could. Light, very chocolately and so moreish I wolfed the lot, despite my intentions. The coffee, by Roundhill Coffee Roastery of nearby Radstock, was also good.
If you want to take a taste of sunny Castle Farm home – and why wouldn’t you? – farmers Mark and Jo run a little shed shop selling organic veg, Castle Farm salad bags, with edible flowers, pickles and jams.
We hear that there are plans to create a cosy Scandanavian hygge vibe as the nights draw in. Expect warming soups and stews, candelight and convivial company. The cafe is open Wednesday to Friday, 10am to 4pm and 10am to 5pm at weekends.