New cafe and shop opens offering a slice of The Good Life
PUBLISHED: 19:30 21 May 2019
Enjoy farm-made Jersey milk ice creams, proper English breakfasts, salads and gluten-free cakes at Old Hall Farm in Woodton.
Picture the scene. A freshly brewed cup of tea. A plate of delicate scones with luscious cream and local strawberry jam. The calming 'moo' of gorgeous Jersey cows breaking through the sound of birdsong. Sunshine. Meadow views. This bucolic idyll is no longer a dream for Rebecca and Stuart Mayhew of Old Hall Farm in Woodton, south Norfolk, close to the Suffolk town of Bungay.
After years in the planning, the Proudly Norfolk members have just opened their café/shop/butchery as they seek to create what can only be described as a foodie paradise where home grown and locally sourced aren't fads, but a reality. Visitors can buy and try the farm's own raw butter, raw milk and milkshakes, eggs, milk-fed pork, ice cream…and coming soon, cheese and yoghurt. With a vineyard planted too, down the line Rebecca and Stuart see the café having a continental vibe, their customers sharing Old Hall cheese and wine platters. Bliss.
"The response so far has been wonderful," Rebecca says of the transformation. "We've had so many lovely reviews."
The new café seats 46 inside and 24 on the terrace overlooking the vineyard, and fields of cows and chickens.
Decorated in what can only be described as 'country chic', Old Hall Farm's café offsets original brickwork against bold navy blue walls, with light flooding upwards into the full height vaulted ceiling. The shop is a restored building dating to the 1850s, extended with a new timber built frame.
Not a bad evolution for the business, which began two years ago as a self-service operation.
"It's been a long time coming," says Rebecca, "but it's so worth it. We're delighted with how it's turned out."
Opening from 8.30am for coffee and pastries, breakfast begins at 9am each day. "You've got to have a proper farmer's breakfast," Rebecca smiles. "So we've got some light things like poached eggs with asparagus and local sourdough from The Penny Bun Bakehouse. They're our own eggs and I'd say they're the ultimate in free-range. It's a system called pastured poultry. We move the chicken house every couple of days so they have fresh grass all the time. They follow the cows clearing up and bugs and worms so we don't need to use any fertilisers."
And back to the food. "There's eggs Benedict. We obviously do a lovely bacon roll or sausage roll in a brioche bun using our own bacon and sausages. And our full English breakfast is made with the best quality ingredients. There are still light things on the menu in the morning as well. We have our own granola, plus yoghurt and porridge. The yoghurt's not made with our milk yet but it will be."
On the side? It's got to be a cup of Grey Seal coffee from north Norfolk, or a pot of Essex-made Novus tea.
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Passers-by popping in for a snack can pick treats from the counter between mealtimes…flapjacks, Victoria sandwich with Jersey cream, chocolate fudge cake, brownies, carrot cake, coffee and walnut cake. There are, of course, gluten-free options too (including scones).
"Something I think will be popular is our cream teas. There's the traditional cream tea but we're also making a savoury tea with cheese scone, Norton's Dairy cream cheese, our Jersey butter and Candi's Chutney."
At lunchtime the café takes traditional fare and gives it a regional twist. Paninis come filled with Baron Bigod cheese from just down the road, paired with Candi's Chutney, or the farm's own baked ham with cheese. Soon there will be an omelette bar, using the farm's eggs and allowing hungry guests to pick their own toppings. But Rebecca is most enamoured with the salad bar. "We use fresh mixed local leaves and have salad items tossed in our homemade vinaigrette. Then people can choosing toppings like cheese from White Wood Dairy or Fielding Cottage, our own ham and local smoked mackerel. I love salads and our chef enjoys making them. I'm in salad heaven at the moment!"
Soup is on the menu every day too - whatever the weather.
"In time we'll add Sunday roasts and some pop-up food events as well."
For dessert, aside from the rollcall of cakes, you simply have to try one of the farm's milkshakes or brand new ice creams. Made with their Jersey milk to a classic gelato recipe, there are plain milk, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate flavours, with salted caramel being added soon. By the time summer comes around expect ice cream sundaes, and gloriously thick ice cream milkshakes.
And into the shop. Every corner is dedicated to showcasing the best of East Anglian produce - as well as indulging Rebecca's love of cheese, with a bulging fromage counter. There's local fruit and veg, jams, chutneys, cereals, a butchery with the farm's own pork, local beef, lamb and chicken, local game in season and more.
"It's all so exciting," Rebecca says. "My builders have spent the last five months laughing at how excited I get just walking in and looking around. We love it. We couldn't have asked for more."
Old Hall Farm Café and Shop is open from 9am to 5pm every day with takeaway coffee and pastries available from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
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