There is a welcome trend these days for the examination of food miles – the distance food has travelled from farm to plate.
It ensures freshness, a fulsome flavour and creates less pollution. Farmers themselves have not been slow to catch on and as the big supermarkets attempt to squeeze more and more for less and less from their suppliers, it makes financial sense for farmers to go down the direct selling route.
Thus, there has been a farming uprising of a kind, with old barns being converted into gleaming palaces of glass, wood and stone, to provide a destination venue for discerning customers.
One such place, which has become the template and a shining beacon for others to emulate is at Blacker Hall Farm on the outskirts of Wakefield in West Yorkshire. Handily sited just west of the M1, Junction 39, on the A636 Denby Dale Road, it has become a very busy venue with queuing for tables on the lunchtime my small party called in on a dull, March weekday.
It’s popularity no doubt stems from the recent awards the farm has garnered, with more than 60 individual product awards, 10 Great Taste awards, England’s Best Roast Beef, Yorkshire and the U.K’s Best Farm Shop, among many others. The animals reared here are even fed on produce from the farm.
Opened in late 1999, farmer Jon Garthwaite has seen his business boom and it is now run by his son Edward and his wife Cheryl, who have maintained the high standards he set. Today, more than 75% of everything sold is produced or prepared on site.
Much of the remainder is artisan produce from around Yorkshire, the list is truly too large to detail here, but a glance around the delicatessen, the grocery stalls or the extensive wine and beer loft provides all the evidence that is required. The origins of produce reads like a gazetteer of Yorkshire place names, many of the products famous in their own right.
The smell of the delicatessen is divine, with freshly baked produce passing though from the ovens to the shop. As a pork pie aficionado I am fortunate to live a five minute drive from the ‘North of England’s Best Butcher’s’ at Wilson’s of Cross Gates, Leeds. Their pork pies are often supreme champions at competitions, though the ones at Blacker Hall – slow cured home produced pork with glazed crunchy pastry – could give Wilson’s a run for their money in my opinion.
After a short wait, we were shown to a table in the gallery of the barn. This was a quieter area due to the large glass screens which sheltered us from the hubbub below. All natural stone with huge ancient beams, and polished wooden floors, this was an impressive place.
I am not a fan of the ordering system, which was then to queue at one of two tills to place an order. As it was busy, it took some ten minutes and I had to self serve the scones and cakes that were to follow our first course. I would much prefer waiter service, but that is a small criticism in the scheme of things.
The home-made vegetable soup came piping hot and was very fresh and wholesome. It came with a choice of breads, with butter. Beautiful.
Our plates were swiftly and efficiently cleared.
The scones and cakes are all hand-made too, by ‘Proper Made’ from nearby Lindley and these proved to be of excellent quality. All the prices were very reasonable for the quality provided.
The range of hot food on offer include the usual suspects of sausage and mash etc. with more exotic offerings, seasonal offers and a good selection of freshly prepared sandwiches.
Yorkshire afternoon teas are served daily and there is even a full Sunday roast dinner to be had.
All of the staff encountered were smiley and friendly despite being very busy.
For regular customers, which we may well become, there is a Customer Club scheme whereby points are earned for future discounts and special offers.
There is a large field and play area with playground equipment for the children in warmer weather and a large car park for patrons. Follow your sat-nav to WF4 3DN.
The Barn Cafe is open seven days a week to 5 or 6pm and further details can be found at “blackerhallfarmshop.co.uk”:http://blackerhallfarmshop.co.uk