Call it a hunch, but I reckon there’ll be traffic queues and toilet queues at the grand houses of the UK today. This must be peak viewing day for National Trust properties and other national treasures such as Chatsworth, which these days is less of a trial for children, thanks to kid’s trails and playgrounds, and for food lovers, as most places have caught on pretty quick.
We made a quick dash to Belton House yesterday, our nearest National Trust property. If only because it has an amazing adventure playground for a 7 year old to blow off some steam in. I’d not been before so was keen to see where the food level was pitched at. And I was pleasantly surprised! Local produce was well featured, from Lincolnshire sausages through to local veg. There were gluten free cakes from Crimbles, which is a nice touch for not excluding anyone from tea time treats.
And there were cakes. Glorious, homemade looking cakes. Of course there was Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle cake, but was thrilled to see Chocolate Beetroot (MGG pronounced it delicious) and Parsnip and Caraway amongst others. Decent tea, Belvoir cordials and no sign of instant coffee anywhere. Perfect.
Of course, the grande dame of this sort of thing has to be Chatsworth though. Their farm shop is a thing of foodie beauty, and the coffee shop has the most idyllic view. And I’m not just talking about the cakes. I am thankful not to be there today, as I am sure it is hectically busy, but enjoyed an afternoon there a couple of Friday’s ago. Tea was delightful (and scarily, no more expensive for three drinks and three fabulous cakes than 2 mediocre coffees, a glass of water and 2 cakes at Starbucks) and the staff suitably charming. And the picture perfect scenery just added to the whole occasion.
The farmshop itself is upmarket, not exactly cheap, but very clearly focused on food values. Great selection that you could do your weekly shop from, or just choose some carefully edited highlights to add to the every day stuff you have. In my little haul there’s some great local salami, slices of proper baked ham, a Lincolnshire plum loaf, Stout Porter from Tollgate Brewery, something from Peak Ales (we drank that already, so can’t check) and some Stichelton. The black pudding and oatcakes come from my earlier visit that day to the market in Hanley, which was responsible for this dish.
So, I would say planning a visit to a national treasure shouldn’t now mean compromising on your foodie values, even if you don’t take your own delightful picnic. Let me know if you think there’s a foodie treat hidden away at a national treasure near you, I’d love to notch up a few more. Although I’m going back to Chatsworth next week for the Country Fair, from 4th to 6th September. As you can imagine, it has a big food contingent. I’m pleased to see at least two very local suppliers in attendance: Belvoir Fruit Farms for great cordials and Brocklebys for the only organic Melton Mowbray pork pie around.
Advance tickets are still available, and there really will be something for all the family, whether they love their food or not. Just remember to pack a picnic for when you’re sitting in the traffic jam at the end of the day!