AS I write this, I’m tucking into a piece of Baileys white chocolate cheesecake, with a gargantuan calorie count, which I failed to polish off during my meal at Willow Farm.
Mouth-wateringly fresh and very tasty, this huge chunk of goodness came served in a carry-out box with a dainty pot of cream – and was the highlight of my meal.
It’s this sort of novel “take me home” menu idea that just about sums up The Willow Farm because it offers everything you could want – good beer, good food, unpretentious service – and the option to take home what you can’t eat.
Loved by the locals for its attentive service, this busy restaurant is perfect for a family Sunday dinner, low-key business lunch, or just meeting up with friends. And you can be sure that whoever foots the bill isn’t going to get a nasty shock, due to some very reasonable prices.
The atmosphere is one of comfort, warmth and friendliness, with a distinct homely feel that honours hospitality. The décor is tasteful, fresh and clean with a mix of chunky country-style wooden furniture, an open fire, and walls adorned with traditional artwork.
My parents are regulars at The Willow Farm, and when I say regulars, I mean every Sunday at noon on the dot. That may sound a little early, (especially for my teenage son, who is rarely out of bed at such a time) but the queues are usually out of the door after this, so it’s advisable to get there early.
We arrived, and my parents and I were seated in “their usual spot”. The one thing that strikes me about the place is how many of the diners seem to know each other, and some even stopped by our table to say “hello” and chat.
My father ordered the drinks at the bar, a lime and soda for him (the driver), glass of house red for me, and glass of Blossom Hill rose for my mum, which came to £9.60.
Next, after a bit of a catch-up with friends who were also dining out, we ordered our food at the bar and gave them our table number. My dad opted for the carvery, £7.45, my mum decided on the chicken medley, £8.15, while I chose an aubergine and mozzarella bake, £7.95.
The food was prompt and served well by a very polite young waitress, despite the restaurant being filled by this point with customers from end-to-end. My dad described the beef as cooked to perfection, tender, juicy and falling apart. The gravy was rich and meaty. There was so much veg to choose from he said he could have done with a bigger plate!
Mum said her chicken medley with peas and chips was succulent and very tasty and was washed down nicely by her glass of rosé.
My aubergine bake was delicious and came with chunky chips and salad. Aubergines are not the easiest of things to cook correctly, so I take my hat off to the chef.
After our mains, we browsed the dessert menu. It offers so many mouth-watering treats, from a selection of cheesecakes to chocolate cake, and if the menu doesn’t lead you into temptation, then the cream cakes on display at the bar will.
My parents could only manage a Cool Jamaican ice-cream each, £7 for two, while I had a latte, £1.60 – and because of my sweet tooth, I took home a large portion of Baileys white chocolate cheesecake for later, £4.25.
Eating at the Willow Farm is a pleasurable experience. All in all, the prices are reasonable, while the food is good for quality and quantity. And although we didn’t use it ourselves, we have heard excellent reports on the children’s area too, which attracts families by the drove.
Our total bill came to only £46. The warmth of the cosy atmosphere makes a lunch spent here both enjoyable and relaxing. It is a place I’d feel happy to revisit, whether with friends, family, or for a more romantic occasion - especially if it’s my turn to pay the bill!
Address: Northumberland Business Park, at the junction with Dudley Lane, directly opposite Tommee Tippee and Skoda. Easy to find.
Open: 11am to 11pm every day. A carvery is available Monday to Friday: 11.30am to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm. Saturday and Sunday: 11.30am to 8pm. A full menu is served 11.30am to 9pm every day.
First impressions: Cheerful staff in immaculate homely surroundings, tables perfectly laid out, ready and waiting.
Welcome: Warm and inviting, great attention to detail.
Style, design and furnishings: Traditional country kitchen-feel with a real fire.
Cuisine: Traditional hearty British menu – and truly amazing cakes. A plentiful children’s menu is offered too.
Service: Excellent. Young waiting staff who are polite and hospitable, and work hard in all areas.
Value: Brilliant for value – both quantity and quality.
Disabled facilities: Accessible.