SET the alarm clock,,, Farmhouse Breakfast Week, an annual event championing the importance of breakfast, starts on Sunday, January 20, writes Jo Davison.
Run on behalf of arable farmers, the aim is to get the 47 per cent of folk who regularly skip breakfast during the week to change their ways.
Eating breakfast, say dieticians, is the healthy way to start the day, but for most of us, work-day breakfasts have to be snatched affairs – a piece of toast bolted down as you head out of the door, or a bowl of cereal, spooned at your desk.
Weekends, on the other hand, are a time when we can relax and truly savour a luxurious version of that first meal of the day.
I love my Saturday and Sunday breakfasts. So here we are, on a Sunday, about to sample a true farmhouse version in every sense of the word.
We are at the delightful and quaint 17th century Cruck Barn Cafe at Whirlow Hall Farm.
The farm runs as a charity and gives countryside educational experiences to inner-city children. Over the years, the trust has raised a considerable amount of its income from growing its own crops and rearing its own sheep, cows, pigs and chickens. Produce is sold at the farm’s shop and it’s all on a plate at the dinky little barn cafe just across the farmyard.
Inside, it’s like something out of Little House On The Prairie. Stone walls, a flag-stoned floor and long trestle tables topped with red checked gingham cloths lie beneath a soaring, steeply pitched roof.
“We measure our food miles in metres,” the menu proudly states. As in Whirlow’s on-site Farm Shop, produce comes directly from the farm’s fields. Sausages and bacon are made from pork from their pigs who live at the top of the lane and the free range eggs have been freshly laid each morning only 40 metres away from the shop. Jams, breads, dairy products and cakes are all locally sourced too.
The vibe is laid-back as we sip quality tea and a great cappuccino from the organic and fair-trade offering. Ella Fitzgerald is playing below the chatter of children and parents. We are among the couples all togged up in walking gear. It’s an ideal stopover on the Peaks, this cafe. Though we are planning something less arduous – a dog-walk around Whirlow’s public rights of way (the dog is waiting impatiently, tied up in the car park).
The cafe dishes up hand-made soups, stews, cakes, burgers and sandwiches daily and occasionally teams up with the city centre’s award-winning Silversmith’s Restaurant to stage gourmet Field to Plate Bistro Nights.
But it’s the all-day breakfast menu we’re here for. There’s an appealing choice - from bacon or sausage butties at £2.50 to a full English; ritzy Eggs Florentine (two eggs, mushroooms, spinach, roast tomatoes and hollandaise sauce for £5.50), Eggs Benedict, the ham instead of spinach version at £6.50, a vegetarian full English and a tempting American-style breakfast of fluffy pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup.
Predictably, husband goes for the Big Whirlow. He’ll have any dish appended by the word ‘big’. It’s £7.25 for two eggs, two sausages, two slices of bacon,black pudding, mushrooms, beans, roast tomatoes and toast.
The service was friendly - and fast, even though the menu warned that there can sometimes be a wait as food is cooked to order.
His giant of a brekkie made him break out into a huge smile. He got stuck straight in and didn’t even leave a bit of sausage for the dog.
“The bacon was amazing,” he said over an empty plate. “It was like old-fashioned bacon. So were the sausages.” The black pudding had been herby in flavour and cooked crisp on the outside, soft on the in. The tomatoes had that dense, rich sweetness that so many don’t. And the mushrooms tasted really mushroomy (he’s getting better at these descriptions).
They weren’t as good as MY mushrooms, though. Smugly, I slipped him some.
I’d gone for The Hendersons, a £4.75 lower-caloried delight. Chunkily-chopped field mushrooms had been tossed in sweet mustard, creme fraiche and that good old Sheffield relish (there’s more on the table if you want it). Served on triangles of nutty brown toast, the dish was topped with a posh, perfectly round poached egg.
That sauce was both tangy and creamy and a fabulous complement to the earthy flavour of the mushrooms. Our only niggles were teeny ones; my poached egg had just gone past runny and there was no butter on any of the toast.
Plus the toilets across the farmyard are pretty shabby and need sprucing up. And I wish they had shut the cafe door as it was too chilly to take our coats off. What were they born in, these Whirlow folk - a barn?
But now I sound grumpy and churlish and that is simply not fair. This is a fabulous little place to partake of breakfast at its freshest and finest.
And tuck in because every mouthful you eat is doing someone’s child a good turn.
CRUCK BARN CAFE, Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, Whirlow Lane, Sheffield S11 9QF, Visit www.whirlowhallfar.co.uk. Tel: 0114 2352678. Open: Wednesday-Sunday, full menu 10am-3pm, 3-4:30pm for drinks and cakes. Parking: free car park, All cards accepted - you pay at the farm shop opposite.
My tar ratings (out of five):