Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Was I dreaming? Or were my children frolicking? Was the sun really shining? Did I actually have a delectable lamb-burger in front of me AND the time/spare hand I needed to eat it? I did and it wasn't a dream. How do I know?
Well, many reasons, the main being that I'm not MAD and can work out the difference between wakefulness and sleep. But also because my dreams are never that good - normally my teeth fall out. If this had been a dream I would have discovered that in actual fact I was naked.
Instead I was fully clothed and sitting in the bucolic setting of Pythouse Kitchen Garden, an outdoor cafe set in the Wiltshire countryside. It's idyllic and perfect for a family lunch if you're staying somewhere locally or even worth a detour if you're not - it's perfect if you're heading west from London.
The kitchen garden is walled and full of raspberries (pick-your-own), beetroot, potatoes and other beautiful British fare. This is then cooked and sold in the cafe.
We've been a couple of times and each time have eaten most of what's available. Last time we went the sun was shining and all was well with the world. We set ourselves down in stylishly distressed garden furniture and ordered while the children ran off to frolic on the grass, in the shade of gnarly apple trees, alongside picturesquely growing chives and inside prettily painted wooden cabins filled with toys.
The time we visited before that it was pelting it down, but a canopied area set against the building (an old potting shed) kept us dry and there was still enough room for the children to runaround and leave us in relative peace.
I think the best thing about this cafe is the space. Your kids can run free, play, jump off little walls, watched by you all the while, but, very importantly, not really heard by you. Instead you can hear your adult companions. You can chat. You can relax in the shade of a tree and feel like you're in some kind of rural idyll or a Boden advert, depending on your points of reference.
The food? Oh yes, the food. Much of the fruit and veg is from the garden and what they don't grow there, they source from local farms. The menu is deftly put together, making the most of what's around and it changes daily. I had a lamb-burger (lamb from their own farm) on a sourdough bun with chutney, salad and chips, all for £9.50. If you're more salad-minded they do a mean lime, orange and halloumi salad, or courgette and asparagus tart. They also do a kid's lunch box for £3.95 which is seasonal, but on the whole contains sarnies, organic pear juice, pomme bears crisps, muddy bear biscuits and fruit.
It's worth going for the cakes alone, which sit on the dresser of "all things sweet" displayed under glass cloches. Orange and passionfruit, chocolate and pear, or spiced apple? I've tried most of them and they are all lovely. Then before you leave, to head for your static caravan (yes, that's where we were heading off to! The romance...) you can buy some of the delicious provisions from their "farmshop/deli hybrid". Meat from local farms, local and French cheese, wine, chutney, fruit jams and honey from the hive in the garden are all beautifully displayed.
By the this point in the proceedings I'm usually convinced my children are perfect because they've been so far away from me throughout lunch that I've forgotten what they are really like. This illusion is generally shattered 30 seconds in to the car journey, but it was fun while it lasted.
Pythouse Kitchen Garden Shop & Cafe
West Hatch, Tisbury, Wiltshire, SP3 6PA
Getting there: this is a great stop if you're on your way to the West Country. It's just past Stonehenge, about 10 minutes from the A303.