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Cowdray Farm Shop Café: Restaurant review

PUBLISHED: 10:14 20 February 2018

Cajun-roasted aubergine (Photo by Chris Orange)

Cajun-roasted aubergine (Photo by Chris Orange)

Chris Orange

Cowdray Farm Shop Café has a fresh, healthy menu that is the perfect antidote to festive overindulgence

It may be winter, but there is only so much stodge one woman can take. And after several weeks of mince pies, chocolatey treats and meals predicated by the presence of potato, we didn’t have much appetite for a Sunday roast.

A solution presented itself in the form of the Cowdray Farm Shop Café, a sunny and informal place on the edge of the village of Easebourne. The environs are charming to visit at any time, with the cheerily yellow-accented houses of the Cowdray Estate, and it would be possible to while away many hours in the well-stocked farm shop. As well as meat, cheese and other edible goodies there is a fine selection of gifts.

The café is open all day, serving breakfast, snacks and substantial meals cooked using produce from the estate and local area.

General manager Rupert Titchmarsh said: “The menu is heavily focused around healthy eating, reflecting the ethos of the estate’s owners. The dishes feature top quality ingredients, locally sourced where possible. We try to create a point of difference to other local eateries, featuring influences from the Middle East to Italian to hearty English cuisine. Everything is cooked from scratch.” The café was recently awarded a silver rating in the West Sussex Eat Out Eat Well initiative – but there’s nothing puritanical about the menu (it’s still possible to gorge on fish and chips or a burger). There are many options for vegetarians, which isn’t always the case in this part of West Sussex.

We stuck to the plant-based half of the menu. My own Cajun-roasted aubergine with feta, tabbouleh and a minty yoghurt dressing (£9.50) was delicious. The cooking was very simple and it was nothing I couldn’t make at home but, crucially, it was a combination I hadn’t thought of. Tabbouleh, the Middle Eastern salad usually made with bulghar wheat, parsley, lemon juice and mint, was more delicately flavoured here but still very filling. Altogether it was a cracking combination that satisfied my craving for healthy but substantial food admirably. My husband’s chickpea fritters (£9.95) had just the right level of cumin – falafels can be a bit heavy on the herbs and spices – and the accompanying tzatziki was deliciously cooling. It came with a warm salad of tomato and butternut squash.

Cowdray Farm Shop Cafe (Photo by Chris Orange) Cowdray Farm Shop Cafe (Photo by Chris Orange)

Here our good intentions took a swerve to the left – there’s a small but infinitely tempting pudding menu, as well as a mouthwatering display of cakes to further weaken the resolve. We opted for lemon posset (£6) and seasonal fruit crumble (£6.50). The posset was rich, dense and velvety, topped with a sweet fruit compote with just the right amount of sharpness. The accompanying shortbread was perfect, with a satisfying snap. The crumble – apple and mixed berries today – was heartily proportioned and served with proper, sunshine-yellow custard. Perfect soothing Sunday food.

The café is licensed, with local ales and spirits on offer. Otherwise there’s a selection of healthy smoothies and even trendy vegan turmeric and matcha lattes. We drank Cowdray apple juice, produced by the excellent Wobblegate in Bolney.

Cowdray Farm Shop and Café is a great place to meet friends for an informal lunch – and surrounded as it is by beautiful countryside, there’s plenty of scope for a bracing walk beforehand.

Cowdray Farm Shop and Café, Cowdray Park, GU29 0AJ; www.cowdray.co.uk

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