Restaurant review, Hollow Trees Farm Cafe, Semer: “Pitched just right for families”

Bacon, cheese and tomato quiche with salad. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Bacon, cheese and tomato quiche with salad. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

We road tested the family friendly-ness of this popular farm shop cafe.

A tot pot. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

A tot pot. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

Food

Lots of cafes, restaurants and pubs claim to be family-friendly but often I find you arrive to find the same old same old. We’re talking chicken nuggets and chips, sausage and chips, pizza et al.

The café at Hollow Trees is often praised for being totally geared-up for family dining, so I took along a friend and her food-loving 10-month-old to see just what the kitchen had to offer.

I have to say, my mummy friend Nic was mighty impressed by the children’s section of the menu, which had something for all tummy sizes, from tiny tots upwards, including snack pots and platters and child-sized portions of the sandwiches, spaghetti dishes and more.

Jacket potato with tuna and cheese. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Jacket potato with tuna and cheese. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant


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“It’s just like what I’d give her at home,” Nic said of Jessica’s tot pot (less than £3) which consisted of toasted pitta wedges, homemade hummus, peeled cucumber sticks, carrot puffs and a fromage frais.

It was the ideal finger food for Jessica, with plenty of flavours and textures to keep her amply occupied while we tucked into our lunch.

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Everything at the café is homemade (bar a few cakes on our visit, which were sourced locally from the Wheaten Mill).

As well as the usual sandwiches, jacket potatoes and the like, there are regular daily specials, including pies and quiches, which is exactly what I fancied on the drizzly, cold day of our visit.

Carrot cake. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Carrot cake. Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis - Credit: Archant

The bacon, cheese and tomato quiche was probably a tiny bit smaller than portions I’ve had elsewhere, but boy was it good. The pastry was just the right thickness and perfectly crisp and golden, swelling with a deep filling of smoky bacon pieces, melting cheese and sharp-sweet baby tomatoes. It came with a generous salad, a big dollop of homemade coleslaw and a large handful of salted crisps. A fantastic, filling no-frills lunch.

Nicola’s cheese and tuna jacket potato was a behemoth, overflowing with cheddar and, again, served with a lively fresh salad and coleslaw. All the ingredients were of good quality and, importantly, despite being a whopper of a spud, the potato was thoroughly cooked through.

Afterwards there had to be cake. It was disappointing to see the usual display of homemade cakes was reduced to just three, however the bakes supplementing these are literally made in a village up the road.

I had the homemade Victoria sponge. It was the last slice so was a tad dry around the edges but nice and soft in the middle. The sponge itself was expertly made, being all bouncy and rammed with vanillary flavour. And the buttercream had a touch of salt about it which cut through the sweetness of the strawberry jam.

Nicola’s carrot cake was dense and spicy, with lots of visible grated carrot. It had obviously been made with lots of care and the quality of ingredients, again, was top notch.

Drinks

There’s the usual selection of cold drinks and some posh pop, plus smoothies and milkshakes. Tea is from Teapigs and coffee from Butterworths in Bury St Edmunds. I had a decaf ‘milky’ coffee and it was superb. Served at just the right temperature, all the vanillary, chocolatey notes of the coffee beans shone through. The menu’s hot chocolate is Cadburys which I loathe (although almost everyone else I know disagrees). I do love a decent hot choc and it would be nice to see a local option such as Marimba on the drinks menu too.

Service

It was a busy midweek lunch time and we had to wait at the entrance for quite a while before someone came to seat us. It would have been nice for us and the people in front to have been acknowledged while we waited by serving staff, but when they did get to us they apologised for being short staffed.

The ladies serving on the day were friendly enough, but rushed off their feet. We still got our lunches in a decent time and Jessica’s tots lunch came out before ours (as requested) despite the lunchtime rush which was nice of them.

Ambiance

The café is a good size and has plenty of seating – especially when you can sit outside on a sunny day. It was pleasantly busy with a variety of people for a midweek lunchtime, including groups, families and folk having business meetings. That just shows how popular it is.

Toilets

Clean and fresh with a decent sized disabled toilet and changing facilities.

Accessibility

There are no ramps to tackle and it’s all on one level making access easy for wheelchairs and buggies. There’s plenty of room between tables too for parking up. Disabled bays are just outside the door.

Parking

A massive car park is adjacent to the café and farm shop with overspill parking across the road on busy days.

Price

It was about £25 for two adult main courses, two cakes, a tot pot and drinks.

Highlight

The quiche. They have one or two changing flavours every day and they are truly expertly made. You can also buy them to take away from the deli section in the farm shop.

Summary

A family-friendly eatery that lives up to its reputation. The standard and choice of food is good, and all aged are catered for. The farm trail (£3.50 per person) with its animals, play area and static tractors is always going to be a hit with children too.

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