A Cornucopia of Delights

The Chatsworth Farm Shop at Pilsley

Forget all the official awards - and the Chatsworth Farm Shop certainly receives plenty of those. But as any regular visitor - and if you've been once you''l be sure to become a regular - will tell you there is simply no better, grander or more delightful farm shop around! For a start, there's the size - this is no pokey little corner shop - there are several distinct sections each devoted to a particular type of produce from fish, meat & poultry, to greengrocery, dairy, baked goods and everything in between. The quality of everything here is exceptional and while cheaper goods are available elsewhere, with the Chatsworth Farm Shop you really do get what you pay for. And there really is mind-blowing variety of goods available. As much as possible is sourced locally - much of it from the Duke of Devonshire's Chatsworth Estate itself. Other produce is brought in from established suppliers around Britain. On our last visit seven types of English-grown apple, several from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm in Kent including Adam's Pearmain, Russets and the delightfully named Neild's Drooper.

No matter what kind of foodie you are - from the traditional meat-and-two-vegger to the healthy eating vegetarian - you can find plenty to delight your palate. I have meat-eating friends who drive all the way from Derby to get their meat there and, being a fish-eating veggie myself love the huge selection of vegetarian-friendly buffet food and the many types of marinated herrings on offer. 

Baked goods from fabulous artisan breads to traditional cakes are made on the premises - and there is a new range of ready meals. With the shop only a short drive from the lovely town of Bakewell - and on a bus route (Hulley's Service 170 from Bakewell Square takes 7 minutes) from that community - there really is no excuse not to go! Better still, when the sun shines  get yourself a picnic lunch from what's on offer and indulge in the beautiful surroundings of Chatsworth's park. You won't regret it! 

From the middle of October (check dates with www.chatsworth.org) the shop is stocked with Christmas goodies.

Even in December mists, Chatsworth and its Farm Shop at Pilsley is a fabulous place to visit. 

In contrast. A little word about the Chatsworth Farm Shop Restaurant. 

You'll know by now that here at Raggedy Ann Girl In a Barbie Doll World, we like to look to the positive wherever possible. But that does not mean that, when we see something going wrong, particularly something which has every reason and opportunity to be so much better, that we will overlook it. Attached to the wonderful Chatsworth Farm Shop is its restaurant. It's somewhere I've visited quite a number of times. And each time, as enjoyable as it was, there just seemed to be something missing. A reluctance to acknowledge potential diners as they enter. Rather slow service. A sometimes slightly distant serving staff. And so on. But this week, on what will probably now be the final visit to the restaurant, everything seemed to come at once. Without going into minute detail, as a party of five we were sent to sit at the far end of the dining room where the larger tables are situated. And had to wait. And wait. And wait. As waitress after waitress managed to half approach the table before stopping to adjust a menu or rearrange cutlery on an adjoining table. As other diners were seated, their orders taken and their food served. I don't know about you, but I hate to make a fuss when I'm in a restaurant, fearful of seeming like one of those over-demanding people who moan about everything. And I like to think that when I'm in a restaurant, I won't have to leave my seat to find someone to take my order. 

Eventually someone did come. And very friendly she was too. She took our order (four coffees, and orange juice, a smoked fish salad, a cheese and onion flan plus three vegetable lasagnes, as it happens). She warned us it may take a while, which was no problem. After all, we were on a day out and had all the time in the world. Well, up to a point. Three of the meals came quite quickly but the waitress looked puzzled. It seemed that only one of the lasagnes had been ordered. No matter, she would go and sort it out. Well, you know what it's like when someone's meal hasn't come. The meal-less one (in this case two) tells the others to start. The meal-blessed hesitate, not wanting to be rude. But there comes a point at which you wait so long that your once piping-hot meals are beginning to go cold. And when you start to get irritable. After all, if the restaurant staff have messed up your order, and half you party has their food, you might assume that the rest of your order would take precedence. But it seemed not. Those of us who did have meals had started, of course, and still no sign of the missing lasagnes. A debate started about whether it was time to ask a waitress (assuming we could attract the attention of one) or simply wait and see just how long it would take for them to notice. (Can you tell we're not the complaining types?). Eventually, because three of us had nearly finished our meals, one of our party had had enough and asked to know what was going on. Miraculously the lasagnes appeared no more than a minute later. Either the sign of a remarkable coincidence, or of the sitting on the side, unnoticed for some time.

The food, it has to be said, was tasty, well-cooked and very fresh. But the problems were far from over. Because, as one of our party checked the receipt for the bill he had just paid, he realised he had been overcharged. By more than £7.00. The cost of another meal, as it happened. It was all sorted out in the end, but the whole experience, instead of being a mellow, relaxing experience, had become a tense, irritating and tiring one.

Things go wrong in restaurants. Of course they do. But the fact that, having made one mistake, the staff, rather than making sure everything else was done to perfection (as might have been the logical action) managed to allow two more mistakes to be made tells me that something is wrong. And the fact that, while most online reviews are glowing, there are more than a few instances of similar problems tells me that someone at management level should be keeping a better eye on things. And perhaps they should also remember that, while it is the only restaurant on site with the fabulous shop, it is not the only one in the area. There is a pub just down the lane, and four miles away in Bakewell, a wealth of excellent cafes, restaurants and pubs. Which is where we'll be getting our lunch next time we visit the shop.