THE UK's agriculture industry has been in decline since the Nineties, with dairy farmers the latest to feel the pinch.

Farms have been forced to diversify and result has produced some thriving businesses.

One such success story, if our visit is anything to go by, is Hall Farm in Stratford St Mary.

Still a working farm, it opened a cafe restaurant ten years ago in a converted 16th century cattle shed, followed by its own butchers six years ago.

It is a popular spot. We booked for a Sunday lunch and only just managed to get a slot. A few visitors popped there heads in on the off-chance while we were there but were turned away.

The menu didn't offer a huge choice, generally a good sign because what is on offer should be tried and tested to perfection.

After ordering, the waitress immediately assumed our two-year-old son Sam would quickly get restless (she was right by the way) and offered to bring out his grilled fish and hand-cut chips first, and it arrived at double speed.

Soon to follow was our smoked ham hock terrine starter.

The sweet apple, date and ginger chutney provided the ideal balance for the salty terrine, served with toasted homemade bread.

The unassuming star of the dish was the dressing on the array of salad leaves. So often a few handfuls of lettuce are thrown on a plate like an apologetic health-fad induced afterthought, but clearly a bit of thought had gone into this.

The waitress apologised for the fairly long wait we had for the main courses, but it could be excused with the restaurant close to full.

This is where the beauty of being a restaurant on a farm came to the fore, with my roast lamb reared on the adjoining fields.

Served with a chunky Yorkshire pudding, crunchy yet fluffy duck fat roasties and a side dish of creamy cauliflower cheese, it was a faultless roast dinner.

My wife, Danielle, had the pork shoulder roast. Food miles weren't quite as low as my lamb, but came from up the road in Blythburgh, Suffolk.

"Locally sourced" was a theme to run through the menu. Even the pork was accompanied by an Aspalls Cyder cream, from Aspall in Suffolk, while Danielle's apple juice from a Suffolk orchard and my beer was from a Suffolk brewery.

It's not all local fayre mind you. Hall Barn does a tempting selection of white, dark and mile hot chocolates, with cocoa beans from Venezuela, Ecuador and Dominican Republic, as well as a melt made from a 40g chocolate bar.

On to desserts and Danielle had vanilla and white chocolate Eton mess with macerated strawberries, which was a rich and creamy as its sounds.

I had the maple and pecan cheesecake accompanied by Bourbon ice cream, which was the stand-out element thanks to its boozy kick.

Being based on a farm does not just have huge benefits in terms of food miles. Hall Farm is a restaurant and visitor attraction rolled into one.

After our meal we walked around the farm trail, with chickens, cows, pigs, donkeys, goats and alpacas, as perfect for an animal-mad toddler as the meal was for a couple of food-mad parents.



Ham terrine £4.95

Lamb roast dinner 13.95

Pork roast dinner £13.95

Cheesecake £5.95

Eton mess £5.95


Atmosphere 3

Food 4

Decor 4

Value 4

Service 4

Disabled access: Yes

Hall Farm Cafe

Church Road, Stratford St Mary, CO7 6LS

Tel: 01206 323600