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Out For Dinner At The Bull Shed at Handley Farm Near Belper


Published On Sunday 7 Jul 2024 by Sticky Beak
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It’s been a while since The Man and I went out with Fledge and The Beau, and it’s also been a (long) while since we last visited The Bull Shed at Handley Farm; proverbially killing two birds with one stone, we decided to book a table and enjoy some juicy steaks in a quirky venue.



Don’t bother taking your fancy, low-slung sports car here, the hurdy-gurdy driveway will soon bugger up its suspension! Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but you get the idea; it’s your typical, well-used farm driveway: long and bumpy. There are no marked parking bays, so find room big enough for your car and park it there…just use your noggin and don’t block entrances/exits – if you can’t get out, neither can anyone else!

The blue door tells you where the Bull Shed is, so go through it and, ta-dah! – there you are, in the old milk collection parlour that now serves as the restaurant. We were greeted warmly by one of Handley Farm’s team and shown to our table, conveniently by the bar and in front of the kitchen pass, where Grumpy Farmer himself (aka Tony) was already grafting away. The kitchen was formerly the Bull’s Shed, and the micro-brewery is located behind in what was once the milking parlour. Fans of IPA’s will love the minxes produced at Shottle Farm Brewery, and I really thought that His Nibs was going to partake in a pint or two; but, no, he decided to join me and Fledge in some Sauv Blanc. The Beau had a pint of Aspall’s Cider which, as designated driver, was to be his only drink that evening.



One of the most obvious quirks about Handley Farm is that you are asked to pre-order your food. This might seem a bit odd, but there is actually a very good reason for this: The Bull Shed only opens on Friday and Saturday and because it’s a small venue, they don’t hold onto stock so pre-ordering saves any wastage and keeps their costs down. Another thing that seems a bit out-of-the-ordinary is the fact that it is a CASH ONLY or advance bank transfer venue, but the reason for this (which you’ll soon discover when you visit!) is that there is a very patchy/non-existent mobile phone signal, so card machines wouldn’t work!



Anyhow, down to foodie business. We’d pre-ordered Cheesy Garlic Bread (£5.50), 2 Pâtes (£5.50 each) and a Goats Cheese Salad (£6.50)to start, followed by an 8oz Fillet (£25), a 16oz T-Bone (£30), and 2 10oz Ribeye Steaks (£23 each) and accompanying sauces ( a trio of Peppercorn and  a Stilton morsel for me, all £2.50 each). All the steaks come with Chips, Mushroom, Corn-on-the-Cob, and Baby Tomatoes and are either Handley Farm’s own livestock or from Maycock’s Butchers in Belper. If you don’t fancy a steak there are other options available, just check out the choice on their website.



Fledge’s face when her Cheesy Garlic Bread was served was a picture. Two huge doorstops of bread from Bakewell Bakery were lavishly topped with tangy, melted mature Cheddar; I don’t think I’ve ever clapped eyes on such a generous portion, and Fledge certainly hadn’t – her little eyes popped out on stalks! The fellas’ portions of Pate were more in keeping with what you’d expect to be served, and both of them remarked on how rich and tasty the Pate was. My own salad of Goats Cheese was delicious; I’ve had Handley Farms’ cheese before and it was every bit as scrummy as I remembered. I love the musky flavour of Goats’ Cheese, and it’s slightly salted to enhance its creamy note here.



When we’d first sat down, we were asked to conform how we wanted our steaks cooked and I would say that if you like medium/rare to ask for rare, as it can sometimes be resting for a couple of minutes if the ladies are particularly busy. In saying that, we all said our cuts were absolutely spot-on, so credit where it’s due. Tony does the cooking himself, though he was assisted by a young lad who he wasn’t half making run around! We saw said young lad later on, sitting down to a meal that Tony had cooked for him once everyone had been served their mains.



If you enjoy full-on flavour, it really is worth going to a local, small-scale trader; very often, they’ve reared their own meat or, if not, they know the provenance of the cuts they buy from their supplier. Smaller scale farmers know their livestock inside out and treat them as part of the family, and our reward, as consumers, is meat that is hard to beat, taste-wise. All our steaks were incredibly deep in flavour, wonderfully tender and juicy; I always say that happy animals yield moreish meat, and yet again I was proved right. Tony doesn’t muck about with his chips either; they’re thick ones with crisp, golden outers and soft inners. In fact, Tony doesn’t muck about, full stop. There’s no fancy-pants swirls of sauce and no mountains of garnish with your meal; the steaks have a classic garnish and that’s it. Everything is done well and, when food’s like that, it doesn’t need owt else.


 




One thing you’re guaranteed at The Bull Shed is banter, whether it’s between you and Tony and the team, or between the team itself. The ladies take no bull you-know-what from Tony, especially when they’re flat-out and he’s furiously dinging the service bell on the pass! Part of the charm is that everything is so informal at The Bull Shed, but it doesn’t compromise on quality, and that’s really why folks keep going back time after time after time. Children are welcome, and there were a couple of families in that had smaller (not very small bay/toddler age though) members in their fold.



For dessert there is, obviously, cheese on offer, and other morsels including (on this occasion) Sticky Toffee pudding. Let’s just say that the STP gene is strong in our Fledge (she definitely isn’t the milk-mans!); her ears pricked up as soon as she heard that Sticky Toffee Pudding was available! His Nibs and The Beau swiftly followed her lead, ordering it for themselves, and I followed my own path -as usual! – and ordered the homemade Trifle.



You certainly need to take your appetite with you to Handley Farm; even though they’ve fed you well with your first two courses, they don’t take their foot off the pedal when it comes to the portion size of the puds they serve! Enter three huge wedges of rich, pleasingly dense pudding, topped with oodles of Sticky Toffee Sauce and accompanied by your choice of Cream, Custard or Ice Cream. The empty dishes were clear testament to the deliciousness of this classic pudding, and there was a chorus of spoons scraping against bowls in efforts to scoop up every last bit.



My Trifle was served in an old jam jar, and it really did allow me to appreciate all the layers of this iconic British dessert. Mr Grumpy Farmer himself had apparently made the Trifles and all I can say is, he does a flipping great job! Sponge was right at the bottom and had been ‘fed’ some booze, then this was topped with fruit pieces suspended in a complimentary fruit jelly. Firm, creamy custard was the middle layer and then a deep crown of thickly whipped cream capped it all off. Now, for me, the yardstick of a good Trifle is that ubiquitous ‘fart’ you get when the spoon pierces the dessert and the squelch that came from my jar was superb; so good in fact, that I said “pardon me”!

Yet again, The Bull Shed had provided us with a wonderful evening. Thursday ‘Pie Night’ no longer features at Handley Farm; instead, Tony does pizzas for a tenner when you collect food from the Food Hub. The Food Hub, basically, is where you order food online from local producers and it arrives at the farm for collection – details are available on the website, go check it out.



Handley Farm also offer Community Supported Agriculture boxes – this nifty idea is a monthly subscription that allows customers to have a direct share of the [chemical free] crops that the farm grows. This scheme guarantees the farm a monthly income and subscribers get prime, in-season veggies for their table: win-win. Carrying on the social-conscience thread, Handley Care Farm is just starting up and the long-term idea is to provide a space where those who can’t/don’t cope with mainstream school, or are a bit older and need other support, can learn and be supported in other ways in a less pressurised environment. Again, visit the website to find out more.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the gorgeous Goat herd this time; the team were busy and I didn’t want to impose. However, the team do offer ‘Goat Days’ where you get to do all sorts of fun things: walking the goats if weather permits, grooming and playing with them, feeding them, and generally just indulging in these wonderful animals.


Hot Wings happily given to this great team and venue, again. To book a table ring 07877 723075 and someone will get back to you or do as we did and email them: hello@handleyfarm.org.uk. You can get details on everything I’ve mentioned by visiting either www.shottlefarmbrewery.co.uk or www.handleyfarm.org.uk 


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