The Food Hut at Cleeve Nursery and Garden Centre - review by Mark Taylor
The Food Hut has been something of a North Somerset institution for almost 15 years, so when Kate Bull and Doug Wort parted company with the Golden Acres Nursery in Tickenham, they quickly put new roots down at Cleeve Nursery and Garden Centre.
I was eager to check out the new Cleeve café as I was a huge fan of the original Food Hut and a frequent visitor.
Whereas the old Food Hut occupied a separate building set within a garden centre, the Cleeve café is inside the shop, with the tables located next to all manner of gifts including "upcycled hats" and gardening books. There are a few vintage-style bunting flags dangling above the café's serving hatch and a row of rusty old tin watering cans on the roof. A wood-burning stove next to my table made the café feel surprisingly warm and there are outdoor tables for the summer.
The most noticeable difference between the two places is the fact that due to a smaller kitchen at Cleeve, food isn't cooked to order, unlike in Tickenham where there was a large open kitchen.
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Apparently the food is now cooked by the owners at a separate unit and then delivered to the Cleeve café, as well as a second Food Hut based in a bus at Lye Cross Farm in Redhill.
Although I detected no dip in quality when it came to the food itself, I have to say I missed the fact that the owners weren't there cooking in the kitchen as before. It's not quite the same seeing somebody taking a plastic box out of the freezer next to blackboard menu and hearing the ping of the microwave before the food arrives at the table.
Still, my mixed bean, vegetable and beef chilli with rice was excellent, with an assortment of beans – turtle, borlotti, butter – plenty of minced beef and enough spice and heat to make my nose run.
All main courses were £3.50 as it was part of a "January sale" offer, so they might cost £1 or so more now – but that's still a bargain considering the quality and size of the portions.
The menu changes all the time but other dishes on the menu included chickpea and chorizo stew, Jamaican jerk chicken and a range of paninis.
A light and deep slice of coffee and walnut cake (£2.20) rounded things off nicely, although it was more "skinny decaf latte" than "double espresso" when it came to the strength of the main flavour.