‘I tried the farm shop with rave reviews and it felt like home’
Flanked by magical countryside, bluebell woods and cycle routes, an Ipsden farmshop is amassing critical acclaim from visitors. With one reviewer likening the food on offer to that of celeb chef Yotam Ottolenghi, I had to pay it a visit. Driving along the single track lanes towards Blue Tin Produce, I began to build up an image in my head of what it would be like: a busy, Daylesford-esque venue which was overpriced and elitist, likely housed in a cavernous farm building which had been re-appropriated with no expense spared to make it appear rustic.
I parked and felt instantly like I was in the wrong place due to how scenic it was, and I became incredibly conscious that I was spoiling the view for the clusters of people sat at their recycled cable reel tables. I couldn't help discovering where the footpath next to car park led to and was quickly stopped in my tracks by the exceptionally far reaching views. : Hilarious TripAdvisor reviews of Jeremy Clarkson's Oxfordshire farm
Walking back in the direction of the car park - the position of which turned out to be my least favourite feature of Blue Tin - I marvelled at the veg patch island which separates it from the eatery. Unsure if I could expect table service, I walked towards the back where a rustic steel crowd barrier gave the sense that this place got very busy - something which the exceptionally joyous and friendly staff later confirmed at the order counter. With hot meals being served, this place is more than a cafe but not quite a restaurant.
It confidently straddles itself across the two, offering four food options, including one a hearty lunchtime meal and a hot soup. The simple menu is perfect for people who find the trend of exaggerated choices in cafes irritating.Blue Tin Produce BBQ and smokery (Image: Xenia Huntley)
I ordered the meatballs masala (GBP7.50) with Swaadish sauce, a flat white (GBP2.90) and a slice of carrot cake (GBP2.75) and could well imagine people finding this the perfect place to meet distant friends halfway for lunch. The golfball-sized meatballs were dense and smothered in the sauce, and served in a cardboard takeaway box.
The citrusy flavours woke up my mouth like a cold shower, the thick sour cream offered a coolness and texture that felt like a lie in, and the jalapeno became an alarm clock demanding to be noticed. The citrusy cumin flavours were unusual and the texture was intriguing: not smooth like a velvety curry sauce and not totally textured either. The naan was not like your average takeaway fare, it was the best I've tried; lightweight and bubbly with the crisp surface bubbles crunching in my mouth like tempura.
There was something about eating Indian food in a rural tearoom with festival-style stage partition fencing that felt like a perfect jumble of contradictions. This place was as proudly unique, simple and as organically thought out as the food on the menu.Staff were happily singing to themselves in the cafe (Image: Xenia Huntley/OxfordshireLive)
If I had to critique something, it would be the temperature of the food and drink. Both the meatball dish and my coffee were warm - nothing more, nothing less.
That said, this issue was likely a by-product of the exceptionally friendly and warm staff who offer you a chatty welcome as though you are a family member returning for Easter. Another issue I had was how the food was served. I was handed a brightly-coloured plastic tray to take away my food.
The food doesn't come cheap, so I was expecting something a little more aesthetically pleasing in that department. But the key thing was that the food was nutritious and the portion sizes were well matched to the price. Coffee, though delicious, wasn't the perfect accompaniment to food and there were no drinks that really caught my eye.
The carrot cake I enjoyed for afters was dense, moist and treacly with the perfect amount of sweetness.Delicate carrot cake with rose petals icing (Image: Xenia Huntley / OxfordshireLive)
All in all, I was left with the most pleasant taste in my mouth after visiting this not-quite-a-cafe /not-quite-a-kitchen, Blue Tin. Unpretentiously charming, set in an exceptionally stunning Chiltern hills location, with a refreshingly humble attitude and ethos, it's unsurprising Blue Tin Produce gets so much attention. The range of food on offer is minimal, and lunches are generally light, but it's without doubt worth a visit - before the laptop brigade declare this the most idyllic cafe to work from!
If you are taking your dog, be sure to check out the super cute hand made free dog biscuits, a lovely touch.