Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop Café
We visited on 10th December 2015, arriving for lunch and an afternoon visit to the house in its Christmas finery.
I had not expected an adventurous menu and was proved right. This mattered little as we simply needed something to fuel us for the crisp weather and walk to the house.
Chef’s burger of the day was beef, which my wife and I ordered. Our young-at-heart (and not so very much older than us) aunt wanted the toasted ciabatta filled with barbecued pulled pork.
I really don’t think that the pork was all that good but I was completely distracted by the terrible burger offerings. A soft, lifeless white bun with no hint of toasting cushioned a truly repugnant patty of meat. Steak, ground so fine that there was no discernible texture, had been given awful treatment. The burger had been left too long in a pan and reduced to a uniform mass of dry and chewy lifelessness. The pan had not even been hot enough to caramelise the surface.
My wife and I spent some time open-mouthed wondering why any self-respecting cook would allow such a thing out of a kitchen.
Around us, we saw confirmation that we were not alone in our plight. Grey, dry slabs of indeterminate meats and dull, anaemic vegetables were on show. Our aunt asked us to look over our shoulders. At first I thought the unfortunate lady behind was holding up a dishcloth between two forks. It was, in fact, a rough lacework of connective tissue from her roast beef. Completely inedible.
Our server’s assertion that she had not received any complaints must be taken at face value. There was, however, plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.
Sensibly, we were not asked to pay for the burger meals. I think we were sensible too in avoiding the dessert menu.
This does not purport to be high end dining but the kitchen should at least be able to deliver a decent, edible meal. Quality ingredients and any cooking ability are all totally lacking here.
Of course, this reflects very badly on the entire Chatsworth experience. A couple of years’ ago I was pleased to find damsons in the farm shop after a quick drop-in on our way home from holiday. This time I was keen to explore the rest of the ‘foodie’ elements on offer. Instead I paid a visit to the meat counter and confirmed that the utterly disappointing burgers were supplied by them. Looking at the rest of the meat products it was obvious that poor quality was the norm. If the sausages were hand-tied they were presented in a scarily regimented, almost robotic precision. More importantly, their barely pink whiteness attested to a high fat content. Yes, fat for flavour but this was taking things too far.
I had the over-riding impression that average quality was being presented at inflated prices. There are other producers who get a look in at the shop but they are somewhat unfairly tainted by association with the estate.
Oh dear, let me finish on a relative upbeat. The house and darkening gardens were full of much more honest effort and delighted us enough to talk about them more on our journey home than the lousy food and produce from earlier in the day.
Avoid the café... and be wary of the farm shop.