A whole range of festive food available at Denstone Hall Farm Shop, near Uttoxeter,
PUBLISHED: 00:00 29 November 2018
Simon Burch visits award-winning Denstone Hall Farm Shop where Rupert and Emma Evans ensure you’ll find everything you need for the festive season...
It may not boast the size and visitor numbers of its near-neighbour Alton Towers, but Denstone Hall Farm Shop and Café has become nothing short of a local institution in the 11 years since it first opened its doors.
Perched on the side of the River Churnet as it runs through the village of Denstone, close to the JCB headquarters at Rocester, the farm shop is unrecognisable from its early days, when its owners, Rupert and Emma first opened the doors.
Then, it was based in a former dairy building yards away from a big cattle barn on the farm belonging to Emma’s father, who had agreed to support the couple’s dream of running a farm shop after they both left jobs in London to seek a new life in the country.
Eleven years on, the farm shop has long out-grown the dairy. Five years ago it relocated into a light and modern space created within the barn, where they could expand the number of covers in the café to 100 and significantly increase the offering in their shop, butchery and deli.
Now, such is the growth in the business, that Denstone Hall Farm Shop has had the architects and construction teams in again and they have taken up even more of the barn, creating a brand new two-storey space which doubles the floor space of the farm shop in one go.
Opened this autumn, the extension will allow the farm shop to add a function room and conferencing facilities to its growing list of services, as well as giving it room to extend its gift shop, add more products to its popular food shop, extend its kitchens and add even more tables to its café.
For now, some of the space is being used as a seasonal Christmas barn – a one-stop Christmas decoration shop packed with hand-picked products to brighten up its customers’ homes for the festive period.
Rupert and Emma admit that they have exceeded their expectations, the result of an immense amount of hard work, thinking big and recruiting a happy and engaged workforce, combined with the UK’s growing love of farm shops.
‘We have definitely reached this point quicker than we would have imagined when we started out,’ says Rupert, ‘but I think that if we were able to look into the future back then, we would also have hoped that we were still enjoying ourselves. Running our business is extremely hard work but we love our location and we love what we do. We also have a talented, hard-working team without whom we couldn’t have achieved what we have, and their contribution cannot be underestimated.’
Although the Farm Shop has won a slew of awards down the years, the one they are most proud of is the title of Best Large Farm Shop Retailer in the 2018 Farm and Deli Awards. There are around 3,500 farm shops in the UK and many of them have grown into huge enterprises. The secret to thriving, Rupert says, is to change with the times without compromising the qualities that people enjoy – their insistence on sourcing local, traceable food, their countryside settings and their independence.
Denstone Hall is proudly family run and this is extremely important to Rupert and Emma, whose sons, Archie and Jasper, have grown up alongside the business, because it sustains the farm shop and café’s reputation as somewhere customers are treated well and where the couple take a personal interest in everything they sell.
They are determined this will not change, no matter how big the farm shop becomes and how much the set-up has changed.
And changed it certainly has. In the early days it had a 22-seat café, a small shop and butchery and was staffed by eight people. Now, the butchery alone employs six people and offers what Rupert describes as artisan craft butchery, which caters for the increasing demand for delicious, good quality meals with meat that doesn’t require any preparation by the buyer.
Rupert says: ‘We still do much of the traditional butchery you’d expect, but our artisan, value-added butchery products go way beyond what you’d get from a traditional high street butcher because that’s where the demand is going. One of our best sellers is a beef truffle, which is minced beef shell, with cheese, peppers and vegetables packed inside, topped with more cheese and painted with a marinade around the outside. It’s made from quality ingredients, including our own beef, looks appetising on the shelf and you just pop it into the oven. You won’t find anything like it in a supermarket. It’s products like this that have taken our butchery to the next level.’
Such product development has extended to everything from cakes and cupcakes made in-house by the talented baker Martha Broome, who’s been with the business since the early days, to the dishes prepared by Denstone’s full-time chef, Phil Weale, who has extended its menu way beyond the cooked breakfasts and lunchtime snacks that helped it build its reputation in the early days.
‘Our breakfasts and lunches, as well as afternoon teas, are huge for us, but having Phil on board means that we can really indulge our foodie sides,’ Rupert says. ‘He used to work in top hotels and we love the fact that he is so creative while still using local seasonal produce.
‘What’s also wonderful is that we are still served by many of the local producers we started out with and whose businesses have also grown in the meantime.
‘No matter where we are or what we look like, it all comes down to the food and this is an extremely exciting time to be selling local produce because of the quality of the produce, like the jams, chutneys, gins, beers and cheeses, that you find in this part of the country.’
Emma and Rupert’s move north came at a time when many people were questioning what they were doing with their lives. They decided to follow their dream of opening their own brewery, cheese dairy or farm shop. ‘Those businesses are maturing now and there is still so much more potential for all of us,’ Rupert says. ‘We certainly still feel there is more work to be done at Denstone Hall. Emma and I want to keep growing the business, but right now don’t have any specific goals. Things change, so for now we’ll bed into the new extension. Our philosophy is still the same – as long as we are enjoying our lives and staying true to our values, then we’ll continue to strive forward and see what else we can achieve.’ u
Denstone Hall Farm Shop, Denstone, Nr Uttoxeter,
ST14 5HF. Tel: 01889 590050, www.denstonehall.co.uk.
Open Mon-Fri 8.30am-5.30pm; Sun 10am-4pm.