Eat­ing out at Ju­niper Barn

Frances Hopewell-Smith en­joys lunch at the Ju­niper Barn in Rend­ham, a heart-warm­ing place to meet and eat

EADT Suffolk - - Inside -

Frances HopewellSmith en­joys a heart­warm­ing lunch

THE day I go to Ju­niper Barn, it’s one of those wet and windy coun­try days when you need all-weather clothes and match­ing hair. I’ve per­fected that par­tic­u­lar look over the last few years. I park in front right next to Rend­ham vil­lage hall and stop briefly to read the boards out­side which prom­ise hot food, a warm wel­come and a warm fire. Thank good­ness. In­side there’s a long ta­ble by the door where sev­eral dog-own­ers are en­joy­ing lunch and at a round ta­ble near the wood-burner there are three young mums with ba­bies. Both ba­bies and dogs are equally quiet and well be­haved and the at­mos­phere is in­deed warm and wel­com­ing.

Katie and Ge­of­frey Boult are the cou­ple re­spon­si­ble for the new Ju­niper Barn in Rend­ham which they con­verted from its derelict state into, well, a lit­tle gem. They have cre­ated a café with lovely home-cooked food pre­pared by Katie and a com­pact vil­lage shop run by Ge­of­frey. But that’s just the short ver­sion of the story.

Four years ago in the wilds of North York­shire the Boults were about to re­tire from Gig­gleswick School but were cer­tainly not from the put-your-feet-up group of re­tirees. Katie and Ge­of­frey knew they wanted a chal­lenge and knew that they wanted to move to Suf­folk. Next task: to find a project. The house they found needed some ren­o­va­tion but it also had the at­trac­tive bonus of a 300 yearold barn, ripe for con­ver­sion. Af­ter talk­ing to a Rend­ham res­i­dent who was sell­ing up be­cause there was no vil­lage shop, this vi­sion­ary cou­ple saw where their fu­ture lay.

“Get­ting plan­ning per­mis­sion was easy,” Ge­of­frey tells me, “the plan­ners thought the idea of a café and shop right in the heart of Rend­ham was just what the vil­lage needed. Then all we had to do was get the barn con­verted. As easy as that. Work started on the building and within a year they had the set-up they wanted. One third of the barn is kitchen, one third seating for28 (and an­other 10 out­side), one third a well-stocked and well thought-out shop, with es­sen­tials and lots of lo­cal pro­duce. All the pic­tures on the walls are by lo­cal artists and there are news­pa­pers, mag­a­zines and books to bor­row. It isn’t a fancy restau­rant, opens only from 8.30am4pm and is closed on Sun­days but there’s some­thing about Ju­niper Barn that is truly heart-warm­ing. The whole aim here is to make a place for peo­ple to meet and eat and gen­er­ally en­joy a friendly, homely hub.

Time to or­der lunch and Katie talks us through the short menu and the spe­cials for to­day. My com­pan­ion, who’s a reg­u­lar her­self, rec­om­mends the all-day full break­fast, or any of its vari­a­tions, but I’m tempted by Katie’s ‘Bun­dle’. This, if you didn’t know and I didn’t, is a bowl of heart­warm­ing food and to­day

it’s spicy beans veg­eta­bles with added ex­tras. One of her four daugh­ters came up with the idea and also worked on veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan recipes with Marie from the nearby White Horse at Sw­ef­fling. There are home made soups too, but­ter­nut squash for my friend who’s de­cided against the sub­stan­tial break­fast op­tion.

Ge­of­frey ar­rives with one of Katie’s renowned Scotch eggs for us to try and it’s very good. Our bowls of de­li­cious­ness come with thick slices of Donka (a deep brown Bavar­ian bread) and my Bun­dle has ham and chorizo with a cheese top­ping. They’re just so warm­ing and fill­ing that we hardly have room for the quiche spe­cial, but of course we man­age. It’s very tasty and re­as­sur­ingly home made. Cakes and tea next – Tu­nisian al­mond and cit­rus and po­lenta and turmeric – and that is re­ally enough for a week­day lunchtime.

“There’re no hard and fast recipes for my food,” says Katie. “I like cook­ing savoury things most of all and like to ex­per­i­ment, but rarely write any­thing down so they’re a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent each time! I cook what my fam­ily likes to eat, it’s that sim­ple.” She doesn’t make sand­wiches or jacket pota­toes be­cause she thinks that’s not proper cook­ing. And luck­ily some­one lo­cal makes fan­tas­tic cakes for her so she can con­cen­trate on her nour­ish­ing savoury spe­cial­i­ties.

“Last year we gave a Christ­mas lunch in the barn for any lo­cals who had no plans,” Ge­of­frey says, smil­ing, “and we all ate to­gether with our fam­ily. We feel we’re re­ally part of the com­mu­nity, of vil­lage life, and think we of­fer some­where for ev­ery­one to come.” As if on cue, a lone el­derly man comes in and is greeted by name. He asks for tea and cake and sits down at the long ta­ble with two ladies and a group of walk­ers. Im­me­di­ately they are all in­volved in con­ver­sa­tion and singing the praises of Ju­niper Barn.

The Boults ev­i­dently love what they do and have to be con­grat­u­lated on their achieve­ment. They’ve made a much-needed con­tri­bu­tion to the com­mu­nity and a great ad­di­tion to Rend­ham.. I buy a loaf of Donka bread and some cheese, just in case I get peck­ish on the way home and as I leave sug­gest a chain of Ju­niper Barns. Sadly, I don’t think they heard.

Ju­niper Barn, Rend­ham, Suf­folk IP17 2AZ 01728 663773 en­quiry@ju­niper­barn­suf­folk.co.uk ju­niper­barn­suf­folk.co.uk Fol­low us on twit­ter

Shop . . .

. . . and cafe. Photos: Katie Boult

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