Eating out at Juniper Barn
Frances Hopewell-Smith enjoys lunch at the Juniper Barn in Rendham, a heart-warming place to meet and eat
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 firstname.lastname@example.org juniperbarnsuffolk.co.uk Follow us on twitter
Shop . . .
. . . and cafe. Photos: Katie Boult