Stroud farmers market run by “Made in Stroud” and trading under the name: Fresh-n-Local, has been hailed for years now, as one of the “must see” and "BEST" farmer’s markets in the country.
How I haven’t ever visited, I am not sure. Last Saturday I made the pilgrimage.
The Stroud Railway station car park might not seem the right place to start a story about a food market in Stroud; nevertheless it’s probably an important part of why the Stroud farmers market is one of the most popular in the country after almost 17 years of successful operating.
Going anywhere in this country in a car can be a stressful experience, to say the least. We all seem to have cars and want to be on the road and in the same parking space at the same time of day.
Travelling from Somerset to Stroud to meet family and knowing that there is not only parking but reasonably priced parking, makes the almost 100mile each way journey almost worthwhile in itself.
Arriving at the station with zero change and heading to the ticket office to pay the sum total of £1.70 for a whole day’s parking was a cathartic experience. As was the fact that the car park is massive. There are in fact two of them, both appearing pretty safe with plenty of people about.
So with the cost of the journey offset by the cheap parking, it was time to get a coffee.
The name of the coffee stop was “Dinner at 6” an unassuming slate blue frontage on the main town’s pedestrianised walkway in front of many of the main stalls.
The quality of the coffee and Bakewell tart with scrummy homemade raspberry jam centre scored another point in favour of Stroud!
It also offered a clear sign that any food served here is done with flair and loyalty to the flavour of each ingredient. Therefore a mental note to return for lunch instantaneously popped into my brain.
We in fact visited too early for lunch but the late breakfast which included homemade breads jams and a fantastic Spanish omelette showed that this place doesn’t just do nice cakes.
Dinner at 6 can be found at number 6 Union Street Stroud Gloucester so I guess the 6 is the address rather than the time they serve dinner. I didn't take a picture of the place but here is their website: http://www.dinneratsix.co.uk/#/1
So moving onto the Market which is why this piece is being written:
The Market web site: http://fresh-n-local.co.uk/ shows that this outfit are pretty organised compared to some farmers markets. They also successfully run farmers markets in Swindon, Stow on the Wold and in Gloucester.
The fresh and local website has plenty of information for the customer and for people who are thinking of becoming stallholders. However some of the information is a little bit dated, their blog has not had much input recently.
Having said that there is a great little article about British apples and how there are over two and a half thousand varieties of apples in this country. The events section is more up-to-date and that has some items on what else is going on in Stroud and also some spotlights on various Traders.
If you are keen to do a little bit more research before heading down or up to Stroud I would recommend some time browsing the TripAdvisor reviews of which there are more than 100. Most of them give a very strong thumbs up to the market and especially to the doughnut people called Pippins and Hobbs house bread which I guess everybody who loves food has heard of now because Tom and Henry Herbert, the two guys that run it, are on television as the Fabulous Baker Brothers.
Stroud itself has some similarities to settings such as Bath in terms of its layout. It’s a town in a bowl with some of the settlement meandering up the Hills.
Originally a centre for woollen manufacturing the town now has an arty independent feel to it.
The main shopping streets are all pedestrianised which is obviously a great plus point when setting up market stalls and expecting customers to wander freely around them. This means the market isnt bunched up but part of the whole town centre.
I would think this brings a win win to the town as everyone benefits by people walking past their “doors”.
Another big plus point of this area is that historically it has always been a food destination with proximity to the Cotswolds, Severn valley, Wales and the vale of Evesham.
Amongst other things, Gloucestershire has its own historic cheeses, the double and single Gloucesters, which have a protected designation of origin status.
This means they can only be produced in Gloucestershire from specific milk.
There is certainly a buzz to the place. One of the things that I noticed immediately was how cheerful many of the stallholders looked while I was walking around.
This is in harsh contrast to many shopping experiences in faceless retail parks where the average shop assistant may dive for cover when they see you or at least avoid eye contact.
As someone with as finely tuned "customer service radar” as mine, it means a pleasurable time wandering around talking to the stallholders rather than wishing there was someplace else I could go to spend my money.
Market stalls are obviously run by People who put their own money on the line to produce food for the public to buy. It is in their interest to attract customers and produce not only memorable products but happy memories associated with the purchase. It is something that is very close to my heart as I strongly believe that anyone running their own business has much more commitment to the customer than someone working for a Faceless plc.
So it’s not just the quality of the products on sale that is driving crowds of people to come to Stroud farmers market. It’s also the experience and you cannot underestimate this.
People want to enjoy themselves when they’re spending their money and they certainly are at Stroud farmers market.
There are a plethora of stalls ranging from Mediterranean olives, free range eggs, Isle of Wight garlic, cheeses, meats and pies.
I counted four different stall holders selling the most delicious looking bread.
There were beauty products curries being sold next to a guy selling sheepskins, carved wood, locally made cards and Christmas ornaments and more. In one of the shops there was even a spinning wool out of DOG HAIR!
Many of these stalls are regulars and have been here for years.
TripAdvisor reviews mention the doughnuts and how you need to get there early before they sell out.
The only things I didn’t see were someone selling hot roast chestnuts as this visit was in October and also maybe someone selling hot roast meat sandwiches, especially pastrami or salt beef. Food for thought!
As the market is dotted around the whole town you can easily spend most of a morning browsing the stalls and local shops of which there are quite a few independents.
Lunch locations are many and varied and as parking is so reasonable there is little motivation to head home, other than the ever growing weight of bags full of goodies which is starting to cut into your hands.
A great way to spend a Saturday and one to put a smile on your face and great quality food in your fridge. I will return!
The comments and observations in this blog are personal, there was no payment to write this piece.
The content this piece was accurate at the time of writing.
I had never heard of Brill.
The word either meant Fab, Great, Brilliant, or it meant, "flat fish which has superb flavour". Until last Sunday.
A village not too far from both Bicester and Oxford also carries the name Brill.
Considering I spent three years at college in Oxford and more days than I would care to admit at the Bicester retail outlet park just a few miles away, its a surprise that I have never heard of it.
A fine destination in its own right, Brill is a picture perfect Olde English village complete with windmill and sunset views.
Owing to its growing reputation and stellar quality of the food at the Pointer Pub and Restaurant. Brill is now well and truly on the gastronomic map. Diners flock to the restaurant like the Bisto kids following the aroma of Mum’s gravy.
There’s no Bisto in this Chef’s cupboards.
Three AA Rosette Chef Mini Patel, who has recently been seen on BBC TV’s Great British Menu series compressing blackberries and burning mackerel with a blowtorch , works on the philosophy of prioritising fresh seasonal local ingredients for his menus. Many of these ingredients hail from the Pointer’s own gardens and farm. Longhorn Beef and Middlewhite Pork are a speciality.
The fruits of Mini’s labours delight not only the gastro tourists and regulars but also locals who pop in for a pint, some pork scratchings and a few slices of house made salami.
Sunday lunch is a fine tradition in this country, especially when weather turns cooler and the desire is to be indoors with a hearty plate of food and a heat source nearby. The Pointer ticks these boxes and more.
The place embodies all that is desired when heading out to spend hard earned cash on a meal out.
This is no accident, as anyone with passion who works in the hospitality industry will validate. It takes hours/days/months/years of effort and fine tuning to produce a product which becomes established as a favourite restaurant, bar, café or hotel. Once created it then takes a similar amount of effort to retain the consistency of those achievements. Little wonder there are so few which can do this.
The team at the Pointer have the passion and creativity to create a local pub restaurant and butchers shop which is appealing to not only them that want a £40 Sunday Lunch but also the locals who want a decent pint and some conversation.
Attention to detail is one of the strong points here where décor at the moment includes home grown gourds of many colours adorning any flat surface, including a giant of a pumpkin which sits on the bar asking customers to guess its weight. Attentive and sunny staff attend to guests in a manner I rarely see in most customer facing businesses (don’t get me started). And then there’s the food!
The menu (which can be seen on the restaurant’s website: http://www.thepointerbrill.co.uk/ ) has plenty to choose from. French classical descriptions such as Amuse Bouche, Pithiviers, petit fours etc etc are banned by Yorkshireman Mini who believes in calling a pie a pie!
Breads arrive in brown paper bags and platters of local butters, one made in house with beef goodness amongst other things. Swirls of thyme in one, sour yeasty scent from the other ensure that customers know this isn’t your average bread.
Chicken liver parfait pillows arrive with a citrus dust and marmalade of red onions and a smoky toast.
From this time on you know the attention to detail on not only flavour but visuals are a priority.
As mentioned the Pointer’s own farm produces prime grass fed Longhorn beef.
The Roast beef dinner sits at the top of the main course list in pride of place and although not as adventurous gastronomically as veal shin pie with crisp sweetbreads, can hold its own owing to quality of ingredients and the care given before the plate gets to its destination. Roast potatoes were some of the best I have ever had, no mean feat when cooking a menu which runs from 1.00pm to 5.00pm. Two were just not enough!.
Desserts can have less wow factor (or any part of a meal for that matter) when visiting a restaurant with a small team in the kitchen. This is because it’s up to the Head Chef’s knowledge and love of each topic to drive the quality in all areas.
Mini, thank goodness, is a pudding man, possibly down to his Yorkshire roots (get him a flat cap!) or just because he loves to cook them.
Puds at the Pointer entice diners with their masterful structures and precise positioning of flourishes. Promised flavours are delivered with every mouthful. My liquorice set cream had apple, honeycomb, wine, blackberry and probably five other flavours bouncing around my mouth.
And that’s not all. Order coffees or hot drinks after your meal and a procession of little sweet items arrive to accompany them: Madelines with a lemon curd dip, fantastic chocolate almond truffles rolled in pistachio and a variety of cookies. If we weren’t full before we were now at breaking point!
We often talk about “home from home” hospitality when staying in hotels or dining out.
It’s what we would like. But how many times does this actually happen?
The Pointer doesn’t disappoint in this department. It’s one of the few places I have visited where diners are actually waved off when they leave, just like would happen in our own homes.
How hard is that to do?
How many restaurants do it?
How much does it cost to do it?
What is the value of doing it………………….Priceless!