It was really the royal icing on the designer cake when the Cowdray Estate’s own store was voted one of Britain’s top 20 posh farm shops.
Placed second in the list of top farm shops ‘foodies really can’t do without’ compiled by The Times, it was a tribute to all the work behind the scenes over the past year at the Easebourne shop just off the A272.
Four years ago, the Cowdray Estate turned a stable building behind the refectory into the farm shop and cafe.
And since then it has grown into a shopping destination for people who just have to have the best when it comes to eating and cooking food.
The cafe had already won the FARMA’S best on-farm cafe restaurant award last year.
The face behind the latest success is Katie Cordle, who arrived a year ago with foodie experience which has turned the Cowdray Farm Shop into a mouth watering must-do experience.
A speciality buyer with the world’s largest chain of organic supermarkets, The Whole Food Market, who later became a cheese and yoghurt maker, Katie knows what is best and where to source it.
And with another new face, Sally Blackburn, and a team of enthusiastic staff, she set about transforming the shop.
From their tinned tuna to the coffee and cheese, it’s all about putting best on the shelves.
“There are some really good producers out there,” said Katie, “and we are selling produce rarely seen outside London, all pulled together under one roof – there aren’t many shops outside London that can offer what we do.”
The shop has its own baker who produces traditional artisan bread for sale in the shop and the cafe, some of which is made with wheat grown on the Cowdray Estate.
In addition, the cafe kitchen is producing quiches, pies and cakes for sale in both areas.
The farm shop has its own butchery, selling estate beef and lamb and award-winning free-range venison.
And a herb garden has been planted at the Cowdray Model Farm which supplies the cafe kitchen with everything it needs.
The organic fruit and vegetables come from top producers, which means lemons from Sicily, apples from Grange farm at Funtington and tomatoes from the Nutbourne Nursery at Pulborough.
It’s simply the best, whether it’s award-winning wine from Upperton vineyards just a champagne cork’s pop down the road at Tillington, or Seggiano’s range of groceries all the way from Tuscany.
And the chances are that just like the man from Del Monte, Katie has been there to check it all out before you put it in your shopping basket.
There’s an almost tangible feel-good factor about the shop and the cafe. It’s not about being pretentious, the ethos is very much on ‘food is fun’.
And if you want to stock your larder with top-class tastes, Katie and her team have made it possible in a one-stop taste fest.
There are cheeses from Neal’s Yard Dairy, a top-notch London supplier which buys from people who hand-make their cheese.
Coffee is supplied by Covent Garden’s Monmouth Coffee which buys beans to roast itself.
There is also beer from the Langham Brewery at Lodsworth
There is Inverawe smoked salmon and duck, as well as Sapori Di Casa pasta made with free-range eggs, and the Rolls Royce of preserves come from Rosebud Preserves.
There is a gift area of the farm shop which includes luxury linen from The Linen Works, face products by The Green People and Larinka Candles, based at Liphook, made from beeswax.